DRM. It is fading.

Dear reader,

As of January 18th of this year, most Dutch e-books will be sold without DRM. This may not affect you directly, after all not everyone buys and reads Dutch books.

However, also world-wide publisher lulu.com has decided to say farewell to DRM. And this might be quite good news for you. If you didn’t know, lulu.com also sells e-books.

We may yet see more DRM-related farewells soon. Let’s hope so.

 

Don’t wait to download your e-book

Dear reader,

Do you buy e-books? And do you pay for them by credit card? If yes and yes, it is wise to download your e-books as soon as you can, and keep them safe somewhere! Read on why, as I found this on “Opposing Views“:

DRM rears its uglymalformedmalignantcross-eyed head again. Despite the fact that, as Cory Doctorow so aptly put it, no one has ever purchased anything because it came with DRM, an ever-slimming number of content providers insist on punishing paying customers with idiotic “anti-piracy” schemes.

Combine this “malware” with digital distribution that sticks the end user with an unfavorable license rather than, say, an actual book, and you’ve got another ready-made disaster. The Consumerist has the details on yet another paying customer dealing with DRM stupidity. It starts off with this physical analogy.

[I]f reader Synimatik had bought a paperback book a few months ago and picked it up to read now, the book’s pages wouldn’t magically glue shut just because the credit card she normally uses at the bookstore has expired.

Obviously, no one would expect a physical book to be subject to the whims of the publisher or the store it was purchased from. A sale is a sale, even if many rights holders would rather it wasn’t. But, Barnes & Noble doesn’t see it that way. Sure, you can buy an ebook from them, but you’d better keep everything in your profile up to date if you plan on accessing your purchases at some undetermined point in the future.

Yesterday, I tried to download an ebook I paid for, and previously put on my Nook, a few months ago. When I tried, I got an error message stating I could not download the book because the credit card on file had expired. But, I already paid for it. Who cares if the credit card is expired? It has long since been paid for, so the status of the card on file has nothing to do with my ability to download said book. I didn’t see anything in the terms of service about this either, but it’s possible I missed it.

This is just one more reason to either not buy ebooks, or strip the drm off of the ones you purchase so you can you the book you BUY on all your devices without having to purchase multiple copies for no reason and have access to something you already bought when you want it.

Read more on  “Opposing Views“.

The best places for DRM-free e-books – part 2 of 2

By Joanna Cabot

From Part 1: I love DRM-free books! I know that for most people, DRM is an issue they might not think about often; if their books work, they’re happy. But for many more experienced e-book users, it’s an issue to care about. Unless, that is, you buy and read books that are DRM-free.

Smashwords logoThe books referenced and linked to below can be kept forever, converted using free software such as Calibre, and read on any device you might own. But where to get them? Here are some of my favorite sources:

3. SMASHWORDS

This is the Amazon of self-published books. Some genres are better represented than others, and quality can vary, but it’s a polished-looking ecosystem. You can view online (or download for later) generous samples, and read reviews and comments by other users.

For authors, it’s a one-stop shop; if you format your work correctly, Smashwords can get it into the Kobo, Kindle, Sony and Nook stores for you. There is also a growing sub-group of authors publishing via this platform whose books started their life with mainstream publishers and are being re-released by their authors, who have gotten back the rights.

Many free books are available, as well as for-purchase titles. Once you buy, you can re-download, in any format you choose, any time you need a fresh copy.

Five to get you started:

♦ Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder (free): A computer hacker is asked to investigate a mysterious group that promises to transfer your wealth to your next life by tracking your soul into its next incarnation. A great suspense read.

♦ Alien Murders by Stephen Goldin ($2.99): Three sci-fi stories featuring a ‘literary broker’ who travels to alien worlds via virtual reality, and represents Earth’s cultural property to alien buyers.

Still Life with Murder by Patricia Ryan, writing as P.B. Ryan♦ Deadly Gamble by Connie Shelton ($0.99): The first in a series of mystery novels featuring Charlie Parker, an accountant-turned-detective.

♦ Radium Halos by Shelley Stout ($2.99): An excellent historical novel based on the true events of the Radium Girls, female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning in the 1920s from painting luminous watch and clock dials with radium paint.

