Rights sales have fueled the publishing industry for many years. When you buy a book, you buy it only in that format, and primarily for yourself: you can’t resell it (at least not at scale) or claim the right to sell the title in a different market. Profits from exclusive distribution licensing in different formats and markets have propped up publishers for years, as they pay authors small amounts for the right to sell their work in a variety of ways.
Electronic and digital rights have typically been signed away by authors along with U.S., international, and print media rights. It’s in publishers’ self-interest to build in claims to as many rights as possible in its contracts, even those that don’t exist yet, and also to never have those rights claims expire, or at least delay the expiration for as long as possible. Some publishers had the good fortune to write in clauses to electronic rights–or all other rights not explicitly licensed–into their contracts even when e-book popularity was a distant dream; this and tricky elements of electronic rights have too often led to publishers profiting where authors do not.
With electronic rights firmly in hand for many publishers, what’s this suggest about mobile rights? Mobile rights would of course typically be encompassed under electronic rights, where not otherwise spelled out. But what if mobile rights were sold separately from print or electronic ones? This might transform the way that authors create and publishers license. Publishing content would become more like putting together a car with an options package–do you want the heated seats and the gold-plated rims, or print distribution in the U.S. and mobile app in Japan? Do you want a CD-ROM, a printed copy, and a copy in the cloud?
What if you could put together an automated distribution package for your product? What channels would you choose and why?