Earlier this week, the Authors Guild celebrated its 100th anniversary in coordination with the Copyright Matters lecture series hosted by the U.S. Copyright Office. The event commemorated a number of important achievements, but conversation inevitably shifted to how the professional organization can survive and thrive in the digital era.
With online piracy already a threat to the equitable digital distribution of literature, the writing profession has recently been put under pressure by name-brand companies as well. Earlier in the year, the Authors Guild suffered a considerable setback when courts ruled that Google's massive book digitization initiative constituted fair use of protected works.
As distribution channels are consolidated and publishers begin to prioritize eBook production strategies, authors could have their commercial potential further restricted.
"Major publishers have all locked arms on a new royalty rate for eBooks, which is roughly half of what authors would receive on the traditional sale of books," Authors Guild president Scott Turow told those in attendance.
According to IP Watchdog, if such reduced economic incentive become the "new normal," authors may have little choice but to apply their time toward more commercially viable tasks and trades. As a result, the collective volume and quality of original content could rapidly decline in the coming years.