Keeping the lights on

Craig R. Scott, CG, is the President of Heritage Books, one of the few independent publishers of genealogical titles left in the United States. This week, Craig celebrated the fact that the Heritage Books Facebook page had reached 1,000 likes — a major milestone in this digital age.

But beneath that milestone lurks the dangerous reality of this digital age: that the publishing houses we as genealogists rely on for access to works we need for our research are in jeopardy. In this guest post, Craig explains why.

A Publisher’s Point of View

By Craig R. Scott, CG1

Genealogists greeted the announcement by the Family History Library that it would provide free lookups and page copies from its books with applause.2 The same enthusiasm is shown for the book snippets that appear on Google Books.

I can’t join in.

Because this sort of conduct, by libraries and by Google Books, will harm authors and book publishers to the point where authors will not write and publishers will not publish. That will harm us all.

In any year prior to the advent of the digital age, an author would take the financial risk of researching and writing a book and a publisher would take the financial risk of publishing it. There was an expectation that, during the life of the copyright, the author would be compensated appropriately based on the sales of that title, and the publisher would recoup its investment the same way.

Then the digital age arrived and it was determined that a person would be allowed to make a digital backup of that work for personal use. Today that has morphed into a library can make a digital copy and send it anywhere in the world without compensating the author of the work.

This is yet another instance of authors and book publishing being harmed in the long run. There is a difference between a library providing occasional copies of its holdings to patrons who search them out. But on the scale of the Family History Library, it constitutes a commercial enterprise that interferes with a book publisher’s ability to sell its titles. Authors expect to be compensated for their efforts. Thousands of titles, in copyright, available five documents at a time. Such a deal. Might as well close up shop and become a panhandler. There will be a better return on the investment.

It isn’t that authors and publishers don’t expect that some copying will occur. Many libraries offer lookups, and authors and publishers understand that when people to the library they are going to photocopy pages.

The problem here is that, while a library may recognize that photocopying the whole book is not fair use, that same library can make a digital copy of the same work and offer it to distant customers with some sleight of hand that says they will not offer it to anyone else at the same time.

In the days of interlibrary loan, books would physically travel and they would be unavailable for a period of time for other patrons to use. That time was important because, if it happened often enough, the library might purchase an additional copy based on demand. Now the travel is instantaneous. Why would a patron buy a book when you can always get a copy for free? Borrow it, hack it, copy it, have it forever. No compensation to the author for the work.

Understand that the copies being made now are not digital copies made by publishers; they are scans of books in copyright made by someone and then loaned to another. How many books do you loan? I loan a few out of my library, carefully, every year, hoping against hope that I will get them back. Digital copies are not quite the same, are they? What safeguards does the library put in place to ensure that the copyright is respected? The major deterrent to copyright theft in the past was how long it took to stand at the copy machine. Well, now someone has stood at the scanner for you.

It may be true, as The Legal Genealogist said, that “If all I want is one or two pages from five books, I’m going to a library, not a bookseller, so that – at least – isn’t going to have an immediate effect.” That’s not what’s happening here. Here, we have the library coming to you and hawking its wares without recompense to the author.

Other libraries are also undermining genealogical publishing of all sorts, by “improving access” to works by creating digital versions of books and periodicals. Apparently, the libraries believe this is fine if they are only accessible in the facility. Recently I learned that the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal CD had been converted by the North Carolina State Library for use in house, without the permission of the Society. Now the society will suffer a decrease in sales.

And then you have Google Books. Heritage Books can be found on Google Books, with limited views. Rather than purchase a book, people camp on the site and download pages as they cycle through the limited views. Conversations with Google went nowhere. Finding a real person at Google Books is an improbable experience. Finally we just took all of our royalty-based books down from the site. At least that was our direction to them. Yet they will still occasionally appear.

The problem we’re seeing is that, in this Internet age, there is no respect for copyright (unless it is a publications house that has counsel or can afford such) and no respect for an author’s time and effort. And since the public does not cherish their authors, there is no hope. Digital access is here to stay, but the creation of new quality works will gradually fade as authors learn that there is no compensation or respect for their efforts in the digital world.

Everybody wants it free. Well, nothing is free. In the end we will all pay because everything has to be paid for by somebody.

And of course, genealogical book publishers will go the way of the gas light or the telegraph, no longer having a useful function in society having been replaced by the digital age.