♦ Still Life with Murder by Patricia Ryan (free): The first in Patricia Ryan’s historical mystery series featuring Nell Sweeney. Originally published by Berkeley Books.

4. FICTIONWISE

Fictionwise was once the e-book destination. Their sale to Barnes & Noble, followed soon after by the agency pricing fiasco, left them a shell of their former self. But they did—and still do—offer a good selection of DRM-free e-books. (Look for the word ‘multiformat’ when you’re browsing, to tip you off.) You can also select a genre and then use a drop down to filter your choices to only this type of book.

One drawback: Sampling is primitive, and often not available, and you’ll need to look elsewhere for reviews. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can get some good deals here. I won’t list prices for the following titles; if you’re a club member and wait for a coupon code, you can do much better than the list price.

Five good ones:

♦ Masters of Noir: Volume One by Ed McBain: The first in a series, edited by crime great Ed McBain and others, collecting classics from the crime noir genre into one omnibus volume.

♦ 3rd World Products: Book 1 by Ed Howdershelt: A fun and clever little sci-fi tale about alien first contact with Earth. They see our planet as a business opportunity! Try book one, and if you like it, go to Howdershelt’s website to get the rest of them in a much cheaper bundle.

♦ Fellowship of Fear by Aaron Elkins: The first in a well-regarded series featuring an archaeologist detective.

3rd World Products Book 1 by Ed Howdershelt♦ Rx for Murder by Renee Horowitz: Another creative take on the detective genre, this cozy read features a pharmacist sleuth.

♦ Dell Fiction MagazinesAsimov’sEllery Queen and other Dell magazines, both current issues and a few months’ worth of past issues. These don’t expire, either. They’re treated like an e-book, and once you have one, it stays in your shelf.

5. AUTHOR WEBSITES

If you find an author you like and his or her work is DRM-free, chances are they own the rights to the work, and control their own collections. This means it’s highly likely the author has a website, where you can frequently get series books in a bundle at a significant discount.

Some to try:

♦ Cory Doctorow: Doctorow gives away the downloads to all his books for free. Most of them have short ads at the beginning; you can find links on his website to vendors for purchasing a clean copy, or you can purchase a print copy to donate to a school or library.

♦ Simon Haynes: This author writes the popular comedic space opera ‘Hal Spacejock.’ He is self-pubbing his new Hal Jr. series, and you can buy the first four volumes of the classic series in a bundle for $9.99.

♦ Diane Duane: This author of the children’s series So You Want to be a Wizard sells both the original published version and a new updated version which is only available at her site.

♦ J.A. Konrath: He writes detective novels, suspense novels and blogs that are revered by aspiring authors. You can get autographed or inscribed print books, as well as e-books—including a bundle of every book he sells, for $43.99.

♦ Blake Crouch: A suspense writer and sometime-collaborator with Konrath. Alas, no bundles, but all the books are there with links to vendors for purchasing, and bonus features such as reviews and excerpts.

So, is that enough to get you all started? Happy reading!

The best places for DRM-free e-books – part 1 of 2

As found on Teleread:

By Joanna Cabot

Project GutenbergI love DRM-free books! I know that for most people, DRM is an issue they might not think about often; if their books work, they’re happy. But for many more experienced e-book users, it’s an issue to care about.

If you acquire 100 Amazon e-books and then you buy a Kobo, how are you going to read those books? If you spend years as a loyal Sony customer and then buy a Kindle, what will you do with the books you’ve bought and loved? Unless you are blessed with some technical skills—and either a country whose laws permit format-shifting, or a moral compass that doesn’t care as much about the letter of the law—you’re stuck.

Unless, that is, you buy and read books that are DRM-free. These books can be kept forever, converted using free software such as Calibre, and read on any device you might own. But where to get them? Here are some of my favorite sources:

1. PROJECT GUTENBERG

This is the oldest e-book repository on the Web. It has over 40,000 free books, with more available through affiliates like Project Gutenberg Canada and Project Gutenberg Australia. These books are all public domain titles, but you would be shocked at what’s in the public domain these days. It’s not just Shakespeare and the Bible anymore—there arepulp sci-fi and mystery titles from the Golden Age, early issues of Scientific American andAstounding Stories, cookbooks, children’s classics (including books for very young readers, such as the complete works of Beatrix Potter) and more. Many are illustrated. Some have audio book versions. Most of the newer ones were prepared through Gutenberg’s Distributed Proofreaders program to ensure they are error-free. New books are added very frequently

Browsing can be a bit of a chore—some of the books are sorted into topical bookshelves, others are not. But if you know what you’re looking for, or stick to the ‘new release’ or ‘most-downloaded’ RSS feeds, you’re sure to find something good. And the scope of this project—their goal is to have every public domain book ever published—is incredible. This is truly an unparalleled resource, and one of the great gifts the Internet has given us.

