Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/51

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41
THE ENGLISH COPYRIGHT COMMISSION.

I receive a certain proportion of those profits. I do this for the purpose of detaching myself as much as possible from business questions when the work is done.

Q. Under the present law you make your own arrangements for the sale of each edition?

A. I do.

Q. And under the proposed change of the law, as you apprehend it, instead of your having the freedom to do that and make an arrangement on your own terms with your publisher, the law would step in after the first edition and insist upon a certain rate of remuneration being afforded you by any publisher who chose to take your work and publish a new edition of it?

A. That is the impression that I have received of the proposed scheme, and I conceive that nothing can be more unfair. I think it would be simply flagitious to interfere with the rights of an author to that extent.

Q. (Sir J. Benedict). Could you imagine any change in the law which you would propose to facilitate the acquirement by the public of works of such a character as you write yourself, or would it be possible to make the agreement such that the price of the books, which now is the great bar to their popularity in the first instance, could be lowered without injury to the author and to the publisher?

A. That is a subject on which at the moment I should not like to offer an opinion. I am here speaking of an author's rights over the produce of his own hard work. I may perhaps refer to a fact that was brought to my mind by the examination of the gentleman who preceded me. I think it perfectly fair for an author, if he thinks fit, to write a work that appeals to the wealthier classes of the community.[1] I wrote a little book some years ago called "Faraday as a Discoverer," in which I gave a sketch of Faraday's life and work. The book was published at 6s. or 7s.; it is a small book; I gave myself great trouble to write it, and the edition was very soon sold. Many of my friends urged upon me that it was almost a duty for me, and that for the public it would be a boon if a cheap edition of that book were published. It was accordingly published at the price of 3s. 6d., but the sale of that book was by no means so rapid or so remunerative as the sale of the dearer one had been.

Q. (Sir H. D. Wolff). In regard to that book, will you forgive my asking you, do not you think that the reason why the sale of the cheap edition at 3s. 6d. was slower than of the edition at 6s. was owing to the two prices being rather near each other; there is not that enormous gap between the prices that there is, for instance, between 25s. and 6s.?

A. That is true; but I should not be inclined to ascribe the slower sale of the cheaper book to the smallness of the gap. I think the first

  1. Mr. Gould, for example, wrote books on birds so sumptuously illustrated, that none but the wealthy could buy them.