General comments on ebooks as well as reviews of ebooks.
tagged Ebooks

Books: It's not the content that counts, it's the image?

I've come across some interesting articles on the topic of what an ebook is worth, mostly in context with pricing, but came across one that is particularly baffling today - because of the implications about the worth of books in general.

According to this article, Joan Brady, an award-winning writer (info on Wikipedia) argues that paper books will stick around because they are statud symbols, like Rolex watches and four wheel drives. (Apparently in her world, people who have to drive along dirt tracks don't exist.) Books people would not like to admit to reading will be sold as ebooks, but books people want other people to think they have read will be bought in paper, so they can be put on a shelf to show off to visitors.

Now, some of that makes sense, as does pointing out that being unable to pass on ebooks legally is a disadvantage, but it seems far too polarised to me.

She said that once an e-book has been bought, it is “more worthless than used toilet paper, which can at least end up as compost”.

This line makes me wonder if Joan Brady has been quoted badly out of context. Buying an ebook means having access to the text, to read it whenever you want. Declaring that worthless sounds to me like declaring the actual content of the book worthless. What kind of author would have the attitude that what matters is the block of pages with a recognisable cover, and the "status" that owning it conferred, but not the writing?

I don't think print will perish any time soon. Some people just prefer paper, print books are handy for many kinds of reference works, coffee table books or well-crafted hardcovers are things of beauty. However, I buy those because I need or enjoy them, not to sway other people's opinion of me. (Mind, I do like sharing books I'm fond of, which may shade into showing off on occasion.)

What do you think? How important is the "status" or "shame" factor to you when it comes to letting people know?

Blog tags: Ebooks
tagged Ebooks

Guest Post on KDP and Kindle exclusivity by Becka Sutton

Becka Sutton is the writer of two online serials, and has recently self-published Land of Myth, the first volume of her YA serial Dragon Wars.

Why am I not putting Land of Myth into KDP Select?

The first and simplest reason is that I don't like platform exclusive things let alone vendor exclusive. I have both Kindle and ePub readers on my laptop and phone but given a choice I will always buy ePub and feel a bit exasperated when things are Kindle only. That being so it would be hypocritical of me to make my book Kindle exclusive.

Also while I do understand the lure of Select - in the US the vast majority of ereaders are Kindles and the possibility of reaching those readers with a free introduction to your work must be tempting - it's tempting for a reason. Amazon wants to be an ebook monopoly and I have a rampant distrust of monopolies. Once you've got one there's no one to control them. Amazon aren't so bad to authors at the moment but would they stay that way if they held all the cards. Healthy competition lies at the heart of capitalism – no one should hold all the cards.

Finally I don't like excluding people. I have friends with Nook, Kobo, Cybook and Sony readers and I know that there are many people I don't know who have non-Kindle readers. Choosing KDP Select would mean excluding them. Not only is this not good business because it's losing potential sales but it's also bad customer service. Sure if your work is DRM free they can use Calibre to convert it but you're making work for them and making the customer work for a product does not encourage sales. If Select doesn't pan out – as I suspect it won't in the long term – you'll have alienated all those potential customers and they may not buy your books even once they are once again available in non-kindle formats.

So there you have it - a brief summation of my reasons for not going with KDP Select.

You can find Becka's serials Dragon Wars and Haventon Chronicles at firebird-fiction.com. The first collected and edited volume of Dragon Wars, Land of Myth is available as ebook through various channels as well as as paperback.
Blog tags: Ebooks
tagged Ebooks

Paypal Clampdown - More about money than morals?

Paypal has drawn the ire of a lot of self-published erotica authors by requiring Smashwords to remove books with certain subjects from their platform. Those subjects include rape for titilation, incest, pseudo-incest (that's sex between someone and their step-parent), and bestiality.

There is a lot of ranting about censorship and danger to free speech. "Moral guardians run amok" seems to be not the only possible explanation, however.

Selena Kitt includes some findings in her blog post Slippery Slope: Erotica Censorship. (That's the website of an erotica author. It didn't look terribly racy to me, but I'm not 100% certain it'd pass as "safe for work".)

What I discovered was that most merchant-services (i.e. companies that allow you to use Visa and MasterCard on their site) which allow adult products charge a $5000 up-front fee to use their service. Then, they take exorbitant percentages from each transaction. Some 5%, some 14%, some as high as 25%.

Now it was starting to make more sense. The credit card companies charge higher fees for these “high-risk” accounts because there is a higher rate of what they call “chargebacks.” You know that protection on your credit card, where if you dispute the charge, you don’t have to pay for it? Well they’ve determined that happens more with porn and gambling and other “high-risk” sites than others, so they’re justified in charging more money to process payment for those sites.

So worst case, and friendliest interpretation for Paypal: If Paypal allowed porn, the credit card companies would classify all of Paypal as a high risk account, with higher fees that would have to be passed down to the customers.

The scenario that suggests to me is lots of people buying porn, their spouses seeing it on their credit card bill, the buyers going, "No, I never bought that!" and getting chargebacks, until credit card companies took notice. It brings us back to morals, but as a more spread-out factor than a random crackdown from a small group of moral guardians: Porn being a "guilty pleasure" a lot of people won't admit to.

Reality is always more complicated (why are incest, rape and bestiality singled out if the issue is "adult" content?), but the business angle should not be ignored.

[P.S.: If you care about my opinion on the topic of "is it OK to make certain books hard to impossible to sell?"... well, I dislike the topics listed, but considering it logically, murder is pretty disturbing, too, and some of my favourite books feature a hired killer as a viewpoint character, so it would be right hypocritical to support banning other fiction.]