Here are five books to get you started; I suggest downloading the HTML, as it seems to convert the cleanest.

Harvard Classics♦ The Harvard Classics: The vast majority of the works in Dr. Eliot’s famous ‘five-foot shelf,’ a collection designed to give a reader a complete classical education with only the books which might fit in a single shelf.

♦ The Best Short Stories: A collection of themed short story collections such as ‘The Best American Humorous Short Stories’ and ‘The Best Russian Shirt Stories,’ sorted by country or origin.

♦ The Golden Treasury, edited by Francis Turner Palgrave: One of the best poetry anthologies ever published. The poetry bookshelf has some other good ones listed.

♦ Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg: This series draws together Jewish myth and folklore from a variety of sources, similar to how the Brothers Grimm synthesized fairy tales from multiple sources.

♦ Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: My all-time favorite novel. A gothic story of the forbidden love between the beautiful Catherine and the mysterious Heathcliff.

2. DELPHI CLASSICS 

Interested in reading the great classics but don’t want to take the time to download two dozen Dickens books, or seek out individual volumes of Sherlock Holmes stories? Do you want to read Andrew Lang’s popular Fairy Books as they first appeared with complete illustrations? Do you want to learn more about the great artists or poets, but don’t know where to start? Delphi Classics is for you!

This store is known for their lavishly illustrated complete works collections (complete works of Dickens, complete works of Austen, and so on) but lately has branched out into two new series: Masters of Art and Masters of Poetry, which, as their titles imply, present the complete works of artists and poets. These books are very well-done, withDelphi Classics D.H. Lawrence numerous illustrations, biographical information and other goodies it would take a long time to track down on your own. They’re also updated frequently—with corrections as well, with new works, as they become available.

If you buy from Delphi’s website as opposed to the Amazon store, you can download the free updates at any time from your account. Two drawbacks:

a. Some of the files are very large, which may slow down a less robust reader.

b. Also, you have to pay separately for the .mobi and .epub versions. I tried converting a mobi version using Calibre and after 30 minutes of trying, Calibre crashed. I don’t relish paying again for an epub if I move to a Kobo Reader down the road, and I think Delphi Classics should amalgamate their editions and let their customers download a purchased title in whatever format they choose.

My five favorites:

♦ Delphi Poets: Emily Dickinson ($1.99) – Dickinson’s complete works, with bonus biographical material including Dickinson’s letters, as well as photographs and illustrations.

♦ Dickens eVolume Collection ($3.99) – The complete works of Dickens, plus biographical materials and extras, in a zipped file of 20 volumes.

♦ The Brontes – Complete Works ($2.99): The complete vollected works of all the Brontes, including their childhood writing and work by their lesser-known artist brother. Illustrated with photographs and reproductions and all the usual bonus features.

♦ Andrew Lang- Complete Works ($2.99): The complete fairy tales books, in order, plus his other short story collections, poetry, other writing and so on. As usual, illustrated with all the usual bonus features.

♦ Masters of Art – Leonardo da Vinci ($2.99): Da Vinci’s paintings in full colour, zoom-able, with bonus details. I reviewed this unique series for TeleRead earlier this year.

E-reading devices compared

Dear reader,

More and more signals appear that the E-ink technology that is used in many popular e-reading devices is getting beating upon beating from the realm of the tablets. Not very surprising, as tablets become more and more affordable and offer more versatility compared to e-readers that you can ‘only’ use to read.

♦ So what is the difference of the reading experience between the two?
Here is some imagery from my own devices (forgive my lack of craftsmanship on these):

E-reader, large overview

Image from a piece of text on my e-reader. It almost looks like a book to me.

E-reader, detail

Up here you see a close-up of the text on the e-reader.

Tablet, black on white, overview

Here you see a snip of text on the tablet, with the device set to a white background and black text.

