They’re opposed to a change in business models? Really? [actually, it’s just terrible editing at The Boston Globe. See the article from their parent below.) Authors oppose single printings — pdf
The offer from Simon & Schuster seems ideal: Let us publish your book , and it’ll never go out of print. Even if it sells only one copy a year, we’ll keep it available, thanks to digital technology.
But the Authors Guild, representing thousands of published writers, says that’s unacceptable. “A publisher is meant to publish, to get out there and sell our books,” Guild president, author , and humorist Roy Blount Jr. said yesterday. “A publishing house is not a place where our books are permanently squirreled away.”
But, wait — what?
Later: Walt Crawford (of http://citesandinsights.info/) points out to me (via email) that good book contracts (i.e, those that have received appropriate attention from authors and their agents) routinely include a reversion clause, dictating the circumstances under which the publisher relinquishes the exclusive right to publish a book. Among these circumstances are the book going out of print. Therefore, one could interpret Simon & Schuster’s “offer” as a way of removing one way that the publisher might lose the exclusive right to copy and, thus, blocking the author from employing other mechanisms for distribution.
For example, I have a colleague whose textbook went out of print, and his contract included a reversion clause (which I erroneously assumed was a rarity). Because the rights have reverted to him, we can now have the text copied and distributed to our students without fear of action on the part of the publisher. Without this reversion, it would not be legal for him to make copies of his own textbook, even though the book is out of print.
So, I get it now.
Later: from the NYTimes — Publisher and Authors Parse a Term: Out of Print
Traditionally, if a book falls out of print, authors are contractually allowed to ask their publishers for their rights back so that the author can try to have the book republished somewhere else.
Until recently, that has meant that if a book was not available in at least one format â€” hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback being the most common â€” or if sales fell below a minimum annual threshold, it was deemed out of print.
But with the advent of technologies like print-on-demand, publishers have been able to reduce the number of back copies that they keep in warehouses. Simon & Schuster, which until now has required that a book sell a minimum number of copies through print-on-demand technology to be deemed in print, has removed that lower limit in its new contract.
In effect, that means that as long as a consumer can order a book through a print-on-demand vendor, that book is still deemed in print, no matter how few copies it sells.