[Smt-talk] Jonathan Kramer's "The Time of Music"

Daniel Wolf djwolf at snafu.de
Tue Jul 26 10:30:13 PDT 2011

This is a case in which — if the academic publishing world were reasonable  
— one ought to be able to ring up the publisher (Schirmer) and ask if they  
had plans to reprint the book, and if so, when?; if not, if they planned  
to issue an ebook of the text, if so, when?; and if not that, would they  
release the book for full preview view to Google books.  Likewise, it  
should be possible for authors (or their estates, in the case of Kramer)  
to influence this decision.  Unfortunately, academic publishing is not  
always reasonable and the current profit model, based on selling either  
500 to 1000 copies to academic libraries or selling textbooks to much  
larger customer bases, functions well enough for many publishers that they  
see no urgency in dealing with their orphaned catalog items, even when the  
author or her/his estate would wish otherwise.

Obviously, the decision of a publisher to reprint back stock is one based  
on their need to amortize their investment in the production of the first  
edition and their sense of market demand.  (Sheet music publishers  
amortize over a very long period, reprinting as needed, sometimes once in  
generation; academic publishers over a relatively short period, not  
usually reprinting scholarship but frequently updating and reprinting text  
books (the latter, among other things, helps to void the used book  
market.) While some items may well have significant continuing demand, a  
handful of requests for the text and its availability at huge prices on  
the used book market may lead to highly distorted assessment of the latter  
by the publisher.

Perhaps a concerted effort from scholars in music to indicate to  
publishers that releasing orphaned works brings significant goodwill.   
Perhaps authors should consider demanding the addition of an orphaned book  
clause to the contracts with publishers.  I have at least one example in  
my library — a Javanese-English dictionary published by Yale — in which  
the author's copyright notice explicitly indicates an assignment to the  
public domain when the first edition is sold out.

(Dr.) Daniel Wolf
Frankfurt am Main

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