On pirates

Support authors, don't pirate

More and more pirating-websites pop up that offer free downloads of thousands of e-books. That is of course good news for readers, but for writers this is far less good. Books that were written with a lot of effort and in a lot of time are also offered for free there. Please respect the hard work and dedication of an author and stay away from those sites. If you can’t afford a book, get in touch with the author and explain, often they are willing to send you a free copy.

(with thanks to Lynn Plunkett Ricci for creating this image and allowing me to use it.)

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“.

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 Smashwords smashed PayPal’s erotica publishing restrictions

Fast Company has an interview with Mark Coker of Smashwords in which he discusses the recent moves by PayPal to force removal from sale of certain categories of erotica, and how public pressure from writers, readers, the press, and others was able to make the company (and the credit card companies behind it) back down. He also expresses his opinions on the agency pricing anti-trust lawsuits.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me is the remarkable bit of luck Coker had when he was first trying to contact PayPal to find out how to fight the requirements:

By luck, I called in to the general customer support line, and person who picked up happened to be an author, a member of the Romance Writers of America. She knew who Smashwords was, and knew it was a legitimate platform for indie authors, and that kind soul volunteered to walk us through the process and connect us with people who could actually listen to us.

I don’t know how many members of the Romance Writers of America work for PayPal (hopefully there won’t be one fewer since the Fast Company article came out!) but even (or especially) writers have to eat, so it might not be too surprising to find one with a customer service phone center day job. (Which kind of describes yours truly, as well, for that matter.) But what an amazingly fortunate coincidence! If Coker had ended up with just another bored “Sorry, can’t help you, the policy is the policy” rep,, the whole affair could have turned out very differently.

After Coker was able to rally writers, readers, and the press to put pressure on the credit card companies PayPal said were behind the restrictions, the companies backed down. Coker writes:

I think with this incident, a lot of authors realized Smashwords was standing behind them. I think if anyone tries to push the indie author community down again, we’ll be there to help stand behind these authors. In the end I think it was a great victory for free speech, and shows the rising power of self-publishing authors in the publishing community.

As for the lawsuit, Coker doesn’t think that the publishers actually colluded, though the way things turned out made it look that way. And he is also saddened that three of the publishers decided to “roll over” and settle, because the settlement terms will set their business back and possibly even hinder their ability to talk to other publishers at all.

These things they agreed to will slow down business and increase expenses at the very time these publishers need to become more nimble. If all the large publishers go away tomorrow, that probably benefits my business, but that’s not what I want to happen. I want there to be a healthy ecosystem of large publishers, because they have a lot of value to provide to readers, authors, and the entire culture of books.

But Coker is overall optimistic about the future of publishing, discussing the fall of traditional gatekeepers and the shift in power to the authors. Now, he writes, “it’s possible for any writer, anywhere in the world, instantly [to] publish a book at no cost.” And that is something to be happy about.

(Found via Teleread via Moriah Jovan through Mike Cane.)

New cover image for “Lily Marin”

Dear reader,

As there has been some confusion about the legality of using the image of a steampunk lady for the cover of Lily Marin, I have officially acquired an image that replaces the original. This to make sure nobody gets upset or otherwise will stumble with their knickers in a knot. So hereby I present the new cover image:

This was particularly important because there will be a second book about Lily Marin. There is no need for any lack of clarity.

PayPal revised policies.

Dear reader,

It looks like the brouhaha that PayPal made, concerning certain types of fiction being sold, is resolved. Following is a post from the Smashwords blog, which addresses this:

SwlogoIn a victory for free speech, PayPal today announced plans to revise their content policies to allow Smashwords writers full freedom to publish and sell legal ebooks.

I met with PayPal at their offices yesterday in San Jose. They outlined their proposed policy changes for me. I was impressed.

This is a victory for all writers and readers. It removes credit card companies, banks and payment processors from the business of censoring legal fiction. It creates a new precedent that should allow other payment processors who have previously discriminated against legal fiction to relax their policies.

Continue Reading…

Interesting news about Paypal and the writing industry

Dear reader,

After a previous post about Smashwords removing certain kinds of erotica (link to post), another writer pointed me today to an online article that shows more background about the reason for Mark Coker, Smashword’s founder, to take this step. It seems that PayPal, for some reason, is taking it upon themselves to become a police for morality:

Adult content has long been a big draw, and one of the most profitable, in the world of digital media, but a recent move by PayPal is a sign of how one part of that business may be facing some problems up ahead.

Smashwords, an e-book distributor that competes with Amazon, has sent out a letter to the authors, publishers and literary agents that it works with to tell them that PayPal is requiring Smashwords to remove all erotica content on its platform that contains references to bestiality, rape and incest – otherwise it will stop doing business with Smashwords altogether. The changes are due to take effect on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Regardless of whether you are a reader of such material or not, the move by PayPal raises questions of whether a middle-man payments company should be calling these kinds of shots over content, which some might even go so far as to call censorship – and also of the power of those payments companies when they decide to do so.

