I am considering to write a handbook on a certain subject. I will use concepts and methods used in other books to write this.

So, nearly 80% content will come from other books which are bestsellers in this field. I will just tweak the content to explain concepts in more understandable form.

I will make paperback and ebook available for free.

So my question is should I ask permission from publications I am referencing this book from.

2 Answers 2


There is no copyright on ideas. You can retell the ideas from other books freely, as long as you are actually creating new words to describe those ideas from scratch.

If you are taking chunks of text from other books and editing them for clarity, on the other hand, you would need permission, and you almost certainly won't be granted it.

  • I have no legal background, but it seems more of a grey area. OP's question was about non-literary texts. Still, can I for example start publishing my own X-men derivative comics tomorrow? If not - why? Aren't characters and world settings just ideas?
    – ndnenkov
    May 4, 2017 at 12:43
  • @ndn Now you are talking about derivative works, which are protected by law. X-Men are a literary idea and that has protections. The best way to clean stuck on foods is a practical idea and is not protected. There are also questions of trademark infringement to consider in cases like this. But the fact is, this is all grey area. The rules themselves are clear enough, but there is a huge gray area when it comes to deciding if a particular work infringes or not, which is why publishers (Amazon included) will insist on your staying miles away from the grey area.
    – user16226
    May 4, 2017 at 13:24
  • Subject i am talking about is "Astrology". I deliberately not included it in question just to keep question open for wide audience who have similar questions. But if subject matters then can you elaborate more. And does non-profit venture plays any role?
    – HungryDB
    May 5, 2017 at 7:55
  • @HungryDB. The subject makes no difference. Nor does the fact that it is a non-profit venture.
    – user16226
    May 5, 2017 at 11:22

Standard disclaimer, I am not a lawyer. Having said that, I think there is a difference between reworking an idea that is pretty well known in the subject area (that is, if you pick up five books on astrology and four of them will at least mention the idea) versus reworking something that one particular author discussed that might be their innovation. If it is a generally known concept that you are explaining better, you are probably fine. If you are explaining that one author's special theory, I think you have to be a lot more careful. Give credit where credit is due, something like "as so-and-so explained in the-book-name..." With references, you won't run as much of a risk of unintentionally plagiarizing and may be sending some additional sales their way.

Also, I'm hoping that you are not only re-working material from elsewhere, but including your own innovations and insight -- value added.

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