Does refunds impact a scholar's internal performance with the publisher?
October 11, 2021 10:21 PM   Subscribe

There's a local scholar whose work I follow. Unfortunately, I now learned buying directly from the publisher only tied me to their proprietary ebook reader client, and I can't get an epub or downloadable version. Should I go ahead with the refund, and eventually purchase it elsewhere? Will this data point be a negative one for his publishing contract? Should I not refund but instead reply in writing my objection? I would like to protest the DRM, but also make sure he has visible evidence of a market. What do you think?

I've emailed the publisher with the request for a downloadable version and I got a negative response, with the insistence to use the proprietary app (VitalSource). I made the purchase as, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his book, he shared a promo code for the purchase. I understand these kinds of promos work internally to show market demand. (I also feel very culturally Asian regarding our social relations ties - they are too weak to message him directly for a downloadable copy)

Because of the location, area of work, etc, it's not a particularly well-known field for Westerners and consequently the dark web. It's interesting work, if you're into a comparative analysis of affirmative action policies in South Africa and Malaysia.
posted by cendawanita to Society & Culture (9 answers total)
I mean, I'd try to convert it yourself to an ebook format using something like these:
posted by Chrysopoeia at 12:21 AM on October 12, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you, i did in fact find those resources already, and I'm still considering if i want to go through all the trouble (i might - usage stats of the app must matter too). My main query now is what happens if i pull the trigger and actually commit to a refund. Would this be a penalty mark against the academic writer?
posted by cendawanita at 2:26 AM on October 12, 2021

It seriously depends on the publishing deal the author has with the publisher, and since we're not privy to that, there's really no way to know.

Besides, I seriously doubt the author is going to "get rich" over payments "per book". It'd just be a slight minus in the net revenue column, even if it's purchased directly from the publisher.
posted by kschang at 3:52 AM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So in commercial fiction publishing, there's usually a clause about "reserve against returns", which is a portion of royalties that the publisher holds for a length of time to see if the copies in bookstores get sent back (which they will, eventually, if they don't sell to the public.) But this is a physical-copy thing (the whole process of returns is arcane and kinda fascinating, imo) and doesn't really apply to ebooks, plus academic publishing is a totally different beast to start with. As kschang says, this is going to be 100% dependent on the specific contract. If you want to support the author, just buy the book and crack it. You're not going to be able to apply any meaningful pressure against the publisher as a single person - the entities that could do that would be institutions that are arranging for entire courses to use those works.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:39 AM on October 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

Removing DRM usually isn't difficult. I'm on team "Try it!"
posted by nosila at 5:44 AM on October 12, 2021

Will this data point be a negative one for his publishing contract?

I doubt it? I don't know this author's contract obviously, but most scholars I know like to joke that if you're lucky, a published book results in enough royalties to pay for a dinner at a nice restaurant - many academic books make even less, and some don't even break-even. I wouldn't worry about the impact of your personal return.
posted by coffeecat at 6:15 AM on October 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Related anecdata point: my father wrote the definitive text for a particular corner of hard science, which sold quite well for the field (~50K sold), and he made basically nothing from it (not that he cared; he wouldn't have given a single shit if you outright stole the book as long as you actually read it). crack/return away!
posted by aramaic at 7:03 AM on October 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

I, too, am on team Remove that DRM. Calibre is a great ebook management program, and with a plugin you can remove a lot of DRM.
posted by Snowishberlin at 8:10 AM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also came in here to mention Calibre. It's an extremely useful tool for managing/converting/importing ebooks of all formats.
posted by jquinby at 9:09 AM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

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