Category Archives: RR Successes

Everybody Wins:
Jeff Hecht’s Rights Reversion Success Story

Posted October 26, 2015

We are pleased to feature the following guest post by Nicole Cabrera and Jordyn Ostroff, students at UC Berkeley Law and authors of our Guide to Understanding Rights Reversion.

fiberoptics

Jeff Hecht is an Authors Alliance member and the author of several books on a wide variety of topics pertaining to science and technology, including lasers, fiber optics, and dinosaurs. Faced with the declining availability of his book, Understanding Fiber Optics, Mr. Hecht worked with his publisher to make it more affordably available to his readers. Mr. Hecht’s story is yet another example of how rights reversions and negotiations with publishers can benefit authors and publishers alike, as well as current and future readers. Part of Mr. Hecht’s experience is featured in the Authors Alliance guide to rights reversion, but since then Mr. Hecht has pursued new ways to increase his book’s availability, and we are excited to share this update with you.

We first spoke with Jeff Hecht in the fall of 2014, while conducting outreach to authors and publishers in preparation for the Understanding Rights Reversion guide. At that time, Mr. Hecht explained to us that Prentice Hall published the fifth edition of Understanding Fiber Optics in 2005. With time, sales of Understanding Fiber Optics slowed and Mr. Hecht was approached about collaborating on a sixth edition. Mr. Hecht brought this proposal to Prentice Hall, but it declined to publish a sixth edition because it did not believe that it could effectively market any new editions of the book. Instead, Prentice Hall agreed to revert to Mr. Hecht the rights to all future editions of Understanding Fiber Optics so that he could try to bring a sixth edition to market independently or with another publisher. Prentice Hall retained the rights to the first five editions, and Mr. Hecht happily got to work on a sixth edition of Understanding Fiber Optics.

This initial success did not mark the end of Mr. Hecht’s and Prentice Hall’s efforts to ensure the continued availability of Understanding Fiber Optics. After reverting rights to future editions of the book, Prentice Hall eventually stopped selling full-length versions of the fifth edition. Instead, Prentice Hall limited distribution of Understanding Fiber Optics to licensing individual chapters of the book for use in college course packets. Since it was important to Mr. Hecht that his book be available in a full-length edition, Prentice Hall agreed to allow him to independently sell full-length copies of the fifth edition subject to one caveat. According to the terms of their agreement, Mr. Hecht must make clear that Prentice Hall had previously published Understanding Fiber Optics but that it is not publishing the full-length version that Mr. Hecht is now selling. Mr. Hecht is happy to oblige, and has created his own small press to publish full-length digital and print-on-demand versions of Understanding Fiber Optics.

Mr. Hecht is quite pleased with how his negotiations with Prentice Hall worked out. Not only does he continue to earn royalties on Prentice Hall’s licensing of individual chapters of Understanding Fiber Optics, but he has also achieved his vision for making his book widely available at an affordable price. In fact, the first purchaser of the digital version of Understanding Fiber Optics was a student in Botswana searching for an affordable introduction to fiber optics. Mr. Hecht told us that he couldn’t think of a better symbol of achieving his goal of making his book more broadly accessible than ever before.

Share your own success story! If you’ve already used our Understanding Rights Reversions guide to make your work more available, please contact us at reversions@authorsalliance.org. We’d love to hear about it.

Robert Darnton and Authors Alliance:
 A Rights Reversion Success Story

Posted September 11, 2015

AuthorsAlliance_Covers_Darnton_final

 

We are very pleased to announce that two books by Robert Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment and Mesmerism and the End of Enlightenment in France, are now freely available in their entirety online. Darnton, an Authors Alliance Advisory Board member and an emeritus Professor of History and outgoing University Librarian at Harvard, has, with Authors Alliance assistance, secured the necessary rights to release two of his books under Creative Commons licenses.

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What will you do after recovering your rights?
 Stephen Sugarman’s success story

Posted August 18, 2015

Authors Alliance is encouraging its members to consider reverting rights to their out-of-print or commercially dormant titles in order to see those works made more widely available. Stephen D. Sugarman, the Roger J. Traynor Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and an Authors Alliance founding member, writes below about his recent experience in making one of his books available online.

John E. Coons, William H. Clune, and I published Private Wealth and Public Education with Harvard University Press (Belknap) in 1970. In the book we showed how wealthy public school districts around the nation spent considerably more money per pupil (while imposing lower tax rates on their property owners) than did low wealth school districts; and we advanced a legal argument as to why this regime should be declared unconstitutional by our courts. The book had a big impact in many states and on the education law literature – an impact that continues to the present as lawsuits challenging school finance inequalities remain vibrant around the nation. But, although the book is not technically out of print, Harvard is understandably not promoting it, and new copies have not been sold in some time. It is available in many libraries, but we suspect that many potential readers would be much more interested in having online digital access (with searchable text).

To ensure that the book will be able to reach these readers, we asked Harvard University Press for assistance, and the Press kindly returned all of the publishing rights to the book to us (although Harvard technically retains the formal copyright and told us we would have to pay to have that assigned to us). While we did not have a digital copy of the book to release, we were pleased to find that it had already been scanned from the library of the University of Michigan, and that it has long been discoverable (though not readable) via both HathiTrust and Google Books. The letter that Harvard provided to us sufficed for HathiTrust to provide us with digital copies for our own records, and to unlock the full version of the book for the public at large to read and share under a Creative Commons license. We are hoping next to get Google Books to also unlock access to the full text.

We believe that Private Wealth and Public Education still has much to offer and are glad that it has this new opportunity to reach more readers online.

Share your own success story! If you’ve already used our Understanding Rights Reversions guide to make your work more available, please contact us at reversions@authorsalliance.org. We’d love to hear about it.