This affects all publishers, but publishers of reference works more. To me, there is a difference between a novel and a reference work. A novel does not really have a shelf life that goes beyond the reading of it, except to read it again someday. A genealogy book is a life-time possession. Something that is referred to again and again. Something given to more than one family member to put their lives in the context of their family roots, trunk and limbs. To treat a genealogy book as just a “read” does not put it in the right context. Where most publishers look for the next great seller that will bring them millions, genealogical publishers look for enough profit to survive (although I can’t remember seeing that black color recently), or enough cash flow to keep the creditors at bay and survive to continue to serve the community that supports them.

You ask how the genealogical community can pay its fair share. My answer is that there’s no such thing as “fair” in a world where “fair” means “free.”

For nearly thirty-five years Heritage Books has provided materials useful to the genealogical community in their research. Today, with more than 4,900 titles in print, we have been on the verge of collapse for nearly a decade. We are just a gas light that hopes not to go out.


  1. Craig R. Scott, CG, is President of Heritage Books, an independent genealogical publishing company that produces nearly 5,000 titles including research guides, county histories, memoirs, county reference material, and individual family histories.
  2. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Getting that document from the FHL,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 29 Jan 2013 ( : accessed 7 Mar 2013).
Print Friendly
This entry was posted in Copyright, General. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Keeping the lights on

  1. Thanks to Judy for hosting Craig. And thanks to Craig for this important post.

    Publishing was to be an integral part of my business plan. A source of recurring revenue to smooth out the finances between commissions. How naive I look to myself less than a year later. I have spent months researching ways to effectively publish reference works for my region. I have come to the conclusion, between copyright rules for facts and content theft, there simply is no way to do it profitably. If I decide to publish it will have to accrue to my volunteer hours instead. Translation: it will not happen.

    Google Books or Internet Archive for out-of-copyright content? I am all for it. For copyrighted content, no more than a table of contents, a few preview pages and an index should be available IMO. Why libraries of all places are perpetuating copyright infringement is beyond me. A sad state of affairs as there is incredible genealogical content just begging for a way to reach a larger audience. The folks putting forth the effort and capital to bring this content to publication deserve our respect and remuneration.

  2. Connie says:

    “Today that has morphed into a library can make a digital copy and send it anywhere in the world without compensating the author of the work.”

    Uh, sorry. This is nothing new. Libraries have always lent out physical books via interlibrary loan, without compensating the author. And since the advent of the Xerox machine, libraries have always provided copies of single pages upon request. Even the Library of Congress, the guardian of the U.S. copyright system, does this.

    As to the Family History Library, I would think that by far the largest share of requests to its new duplication service is for copies from manuscripts, not books. Most genealogists want to see actual records far more than they want to see published transcriptions of them. I suspect that Ancestry and other purveyors of genealogical content have been far more destructive to genealogical book publishing than the single-page copying the FHL is doing.

    This article also demonstrates a limited understanding of libraries’ ebook lending practices. Libraries don’t lend books instantaneously on demand. They have limited numbers of copies of ebooks in their collection, which are lent out for specified periods of time, exactly like physical books. Libraries’ waiting lists for ebooks operate exactly like libraries’ waiting lists for physical books. I have had to wait for genealogical ebooks that I have borrowed to become available. Further, libraries themselves don’t make ecopies of entire books; publishers do. If publishers don’t want their publications available as ebooks, then they don’t have to create ebook copies of them. Some publishers have done exactly that. As to patrons making copies of ebooks, libraries can’t be blamed for the illegal actions of their patrons. Besides, patron have always violated fair use principles in their copying of physical books. This is nothing new.

    Libraries also don’t scan entire books. They’re financially stressed enough that simply providing routine library services stretches the capacity of most of them. Spending time scanning books is well beyond the capacity of every library I’m familiar with (and that’s a lot). And I have yet to see a single library “hawking its wares” by promoting its scanning of books or its transmission of digital copies of pages of books. Even the FHL didn’t do that. It simply published a blog entry that stated that its former system for requesting copies had changed. Don’t blame the FHL because bloggers hyped the new system.

    As to the assertions in this post re: Google Books, I’d like to see the evidence that there is large scale “downloading” of snippet views by readers, especially as a way to avoid buying or borrowing a book. First, it’s impossible to actually download a snippet view. Second, snippet views may in fact serve to pique the interest of readers, causing greater purchasing of books.

    Genealogy is based on evidence. This article provides no evidence whatsoever that libraries and Google are harming the book trade. All it provides is handwringing.