Tablet, black on white, detail

A close-up of the tablet’s display. Of course, you would never lie with your nose on a tablet this way, unless you fall asleep on it.

Tablet, white on black, overview

Here is the same text but then reversed in image. White text, black background.

Tablet, white on black, detail

And to be complete: here is a close-up of the text in white on black.

As you see, there is quite a difference when you look at the devices this way. The display on the e-reader seems a bit smoother. This of course has to do also with the way the tablet lights up its text: from behind, and the fact that this is an extreme close-up. When reading from it, the difference is hardly noticeable.

♦ And what is the similarity of the reading experience between the two?

Both devices do what I want from them when I read on them. The display is flicker-free, the response when paging is good (remember that you get what you pay for, do not expect snappy responses from a low-budget tablet). Both devices can hold a large number of books, font sizes can be adjusted and everything just works.

The tablet has an added benefit here: I can install free reading apps from anywhere (Aldiko, Kobo, Amazon, etc.) so I can purchase books from everywhere and read them immediately. This benefit also is a drawback. I want to read a book. Where did I buy it? Oh, yes, so I need that app to read it. That is something you don’t have to worry about on a dedicated e-reader, everything is on there. Which has in turn the drawback that when you want to buy something on Amazon and read it on for example a B&N Nook, you will need to do some trickery with conversion and DRM removal before you can load your purchase on your own device. Especially the latter part needs some attention as it is not legal to tinker with these things, even when you have bought the book.

For now there is one clear point where an E-ink device wins hands down over a tablet: reading outside. A tablet does not display anything clearly when you take it outside in bright light. And the brighter the light, the clearer E-ink is.

♦ The decline of E-ink.

I see why it happens. Tablets are more versatile. You can read on them, you can also browse the web, you can listen to music (which is possible on most e-readers as well), and you can run all kinds of programs and games on them. E-ink will have a hard time beating that – as well as getting a facelift to displaying colours.

Hachette UK loves its DRM

As found on The Digital Reader:

In case you thought that Tor’s enlightened stance on DRM might be a sign that the ice might be starting to melt around the Big Six publishers, think again. Today in Publishers Weekly, Cory Doctorow writes he has obtained a letter that the UK arm of Hachette sent to authors publishing with it asking that they demand Tor return DRM to their titles, and advising them it will be adding language to its standard boilerplate contract requiring that any titles Hachette UK licenses for its region must be locked down with DRM elsewhere in the world.

Doctorow is, of course, appalled at this, pointing out that DRM hasn’t stopped Hachette’s works from being available from peer-to-peer networks now, and all it does is hinder consumers’ legitimate uses of the e-books. However, The Bookseller is carryingstatements Hachette UK execs have made in response, pointing out that the boilerplate language is as negotiable as any other part of the contract and that a lot of publishers include language insisting licensees use DRM in their contracts already.

Ursula Mackenzie, CEO of Hachette UK imprint Little, Brown and president of the Publishers Association, criticized Doctorow for trotting out the same tired old anti-DRM arguments and said the purpose of the DRM was not to block pirates or DRM-crackers, but to “[inhibit] file-sharing between the mainstream readers who are so valuable to us and our authors.” She says that the DRM “model is working very well” and sees no reason to change at this point.

Is “file-sharing between […] mainstream readers” really that much of a threat? Going DRM-free has seemed to do well by Baen, and that was obvious even as far back as 2001 when the New York Times wrote that Baen was expanding its business by selling DRM-free and even giving away e-books payment-free. Baen shows no sign of changing its position now. In fact, it sells pricier early e-book versions DRM-free as well.

Of course, Baen is a bit of a niche SF publisher, and Tor is a good bit larger. It remains to be seen exactly how well going DRM-free will do for Tor, though I expect a lot of people to be watching closely, including Hachette.

The really funny thing in all of this is that the “good guy” here is Tor, an imprint of Macmillan who not only is fighting the government’s decree against agency pricing, it was the first to implement it in the first place. And the “bad guy” is Hachette, who is meekly settling and presumably allowing Amazon to lower its prices. Just goes to show that publishers are really complex entities, I guess.