If you want to see the entire article, please go here.

How SOPA and PIPA affect Authors and their Readers

Shared from Indie Books List

I suppose you’ve seen all the posts on SOPA/PIPA today. You’ve noticed that Google has a blacked out logo, and that Wikipedia went dark in protest.  We considered going dark today, but we had authors that we had already informed of posting.

Instead, we are choosing to educate authors and readers on what this means for you. After all, most of this hullabaloo was started by the film industry and RIAA (the music industry’s lobbying arm)…two industries that have a defunct business model to begin with.

The question has yet to be answered: What does this mean for authors and their readers, specifically those that are published digitally?

After all, these bills are framed under the guise of  ”combatting content piracy and saving American jobs”. And who is for piracy? I would argue that not one of you would agree with piracy, simply because it deprives content creators  of their rightful income. Some of you even have experience with filing DMCA takedown requests to get your content removed from torrent sites.

What does this actually mean when it comes to selling books, or readers having access to those books?

Well, let’s start with what this law means for Indie Books List, and sites similar to ours. Right now, this doesn’t affect us that much. We currently have consent from the author to post a portion of their work. It’s a process that is overseen by a human being. We don’t link out to torrented copies of the author’s work. All of our links go directly to a site where you can purchase the author’s work.

Where does it really hit readers ? Well, suppose tomorrow I wanted to start a site where readers could post links to the authors they loved, and discuss those links in the comments. Let’s say I decide to start a site like GoodReads. Automatically, I become liable for the places the people on that site link to, even if I didn’t place the link there. Why? Because you can search through past posts to find certain keywords. That makes me a “Search Engine” under the language of SOPA/PIPA.

Guess what? I have to have thousands of moderators that now make sure that every link doesn’t go to stolen work. This slows down the flow of information. Free-flowing conversation can’t take place, because every place there is a link, someone has to ensure that it doesn’t link to stolen content. This is a massive administrative burden that would be placed on site owners. Rather than comply with the extra regulations, most sites would rather shut down.

When the free flow of information is cut off, readers can no longer share their favorite books easily and quickly. The pirates have no shortage of workarounds that they are willing to deploy. Your average reader doesn’t care to learn how to use these tools, as they are going to pay for the books they read.

This is bad for forums as well. Sites like Kindleboards have limited moderation. There are, I believe, five main moderators on that site. They do a fantastic job given the limited personnel they operate with. SOPA/PIPA would make them

…criminally liable for “committing or facilitating the commission [my emphasis] of criminal violations punishable under section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90, of title 18, United States Code.” h/t to the Reddit Blog for this info.

Why? Because they become liable for every link posted on their site.

Now think about how this affects Google, Bing, and Yahoo…whose main concern is linking content on the internet and determining relevance. Instead of coding brand new features, these guys have to spend massive amounts of money on compliance, instead of R&D.

Think about how much this will hinder the discovery of new authors and books. Most book-based sites these days are formed with the sole intent of allowing readers to connect with an authors work. Usually it is accomplished by posting excerpts, ratings, reviews, or simply providing author info. For the sake of sanity, at least some part of this process is automated. Heck, WordPress is designed so that I don’t have to open a notepad and write a brand new HTML document every time I want to post an article. The reason is so that we can spend more time creating and innovating.

Now, for those of you who think SOPA or PIPA are smart ideas, I ask you to do one thing:

Go learn to program. Figure out how to semantically search and determine human intent, without actually having a human present to review everything. Make sure it vets all content, and ensures that it was legally obtained with 100% certainty. Then, make sure it’s small enough that most servers currently in production can run it, and still serve content. Finally, make it free for all sites everywhere.

After that, collect your Nobel…because the greatest minds in computer science and artificial intelligence have been working on this problem for years now, and have made very little progress when it comes to these goals. Unfortunately,  CSI and shows of their ilk have done a great disservice to the public’s understanding of technological advancement. It’s not a crime procedural, it’s SciFi. Guess what? So is the idea that even Google could overcome this problem in an automated fashion.

 In summary, SOPA/PIPA:

  • Handicaps the discovery of new authors and books
  • Brings information and the common sharing of knowledge to a screeching halt
  • Stifles innovation
  • Imposes an undue burden on people with existing and new technology services
  • Asks technology to provide a solution that isn’t technically feasible at this moment in time.
While piracy is a problem, that’s no reason to enact a badly worded law as the solution, especially when the pirates say it won’t affect them in the least.
I urge you to become more informed: Write or call your representative, share this page with a friend….do something. Unless you’d rather read, sell, or discover fewer good books in the future.