    Instead of simply advocating protectionism so that they can continue doing things in the same old way, book publishers need to embrace the changing technology and develop new business models that take advantage of it. For example, why not develop a service that provides ecopies of portions of books to readers? (Think iTunes.) Many would happily pay for such a service. There are other options as well, but I guess that some would just prefer to kvetch.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for your input, Connie. I’m not surprised that this is a hot-button issue for lots of folks.

    • Thanks for another take on this issue, Connie. In truth I hadn’t really thought about the process by which libraries carry and distribute digital content when writing my comment. While I agree that my little local library is always just scraping by, Universities and other large repositories are the more likely focus of ire here. Of the Google Books downloads in my collection (all out of copyright), several are from Harvard’s library, one from Stanford, one from UMich and two from FHL.

      I’d happily pay for digital versions of copyrighted works of the genealogical titles on my list. Not sure the value of purchasing segments since context is still important. I continue to find new leads in “South Carolina Naturalizations” even 6 years after I bought it. However, just as music and movies are pirated or shared relentlessly, so too will digital books be. When publishers and artists cannot expect a reasonable return on their investment, supply and innovation may suffer.

    • Thank you for your kind words. You are correct my comments are just based my experience with the problem. I have not collected the necessary source citations to back up my assertions, but I would like the opportunity to ask a couple of questions.

      1) Did I mentions “snippets” in the handwringing? No I said limited page view. These are 10 to 20% page views. Publishers are not allow to have snippets. Only libraries who provide in copyright material to Google. Almost our entire collection was provided to Google by a library in Wisconsin, without our knowledge or permission. Google makes money off those snippets, publishers rarely. Heritage Books, in an effort to modify its business model provided Google with over a thousand titles as limited pages views. And we watched as thousands of pages were viewed and no money coming through the door.

      2) I have talked with persons from the FHL. The are scanning everything, copyright or not. They are making it available to world wide readers, one book at a time. These are not publisher scans. These are scans created by the library.

      3) I well understand interlibrary loan, but there is a difference between the handling of a book and the handling of an e-book in the processing of it all. It is all in the timing. The difference is the physical transportation of the book from library to customer to library again.

      4) We offer books through multiple channels, multiple distributors, as books, CD-roms, ebooks and for smaller page counts as Kindles. We are in our fourth business model change in a decade. More than half our titles are print on demand, but we still have warehouses of books created before the Internet Age. If we are behind the curve it is only because there is insufficient captial to make it all happen at once. It is a very incremental process in all but the newest titles. So what you call advocating protectionism has nothing to do with us being trapped in 1980. I purchased my first computer in September 1978 and was Director of Information Systems once for a major medical group with over 36 hospitals worldwide. Technology and I are good friends.

      5) Please explain to me why I should create a service that provides e-copies of portions of books to readers when the FHL is doing it for free. Now there is a good business model.

      And you are right. Anyone who knows me knows that I spend all of my time handwringing and kvetching and that my opinion is to be avoided because it does not have a basis in evidence and is purely a fabrication of an old style curmudgeon unable to keep up with the technology kind of guy.


      • Judy G. Russell says:

        The word snippets was my word choice in the editing process and I should have highlighted it for Craig to ensure he saw what I had done in the editing. Apologies to everyone if I led folks to focus on the wrong issue. Craig’s original version did say “page views” and not snippets.

        • Hal says:

          The distinction between snippets and partial page views is a minor quibble that isn’t even worth discussing. As Elroy points out below, it’s hard to imagine anyone trying to screenprint either snippets or partial page views as a way of doing research.

  3. Elroy Davis says:

    Interesting point of view. As mentioned above, I’m one of those people who have found a snippet on Google Books, then purchased the printed volume for my own library. I can’t imagine trying to bootleg an entire volume by saving snippets at a time. That would sort of be like trying to steal your favorite album by hoping the songs you’re missing come on the radio so you can hit record. It seems like more trouble that it would be worth.

    I also read this entire statement as being very anti-digital, yet Heritage Books sells CD-Roms that are “Electronic image reprints of the following…” (see for an example).

    My worry about digital content isn’t so much about publishers (I buy e-books for my Kindle all the time), but more about preservation. Digital information that I had 10 years ago is unreadable now, unless I have working older hardware, or had the foresight to move it to a new format. I have printed books, however, that have lasted over 100 years, and will likely outlive me.