Blog tags: Ebooks
tagged Ebooks

Why I did not read Wish List

Wish List by John Locke is a novel available as an ebook for less than $1. Last time Kobo ran a "$1 off" coupon code promotion, I snapped it up.

Then I tried to read it.

Somebody, for some reason I can't fathom, thought it would be a good idea to put SEVEN BLOODY PAGES OF ADULATION in the front of this book - review outtakes, including "five star" reviews. In a small font. Preceded by a relatively lengthy copyright note, and followed by a page with a dedication, and a page with acknowledgements. The book had no working table of contents to skip that cruft and just get to the story. That left me pretty irritated even before the prologue started.

Seriously, why would you do that?

I can kinda see how those comments might be considered potentially useful in paper books, because in a bookshop there is no display with reviews, but downloadable ebooks? Online, reviews are easy to find - usually on the page where you download the book in question. So they strike me as superfluous in ebooks.

And those reviews have a better chance of being balanced than whatever is included in the book. Since I've seen one author quoted on a book with "a fabulous book, I wouldn't want to miss a line" and on the later added sequel with "a fabulous series, I wouldn't want to miss a line", I assume those endorsements are fake, or at least dishonest. And even if they all were genuine, obviously only 100% positive bits of reviews get into the book itself. It's advertising.

If I had looked at a sample to decide if I wanted to buy, I'd have dismissed it before reaching the end of the adulation, because with going through that much hyping being "required" before I can read it, the book probably isn't any good speaking for itself. It reminds me a bit of the unskippable advertisments in some DVDs, only this is even more pointless, because if I already have the book, I don't need convincing to get it. And it bears repeating: SEVEN BLOODY PAGES! AAAARGH!

I've got to say, it makes HarperCollins ebooks I've seen so far look better by comparison. They include stuff often found at the front of print books - other books by this author, or the copyright page - at the back of the book, after the story.

In my opinion, there should not be more between the reader and the story than neccessary, because anything beyond that will bore, annoy and put off some prospective readers.

Eh, yeah, enough rant, back to Wish List.

The prologue involved a date between a man and a woman, from the viewpoint of the man. He wants sex, she doesn't, but he talks her into it (not that he has a hard time). While they're in bed getting started, his mobile phone rings, he pulls a knife from below his cushion and stabs the phone. Then he's disgruntled because his date is freaked out by his behaviour, rather than impressed.

From the style I guess it's supposed to be funny. I found it extremely creepy.

I decided to not read the rest of this book. It's rather unlikely I'll ever pick up any other book by John Locke.

Blog tags: Ebooks Reading
tagged Ebooks

Ebook goofs: Books indistinguishabel by title

I've started getting into ebooks, and there's a whole lot of anger all around about things like piracy, DRM, ebook quality, geographic restrictions, pricing, publishing dates...

Now, I don't want to post a long rant, but yesterday and today I made my first experiences with buying books with DRM, and would like to illustrate one particular problem.

A list of book titles in Sony Libary - four times the title "Sharing Knife", with different filesizes and dates

These are four different books. The series is named "The Sharing Knife", and that name is written in rather big letters on the covers, but in addition to that there's "Volume 1: Beguilement", "Volume 2: Legacy", and so on, respectively.

It makes HarperCollins look not exactly competent when they distribute books like that. (The first book had dozends of minor (presumably) OCR-caused mistakes - double quotes split into a pair of single quotes with a space in between -, which doesn't help.)  But what adds insult to injury is that the title would be easy to fix for the customer, if not for DRM making the books uneditable.

There are a few authors whose books I like enough to buy even if the files are DRM-infested, but when it comes to looking for new authors to try out, I'll concentrate on ones with publishing houses that don't use DRM. Or who self-publish.

For the sake of fairness, I have to say: At least HarperCollins is trying. Those ebooks seem pretty well structured, including a table of content with links, and not including boilerplate text about stripped covers.

Blog tags: Ebooks Technology
tagged Ebooks

Why I don't get geographic restrictions on ebook sales

The situation is this: I live in Germany. I prefer reading books by English-language authors untranslated. I'm running out of shelf space, and space for shelves, so I'd like to switch to reading ebooks.

The problem: Most shops won't let me buy English language ebooks. Amazon is a bit of an exception, but I don't want to support them. (Short version: I wouldn't be able to read most German ebooks, since Kindle doesn't support epub files; I could never switch to a reader from another company thanks to amazon's proprietary format being proprietary; and most of their books cost an extra $2.30 over here.)

The reason has something to do with publishing/distribution rights that the general public just doesn't know about.

One bit of information what it is good for can be found in a comment thread on paksworld.com - if all publishing rights would be sold worldwide, rather than for a local market, only authors who sold well worldwide would be published, not writers who appealed "only" to the US or UK market.

The fact-of-life that disrupts my attempts at understanding the whole local distribution thing from my perspective as a reader - particularly since one argument runs on the lines of "ebooks fall under the same contracts as print books" - is this: I can buy paper books from a lot of US publishers without problems.

Amazon.de sells books from US and UK publishers for their cover price converted to euros according to current exchange rate, without any additional shipping charges. Are they breaking a contract by doing this? If amazon is not allowed to sell The Mermaid's Madness to me as an ebook, why are they allowed to sell it to me as a paper book?
If a writer sells only in the US well enough for a publisher to pick them up, why should the "too small" audiences in the rest of the world be banned from buying their books?

I don't get it.

Blog tags: Ebooks Thoughts
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