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Hachette UK drew a few double-takes and even more responses this week as the publisher stated that its current model of selling ebooks with DRM (Digital Rights Management) and fair prices was “working very well.” Specifically, the statement drew a “chastising response” from author Cory Doctorow on Publishers Weekly’s Columns and Blogs post.
To be fair, the statement from Hachette UK was made in a letter sent to an author whose published books (some through Hachette’s imprints and some with Tor Books) were recently acquired. The statement warned that Tor’s no-DRM policy “will make it difficult for the rights granted to us to be properly protected.” Hachette also suggested that the author insist that Tor use DRM on the titles in question.
Doctorow, a firm advocate of DRM-free eBooks, read the letter released by Little, Brown U.K. CEO Ursula Mackenzie and had no problem responding. “Let’s just say that Hachette has balls the size of Mars if it thinks it can dictate what other publishers do with titles in territories where it has no rights.”
In addition to Doctorow’s striking metaphor, his response also attacked the logic of DRM as effective protection for the publisher and author. His key points are that DRM or no, pirated ebooks are still easily found and DRM does nothing to stop pirates from scanning or retyping books. He also mentioned that Cracks are widely available on the internet to remove DRM. His final key point was that honest people BUY ebooks, but may experience problems accessing the purchased book on multiple devices.
And here’s the big kicker: “DRM is not a selling point. There’s no one who’s ever bought a book because it had DRM. People buy DRM e-books because they have no choice, or because they don’t care about it, or because they don’t know it’s there. But DRM never leads to a sale.”
This all leads right back to Doctorow’s outrage at Hachette’s play to push authors into accepting DRM, and he closed with a very relevant caution about platform switching and potential issues with DRM. “The phone is fast becoming an e-reader of choice, and readers usually cycle out phones with their cellular contracts every 12–18 months. This is going to be a hell of a ride.”
Out of Print, the company that brought us t-shirts and tote bags to soothe our literary souls, is bringing iconic book cover art to our e-readers. To fund the new project, Out of Print turned to Kickstarter which garnered an enthusiastic response from backers and bibliophiles.
As Todd Lawton from Out of Print beams, “We couldn’t have dreamed a better reaction by the Kickstarter community.”
To say the least, the Kickstarter and ebook communities responded with pledges far surpassing the initial goal of $15,000. With more than a week remaining, hundreds of backers have already contributed three times the project goal, and there’s still time to join the Kickstarter project for Out of Print’s ebook covers.
Covers are already planned for initial production to fit the iPad, Kindle Fire, and Nexus 7. Lawton adds “We are currently in the process of planning our initial productions run and getting everything in place based on the Kickstarter campaign. Once the campaign ends on 8/18, we will contact everyone who preordered a cover to find out which style each customer wants. After the style requests have been made we expect the first delivery to take place around the middle of September for iPad and Kindle Fire. The Nexus 7 will be available a little later (October).”
At launch, the following cover designs will be available.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Wonderful Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Per Out of Print’s Kickstarter project, “Each hardcover case features original book cover art licensed by Out of Print, printed on book fabric that will naturally wear and look better the more you use it. Inside our case, your eBook device is well-protected with a form-fitting cradle (designed by an MIT mechanical engineer) with design elements that allow for easy access to all important buttons and ports.”
Photos and specifications are also available on the Kickstarter project page, so shoppers can start planning ahead for that special gift for ebook lovers.
Recently Microsoft had invested $300 million with a Barnes & Noble subsidiary (for a 17.6% equity stake) to bundle the Nook digital bookstore with Windows 8. It seems that Apple’s Safari browser will no longer be offered for PCs, or at least not the new versions. That certainly sounds like a little bit of corporate push and shove, but how will these changes affect e-readers?
For most, the changes may have no visible effect at all. Most people either use specific e-reader devices like the Kindle or Nook or free software provided by online book sellers to open and read ebooks. For these relatively independent devices and apps, the lack of the latest version of Safari won’t matter.
Web-based and mobile-optimized e-reading platforms essentially draw on features in web browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, and Safari to allow readers to access their ebooks through the cloud (online rather than downloaded). Instead of using features and functions built-in to specific e-reader devices or apps, these use the capabilities already present in web browsers.
Here’s the problem. Web browsers are updated and changed. That means features and functions can change, too. Usually, if modifications are needed at all, web-based e-reading platforms can adapt pretty quickly, but now future versions of Safari won’t be available at all for Windows/PC based systems.
That could cause a slightly longer hiccup. Will it be a major hiccup? I doubt it. Most of the cloud-based e-reading platforms, including Kindle Cloud Reader, Kobo Cloud Reader, and Safari Books Online, support other browsers, too. Any necessary modifications should occur quickly.
The vast majority of PC/Windows users don’t use the Safari browser anyway, but if you are in that small group of PC/Windows users who use the Safari browser to access your ebooks through the cloud, you should probably go ahead and try Firefox or Chrome now, before the Safari updates stop accessing Windows.
Giving the gift of words is back in style as online booksellers offer the ability to gift an ebook. Actually, it’s a better idea than ever with greater accessibility and the eagerness of new readers to use their shiny new toys.
Sales for eReading devices like the Kindle and Nook continue to rise each year, so the initial ability to purchase ebooks as gifts (around Christmas of 2010) is growing in response. As people become more comfortable and accustomed to ebooks and ereaders, the gift possibilities move to the top of the ideas list.
To purchase an ebook as a gift, all you really need is the recipient’s email address and the date on which you’d like the ebook delivered. There is actually a new alternative option via Target. For the first time you can actually buy giftcards and redeem them online to purchase eBooks from some major retailers. Really, it has extremely limited availability except in the USA, so you want to primarily use online gifting.
One of the great aspects of online gifting is that you don’t need to own a Kindle, Nook, or give other people books. When you send a book to a friend they also don’t need a dedicated ereader because all the formats from major distributors can be opened and enjoyed with free reading apps on a computer, smartphone, or other supported device.
If you know the recipient owns or prefers a specific reading device, you can purchase the format provided by the vendor.
One important thing you need to know about iBooks in particular is that you cannot buy a specific book from iBooks as a gift. Instead, you have to purchase an iTunes gift card (which can be used for iBook Store purchases) are readily available for purchase online and on most gift card kiosks in major shopping centers.
To purchase a specific ebook as a gift, just search for the specific book on your preferred site. Just below the option to purchase on the ebook’s page, another option is available to “Send as Gift,” “Give as a Gift,” or “Buy As Gift.” Just click that button or link to process your gift purchase. Not all ebooks are eligible for gift purchases, however. If the gift option doesn’t appear on the ebook’s page, the option isn’t available for that specific ebook.
“What if they don’t like or want the ebook I gifted?” As always, a well-thought-out gift of a book is usually well-received, but if the recipient already owns the ebook or wants to exchange the gift, most of the major distributors do allow gifted ebooks to be exchanged for other books or gift cards when the gift is redeemed.
“I want to shop early, but I don’t want to give the book right away.” That’s okay, too. Look for the option to specify a delivery date. Optionally, you can print the gift email if you’d prefer to hand-deliver it in a card.
Sharing a favorite title with a friend, offering an inspirational gift for a special occasion, and encouraging tech savvy generations to discover old classics in a new medium are all enjoyed by gifting ebooks. The ability to gift a specific ebook certainly carries as much meaning as its message. But, if inspiration fails, all the major online booksellers offer gift cards, too.
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