  4. Audra says:

    Connie’s point about Ancestry and other online services being more damaging to genealogical book publishing than libraries is a good one. The current model for conducting genealogical research seems to be “genealogy on demand.” These days, genealogists don’t think they need to learn anything about how to conduct genealogical research, how to understand the records, or where to locate them. Everything’s online (or so they think). Just look at the traffic on mailing lists and message boards. It’s been decimated in the last 10 years. Membership in local genealogical societies is also down for the same reason. The most common query on a message board now is “Where can I find xyz *online*?” Although I’m sympathetic to the plight of Craig Scott and Heritage Books, I don’t think the blame for the the downturn in their business lies with libraries or Google. Ancestry has just been so effective at publishing content and marketing it that no one thinks to look in books anymore. IMHO

  5. George P. Farris says:

    Allow me to declare my respect to the pros such as Craig and Judy. Without the opportunity to retain them, and those like them, most of us will at some point in time become overwhelmed by the unsupported posts on the Internet that lack any reference, or citation. A cousin once told me that Ancestry is only a start. Good advice for us to keep in mind.

    Regardless, what Craig has brought to the table is an important issue. Intellectual property deserves to be protected. If a library, or any other institution for that matter violates the respective copyright they should be held accountable for infringement, lost of income, and receive punitive damages. Perhaps Heritage and other publishers should band together to pursue a test case.

    When I was in law school I protested about a law which I deemed “unfair.” My professor replied, “While law is but the means, and justice the end, we can only achieve the full benefit of the law.” Undoubtedly, that is but one of the many examples of the double-edge sword dilemma. In a democracy we can choose to litigate, or legislate. If the transgressor is violating intellectual property laws, and refuses to come into compliance, then rush to the courthouse. If we simply view the existing protection as ineffective, or “unfair”, then rush to Congress and work have the law amended, or replaced with stronger protections.

    If I may, an observation, or two. At the fore is the Internet. The Internet along with personal computing represents one of, if not the greatest paradigms in the past 10,000 years of civilization. It has revolutionized how we manage, store, compile, and virtually transmit the sum of human knowledge. Progress is a difficult march to stop, those who are disgruntled about it must, in the somewhat sassy retort of todays youth, “Deal with it.” It’s here to stay, at least long enough to serve as the vehicle to drive into a better technology.

    Maybe the medieval scribes felt the same way when Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg came along with moveable type and the printing press in 1439. Perhaps writers who are not published feel the same way. Publishers have performed this culling process for centuries. During that process how many Hemingway’s, Fitzgerald’s, Clancy’s, or those of genius were missed?

    Sometimes one must persevere, or innovate. Competition is often the engine of innovation. Progress is probably difficult to restrain — in the longer run it is surely impossible. We were taught that nature abhors a vacuum. Likewise the Internet strains to be free.

    Like Judy, I enjoy holding a book in my hand and the tactile experience of turning the pages. As I ponder my feelings it seems to me that books will still have a future and thus, so will publishing, but it may have to offer different advantages to the public. My best wishes for your success in all your future endeavors.

  6. Hal says:

    I’d certainly like to see every genealogical enterprise succeed, and since I love books, I’d like to see Heritage Books prosper, but Craig Scott’s post does seem a bit retro and narrowly focused. It offers no ideas for how to deal with technology as we move forward. Technological advances, such as the ability to transmit digital images in a flash, have created some amazing efficiencies for genealogists. Aside from preventing genealogists from transmitting digital files, Scott offers no solutions for how genealogists and authors can both benefit from such technology, now and in the future. As suggested by others, this piece also construes the situation very narrowly. Genealogical book publishing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s a larger genealogical world out there. Look at what’s happening on message boards, in genealogical societies, in genealogical magazine publishing, in library circulation statistics for genealogical books, at conference attendance statistics, at Family History Center attendance statistics, at the number of online subscriptions. You’ll see a pattern: Genealogists are looking for a quick ROI. They’re not in it for the long haul or for the deep dig. They aren’t as interested in research as in gathering factoids, and once their passing fancy for that has been satisfied, they’re through. But this is really no different than what happened in the past. Let’s face it, many genealogical books were sold in the past because people DIDN’T know what was in them. Genealogists bought them based solely on their titles, hoping to glean something of their family history. When the books didn’t contain their family tree as hoped, they just sat around gathering dust. I really think you need to look at genealogical book publishing within the context of the entire genealogy playing field, and when you do, you find that it’s part of an overall trend of increasing online research that promises to be quick and effective, and a decreasing reliance on books and genealogical education. I don’t like it any more than Craig Scott does, but that’s what’s happening. I do think that the iTunes idea has merit. Price and convenience have made iTunes successful and that model is worth thinking about for genealogy, insteading of dismissing it out of hand. After all, millions DO buy music from iTunes, even though they could easily get a copy from their friends for nothing. People will pay for material, provided it’s convenient and REASONABLY priced. They will also pay for excerpts from books. Look at how popular Mills’s quick sheets are. They were designed for those who may not have the interest or money to buy the entire Evidence book. And yet it’s likely that they’ve stimulated more than a few to buy the entire book. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