 

DRM

Dear reader,

As you may know, DRM stands for “Digital Rights Management.” It’s a copy protection scheme designed to prevent piracy. While few would disagree that authors deserve compensation for their hard work, the problem with DRM is that it treats law-abiding customers like criminals. DRM controls how, where and when a reader reads books. Oh, and then there’s the small matter that DRM doesn’t work.

Five Reasons to Say No to DRM:

  1. Readers (who know about DRM) don’t like DRM
  2. DRM adds expense to books
  3. DRM makes books complex
  4. DRM limits accessibility to books, especially for those with vision disabilities who require Text-to-Speach (TTS)
  5. DRM does not prevent piracy

For more information, visit http://readersbillofrights.info/ or http://www.defectivebydesign.org/

How DRM weakens publishers’ negotiating leverage with retailers

This post originally appeared on BoingBoing – By  at 7:23 am Monday, Apr 2

My latest Publishers Weekly column is “A Whip to Beat Us With,” which describes how publishers who allow retailers to add DRM to their products hand those retailers a commercial advantage to exercise over the publishers themselves.

Jim C. Hines’s e-books are marketed both through a big publisher and solo. The books that were re-priced by Amazon were his solo titles—unagented, and unrepresented by a major publisher. As an individual, Jim has no leverage over Amazon. Not so Macmillan, which controls a much larger number of SKUs and has much more leverage. Macmillan made headlines during its tense standoff with Amazon in 2011 over e-book pricing, but the publisher was able to sway Amazon because it could make a credible threat that it might get up from the negotiating table and take all its books, too—and others might follow.

But Macmillan’s edge—its scale—is also its undoing. Every day, Macmillan sells more e-books that have been locked into Amazon’s format. The millions of dollars that Amazon customers spend on Macmillan’s DRM-locked e-books represent millions of dollars of e-books Macmillan customers lose if they wanted to follow Macmillan away from Amazon. Publishers believe DRM protects their books. But DRM has created a world where publishers who walk away from negotiations with a DRM vendor like Amazon leave their customers behind.

Not just Macmillan. Any publisher that sees a substantial portion of its income from DRM vendors becomes little more than a commodity supplier to those vendors. If Hachette or HarperCollins decided to bite the bullet and pull their titles from Amazon during a dispute, how many of their authors would stay with them, knowing that the world’s largest bookseller and most popular e-book platform no longer carried their titles?

To appreciate this vulnerability, just look at what happened in February with the Independent Publishers Group, a distributor that asked Amazon to hold the line on its discount. They weren’t able to reach an agreement, and Amazon removed all IPG’s e-books from the Kindle store. The day that happened, IPG sent out a communique describing the situation and asking its readers to avoid the Kindle store in future.

DRM-free ebooks

Perhaps, dear reader, you sometimes wonder where you can find DRM-free ebooks.

Baen Books (link to Google+) sells only DRM free ebooks. This might be very interesting for some of you, so I decided to share this knowledge wit you. I, for one, am looking forward to a DRM free world!

Baen Ebooks

Baen’s eBook marketplace. eBooks with no DRM, in every major format–for the Kindle, iPad, Nook, and more.

(Found via Ebook Friendly)

Publishers: victims of their own DRM

Dear reader,

I have never considered DRM (Digital Rights Management) a good thing on ebooks. It is annoying when something goes slightly wrong, it adds to the cost of creating an ebook, and “out there” on the big internet are many tools available to remove the DRM-code that ebook publishers have so painstakingly added to their ebooks.

Today I learnt that science fiction author Mr. Charlie Stross wrote about how the Big Six book publishing companies have managed to put their backs against the wall in the rapidly growing ebook industry. Between user-unfriendly DRM and the the long arms of Amazon, they’re slowly pushing themselves out of business.

From the article: “Until 2008, ebooks were a tiny market segment, under 1% and easily overlooked; but in 2009 ebook sales began to rise exponentially, and ebooks now account for over 20% of all fiction sales. In some areas ebooks are up to 40% of the market and rising rapidly. (I am not making that last figure up: I’m speaking from my own sales figures.) And Amazon have got 80% of the ebook retail market. … the Big Six’s pig-headed insistence on DRM on ebooks is handing Amazon a stick with which to beat them harder. DRM on ebooks gives Amazon a great tool for locking ebook customers into the Kindle platform.”

Find the entire post on Mr. Stross’ weblog.