Sunday, January 20, 2008

What About Books with CDs?

That's the question P. Reitz asks here on the Kindle Forum. It's a problem we publishers have been trying to deal with in the print-on-demand (POD) world as well. Plenty of books in the print world have an accompanying CD. That CD might have videos, content snippets or other ancillary materials; the CD content is usually a pretty important element of the entire book/CD package. So what do you do in the POD or Kindle world?

Unfortunately I don't think anyone has come up with the perfect answer to this question. Ideally a publisher could create a website that's nothing more than a server hosting all the companion CD content for all the books they've published. Buy the POD/Kindle edition and go to the site to download the CD materials. Pretty simple, right?

Two challenges exist with this solution. First of all, you have the customer authentication step. The publisher probably only wants to allow paying customers to access the companion CD content. We've used random questions like "what's the 5th word on page 153" to authenticate customers in situations like this but it's far from foolproof (although probably "good enough" for this use).

The bigger challenge is licensing rights. Most publishers don't own the content they distribute on CDs; they license it from the content owners. The distribution agreements most publishers have signed with these third-party content owners typically only include redistribution rights for CD distribution. They don't include the rights to distribute the materials online. The thought of going back and getting all new agreements signed to allow publishers online distribution rights isn't too appealing. It's a time-consuming effort and likely to result in something less than a 100% success rate.

So, before you buy that next Kindle or POD edition of a book, be sure to check and see whether the print edition includes a CD and if you'll have access to those materials with your Kindle/POD edition.


Anonymous said...

Hey Joe - It seems to me that the solution here can be accomplished through Amazon's identification of the Kindle in question.

Amazon has some way to uniquely identify each Kindle -- this is how it delivers subscription based content and delivers books that are purchased. If the CD based content offers rich media, than in order for you to gain access to the CD based content on the web, you would just need to input your Amazon credentials which would then authenticate you based on your Amazon account and books that have been legally purchased.


Joe Wikert said...

Hi Michael. Excellent point, at least as far as the Kindle is concerned. We'd still have the POD challenge, of course. Also, it would either require the publishers to coordinate the authentication with Amazon or for Amazon to simply host all the CD contents. I'm betting Amazon would prefer the latter since they're pretty protective of customer information. That too would require publishers to rework all their existing licensing agreements since most don't have the language in place to allow for sublicensing or permission for someone other than the publisher to distribute the actual files. Nevertheless, you bring up a valid starting point for the Kindle problem.