  7. Ann Gilchrest says:

    Over the years I bought numerous books from Heritage Books. I personally would love to buy those same books again in an e-version similar to how you can buy Evidence Explained. I own both versions of Evidence Explained. I don’t want a CD version. I also own a tablet and a nook, but my preference would be a PDF version for my laptop or desktop before a tablet or specific reader version.

    Ann Gilchrest

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      These days I do a lot of my reading on my Kindle, myself…

    • More than 50% of what Heritage Books offers is available as a PDF version. Just ask and we will see if it is available. More are put up everyday. Our recent publications are available as PDFs. Their cost is usually about 20% less than the book. Some are available on Amazon as Kindles but getting them there is an expensive and labor intensive process. So there are very few; its a process. – Craig

  8. Heather says:

    Not only is this affecting book publishing, it is affecting music publishing. My husband is a composer and spends countless hours writing choral anthems which are sold as sheet music, often for less than $2.00 each. A composer’s take is a small fraction of that, pennies for each copy sold. Churches and schools are notorious for buying one copy and then making as many copies as they have choir members. Our children have come home from school with choir folders containing no original sheet music, only copies. Budgets for schools and churches are blamed. The composer/arranger/orchestrator always loses…

  9. I’m sorry to hear about the red ink; genealogical books are extremely important and I hope we have you around for some time to come. Please don’t leave us!

    Although the business of publishing has changed, I wonder if you really just have a marketing problem. Personally, I prefer to have hard copy books when I know they are relevant to my collection. That’s the key to making a purchase…when they are relevant to me. So for example if I am googling “Staten Island genealogy” because that’s what I’m interested in, it would be a good place to see a Google ad promoting a title that might interest me.

    Likewise, the GenWeb site for Staten Island has a whole bunch of free books and library books listed. There are two links to your site, but those are at the very end of the list, and the links don’t work. As a reader, there is too much else out there to be distracted by. I would not have noticed, unless I went poking around in response to this post. If you had more and better real estate on that page, and maybe a thumbnail image and review, I’d definitely visit your site.

    Books do a couple things well that digital can’t: they give you context and a history around the data to help you make connections (those ah ha! moments we all live for). Preservation is not as much a concern. Books are better sourced (one would hope); and they are better for more intensive study (all things that Mills advocates).

    She is right when says that in looking at a document you should examine all the pages in order. If I had a book of images of the 1870 census of Staten Island I would read the whole thing, and I am certain, would make some fascinating discoveries beyond what I already know. That’s just too hard to do online, and would take too long to do at a library. When I’m staring at a brick wall, I could be convinced to buy if the price was right.

    When you have a new release, do you make an announcement to the people who run relevant GenWeb sites? Do you or your authors reach out to bloggers that cover a particular topic or geographic area and give them a review copy to publicize? Do you require your authors to do promotions? Maybe you do, I’m just asking as I personally have not seen this. Twitter? Facebook?

    How about a facelift for your website? It might be time.

    It’s disturbing about the libraries delivering digital scans of your book without permission. You did not sell them digital rights, I assume. Maybe it’s time to drop libraries from your distribution. That may sound radical, but with micro-targeted marketing, reader reviews, and a somewhat limited preview that you can control yourself, maybe that’s a better situation for you. Data is king. Of my genealogy friends, I can tell you that nothing makes them happier than to be sitting on a limited-distribution hard copy containing data no one else has got! Just food for thought.

  10. As a former copyright manager in mainstream publishing houses, I’d like to echo Craig’s concerns and respond to some comments. In no particular order:

    Craig doesn’t need to file a “test case” — Google was sued by major players in the book industry (the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers) almost as soon as Google rolled out its Book Search service; that suit has been going strong for years, and a settlement has been in negotiation for years–the initial settlement was rejected by the court as violating anti-trust laws. My memory is vague here, and I don’t have time to research it, but I believe libraries were originally part of the suit but were dropped out. One of the sticking points of the settlement was that it was an opt-out system–the onus was on the author and/or publisher to notify Google that they did not want their books included, rather than on Google to determine copyright status and ask for permission.

