Sooner or later I needed to write this. I guess it’s now.
I’m not terribly happy with the state of online ebook distribution/retail. I posted recently about Amazon and DRM in “Who owns your ebooks, again?” (Part 1 of 3 in my “Death of Amazon” series). And Barnes & Noble apparently will only allow you to access the books you’ve already paid for as long as your credit card remains good. And legacy publishers Penguin and Simon & Schuster are trying to scam indie authors. Actually I’m with Joe Konrath on this–I think legacy publishers are, in general, less than useful these days.
On top of all that, I recently had an amusingly terrible experience with Scribendi, who offer “editorial” services for fun and profit.
It’s very much a “caveat emptor” world out there at the moment, for both readers and writers.
That being said, I’d just as soon make my stuff available to as many readers as possible. Right now that means I’m up on Smashwords and Amazon. Sometime soon, the books should automagically hit Kobo, B&N, iBooks, and other places. I’ll try to document all the buying options on my book pages…try, I said.
I think Smashwords is pretty cool, by the way. If I owned a Nook or a Kindle or whatever, and I wanted the convenience of a seller who will keep my purchases (not licenses, damnit) available? I’d probably buy from them when I could. Even if I hated them, I might do it–just because they don’t sell an eReader. They’d have trouble deleting all my content from my device, or restricting my access to it. It’d be nice to expect people and corporations to behave honorably. If they likely won’t, though, giving some thought to a separation of concerns might be a good idea. Also, it’s nice to pay once for multiple formats.
Bottom line? I figure that if you bought one of my books, you can keep it. It’s not a temporary license, I don’t care what Amazon or B&N says about it (who owns the copyright again?), and if you want to loan it to a friend I’ll be pleased as all heck. Amazon sort-of lets you loan it to people, but one at a time and I think that’s only once per title.
So…nothing’s perfect. But this is the world we’re living in, so we have to deal with it. On which topic: I still think a backup service like SpiderOak is a great place to keep your DRM-free books (none of my titles have DRM, by the way).
I’m going to add the option to buy stuff directly from me, too, probably via PayPal (though don’t let me get started on them; it wouldn’t be pretty). But am I more or less likely than Amazon or B&N to be around to let you re-download your purchases? I dunno. I’ve outlasted lots of governments and corporations already, but that’s not exactly a guarantee.
One thing I do want to make clear: assuming I’m around to do anything about it, if you bought a book of mine, or downloaded a free copy? It’s yours. If some online retailer suddenly decides it isn’t? Let me know, and I’ll send a replacement.
It ain’t much, but it’s what I can do. Readers and writers? We’re allies. Writers want to write, readers want to read, and I’m not sure why so many scam artists are drawn to the intersection. Still: there are lots of good people in the book world. I’m trying to be one of them myself, and I imagine you are too.
Have fun out there.