    “Libraries aren’t making copies.” Um, yes, they are, or they are partnering with those who are. For example, Google Books got its start from large urban and university libraries donating everything in their collection–regardless of copyright status–for Google to digitize. Before that, university libraries were violating copyright by creating “course packs” for professors–a chapter of this book, an article from that journal, etc., all without clearing permissions; when libraries got in trouble, professors started using Kinko’s; again, a lawsuit (v. Kinko’s) and that practice was reined in (but it was a long, drawn-out fight). Libraries have long had a history of pushing the boundaries of fair use: before digitization and the Internet, there was wholesale photocopying (by librarians and the public) going on “for the public good” and when pushed to do something about it, the library’s solution was to put up those ubiquitous “don’t violate copyright” notices over the copy machines. As a book lover, I love libraries; as a copyright professional, I often found myself on the opposite side of the aisle from them.

    Craig (or any publisher) cannot require any GenWeb site (or any other site) to keep its links current or to carry his ad. In fact, most GenWeb sites are hosted on RootsWeb and commercial activity is prohibited there. (It’s been a long time since I had the RW policies memorized–before they were acquired by Ancestry–but I’m pretty sure they couldn’t even have ads.) Even on sites than can have ads (including some non-RW GenWeb sites), it’s up to the site to choose to do so.

    Craig dropping libraries from his distribution network would not solve the problem. As I noted above, the libraries did not single out genealogy publications (or Heritage Books publications) for copyright violations, they allowed Google to digitize everything in their collection. According to this logic, then, all publishers would have to cut libraries from their distribution. The public would be (rightfully, in my opinion) outraged.

    I’ve noticed a tendency, any time technology and copyright collide, for people to say the copyright industries are behind the times and need to catch up with technology. In fact, the copyright industries are usually ahead of the curve, addressing copyright issues when new technology is still just in “idea” stage. I remember years of discussions in the 1980s+ about how to handle what was then called “the celestial jukebox” (now called “on demand,” “download,” and/or “streaming” services). The same arguments, by the way (new technology renders copyright obsolete, copyright industries need to change the way they operate) were made when photocopying machines were first rolled out, and when microfilm was invented. No, I’m not old enough to remember that (!), but I’ve read doomsday predictions in period literature.

    Sorry, that got long and off-track a bit. But copyright is my first love and I still get revved up when discussing it!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for this very interesting perspective, Claire. I do agree that whenever copyright and technology collide, the knee-jerk is to say copyright has to give. But I do think one thing that makes that knee-jerk so common is the fact that copyright has been extended to be so much longer than it was. I’ve heard some say that since the copyright will now never expire in their lifetimes, they think it’s too long and they’re willing to run an end run around it. I’m not sure how you reconcile those concerns.

    • Good points. I do believe that if a book is in copyright, the library does not have rights to digitize it. The problem may be that if the book is itself a re-print of an out of print work, then the LDS feels it can proceed.

      Particularly with LDS, I stand by my statement that I am not sure there is value in them having copies of books if they are not going to respect author’s rights. The ability for the average citizen to find information from their desktop means that Craig could drive his sales by getting his message out there in a number of new ways using social marketing.

      I certainly didn’t mean to imply that Craig could force any GenWeb site to do anything. My point, simply, is that he could take a targeted marketing approach. Reach out to those folks when he launches a book that is relevant to their topic. They will be happy to list it. That’s not advertising, that’s submitting a suggestion for inclusion in their list of relevant books.

      In any case, hope you now including a do-not-digitize statement on your copyright page!

      • Judy G. Russell says:

        >> a do-not-digitize statement on your copyright page!

        It’s a sad day when we have to keep reminding people to respect an author’s rights…

  11. First, I should clarify–Google and the AAP reached a private agreement (that the court did not have to approve) in Oct. 2012. It is the Authors Guild that is continuing the copyright infringement case against Google.

    Judy and all, copyright has always (well, not in its original “you can’t publish without a royal grant” incarnation, but ever since) been a balancing of the rights of “authors” (that’s the legal term, but it includes creators of all content types) and the rights of users. While I’m sympathetic to some of the “copyright term is too long for certain types of works” argument, I do have a problem with the “I’ll only follow the law if I agree with it” attitude. Laws aren’t a matter of picking and choosing which ones to follow based on personal inclination.

    I also don’t think the current term of copyright is the real issue. I’ve been active in copyright circles long enough to remember when it was 28 years for the first term and 28 years for the second, renewal, term (and I remember the Librarian of Congress testifying before Congress that less than 5% of works were renewed, so effectively it was 28 years for almost all works), and people then also complained that the copyright term was “too long.” To me, it seems to be the near-universal instinct is to only consider the user’s side (“I want to use whatever I want”), not the author’s side–and I’ve even seen that attitude among authors (creators) toward others’ works, where they would kick and scream if someone did it to their works. (The early days of the music sampling controversy come to mind). Ah, well, people keep life interesting!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      The “I want what I want when I want it” attitude is certainly the big issue, no question. But the “let me see how long I can lock this up” attitude of folks like (not to pick on any one company) Disney doesn’t help.

  12. Chad Milliner says:

    I suspect there is another source of publisher agony — the extreme ease with which used copies of books can now be located and purchased.

    It used to be that used book purchasing of a particular title was difficult. First, you had to live in a city large enough to have used book stores. Then you had to make the effort of going to them and browsing for what you wanted. Probably more than half of the time, the title you wanted was not in stock. Some used book stores would take you name and number and promise to give you a call if a copy came in. But if you really needed the book, and if the book was still in print, most of the time, you would go to the new book side of the store and have them order in a copy for you. Which of course resulted in money for the publisher and the author.

    Now it is extremely easy to use any number of Internet sites to locate used copies of desired works. Purchasing used copies can save me a lot of money, but does nothing for the publisher or author.

  13. Anne says:

    I’m a little late in coming to this conversation, but I went to the website of Heritage Books, and I can see why business is down. Mostly what I saw there were printed indexes. For the cost of a single printed index, I can get a month of access to 30,000 indexes on Ancestry. There’s no contest. And thinking about it from an author’s perspective, if I put together an index, would I sell printed copies from Heritage Books, or would I license my index to Ancestry? Again, no contest.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I agree that indices aren’t the big draw in genealogy these days. There is, of course, much more available than indices.

    • Nancy Thompson says:

      I, too, am just now reading this article, but would like to add that Ancestry asked our local genealogy society for complete and unlimited rights to all of our published indexes – they wanted the right to republish in any form, print or digital, sell or give away free, use on their subscription site, etc. – and with no compensation to the society at all. We, of course, elected to decline Ancestry’s kind offer to take our work without paying for it. We have several indexes being developed (none of those records is available on ancestry or familysearch), but this issue raises the question of whether it is feasible to publish and sell copies at all.

  14. What an interesting discussion. Thank you to Craig for writing, and to Judy for hosting his article. I volunteer for a genealogical society which has been publishing for 40+ years, and, as Craig points out, these issues affect us too. And as a genealogist who also volunteers in a genealogical library and who publishes indexes herself, I see that many of the paper/CD indexes and collections of abstracts, transcriptions, etc. published today and in the past are not the ‘same old’ indexes one finds at the largest commercial websites. Many are unique – and were/are carefully proof read and produced. I do enjoy reading on the go on my phone and my Kobo and netbook, but I sit writing surrounded by ‘book books’ here and I couldn’t do without them.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      It’s certainly hard to imagine a world without books, Diane. And it seems we’re headed at least somewhat in that direction.

  15. Heather Kramer says:

    Two cents from a librarian:

    There are so many different issues being discussed in the original posting and subsequent responses. First, I have purchased and will continue to purchase A LOT of books from Heritage Books. They are a great publisher of useful information that my customers appreciate. Thank you Craig for continuing to provide services and for your knowledge of the industry and genealogy. Your presentations are fantastic and I look forward to adding more books from Heritage Books to our collection. Second, I have made an active search of PUBLIC libraries over the past year to view who is self publishing from their special collections. How many? A few. And they all obtained permission from the copyright holder. They actually have some good models to follow in regards to providing information and getting the name of the local society out there for people to see and inquire about.

    Let me begin by saying that most libraries are NOT infringing upon copyright. Why? Because good librarians know their copyright law and understand the importance of respecting authors and publishers. Also, libraries CANNOT AFFORD to do all the digitizing and ebook lending mentioned by many in this discussion. I certainly can’t since my budget was reduced (cut in half) in 2009. The library and archive world is not a large one, so we meet often and I know there are many other libraries with reduced means. I rely on a good relationship with local microfilm/digitization vendors to give me the rock bottom price to digitize out of copyright newspapers we have. This is the first self directed digitization effort of this mid to small sized library system. Most public libraries cannot provide even one digital collection let alone ebooks.

    Unfortunately, with the ebook revolution “Fair Use” has not been adequately redefined by any court that I know of to include much of ebook lending or publishing. Some academic libraries have concluded that Fair Use implies one ebook copy for a physical copy on the shelf. Perhaps this is the same guidance for FHL. Public libraries must contract with a vendor to provide ebooks. Most public libraries enter a consortium to reduce the cost. The authors included in the contracted collections have all given their permission for ebook creation and lending. If authors do not want to have books in ebook form, they should stilupate so in their publishing contract. Ebooks are lent for a period of time much like regular print books. For example, check out Overdrive. So please do not lump all of us libraries when there are a few offenders.

    “Can’t you find everything on the internet?” is one of the phrases I hear most often from those just beginning their genealogy journey to other vendors that we contract with. I even had a website builder ask me when I thought my library would close due to everything being on the internet. And yes I take the opportunity to educate them that the internet is a tool to further research and find information but it will also lead them to a library, archives, museum, society, etc. as there are other resources not in digital form. Each presentation I give I start with the same thing: defining genealogy and dispelling the myths of internet comprehensiveness and accuracy. In fact, due to some good outreach and a regular program schedule, our library has increased use in two years.

    From many responses and discussions I have heard over the past year I am beginning to wonder what the beef is with libraries. From one vendor questioning why I wanted to purchase books for a obscure “out of the way” library to different society members (not in the local area) giving advice on how to pull donated genealogy collections out of a library to now libraries are the cause of reducing genealogy book vendors to near oblivion? I think we librarians are given too much credit for the almighty and monstrous power we seem to yield.

    Librarians consistently lend support to open access to government and archives records that are so important to genealogy research. Remember the Georgia Archives? Two past Texas state archivists were the first to sign the petition to keep it open. Many other archivists and librarians followed, me included. Librarians are always asking for increased money in their budget to provide books, databases, and other materials. They evaluate many different means of providing collection development for customer use. Libraries are meeting and gathering places for your research trips, group meetings, and one-on-one reference sessions. They are places for programs, self education, and guidance.

    Please don’t blame libraries. Librarians have always been and will continue to be your friends. Let’s continue to have discussions such as these so we can all live long and prosper.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Heather, I really don’t think people are picking on libraries as much as they are pointing to a Library. Capital letter intended.

      • Heather Kramer says:

        Thanks, Judy. I had understood from the initial reading that the FHL was the main offender. This was also included:

        “Other libraries are also undermining genealogical publishing of all sorts, by “improving access” to works by creating digital versions of books and periodicals. Apparently, the libraries believe this is fine if they are only accessible in the facility”.

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          There are certainly SOME libraries doing that without understanding that making multiples copies available digitally is a copyright violation. But I agree with you, not most. With luck, not many!

  16. Heather Kramer says:

    There may be a few, but after my year of searching I can tell you they are not public libraries! Thanks for a great article and discussion with Craig.

  17. Gordon Lynn Hufford says:

    One thought I had (and have had on this for a while) is why more authors whose writing are likely to attract a relatively small audience do not self-publish ebooks using a service like Kindle Direct Publishing? Even my mother, who at 82 is a prolific reader, has a Nook reader and also uses her local libraries extensively. While a self-published ebook author might not get rich (the average on a recent survey of over 1,000 ebook authors was $10,000 per year with many earning less than $500) I doubt that a genealogical author would make much publishing the traditional way either. An ebook could be marketed via the author’s various social media outlets by providing snippets of the work to get potential readers interested in the content. As an alternative, the author could post a chapter at a time on a secure site and charge for admission to the site. They could also do an “honor” system and put their work up and ask for people who read it to pay whatever they felt it was worth. Continuing to rely on publishers may be the way for some authors to go but other models are likely to work better for different authors or different content.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      There is no question but that self-publishing is being used more and more by many authors, Gordon, both within and without the genealogical community. But remember that our own selfish interests may dictate that someone be able to sell us a book or a CD that we want that isn’t being sold today — and that the survival of publishers (and particularly those now doing publishing on demand) is important to us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>