Digital Publishing News

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Adobe has been running a fairly popular service for the last few years that has been marketed towards independent authors, businesses and design studios to create enhanced eBook apps for iOS. Adobe has just confirmed that starting in May 2015, these companies will either have to find other options  to publish apps, or pay thousands of dollars a month.

The Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition puts iPad app design within reach of anyone with InDesign skills, providing an intuitive way to create unlimited apps for the iPad without writing code. This service was free to Adobe Creative Cloud members. The essence of the program was to provide an avenue to develop enhanced eBooks, cookbooks, magazines and other content using the EPUB3 framework and packaging them as dedicated apps to be sold in the Apple Newsstand or the App Store.

This move to suspend the program was not received well by a number of small business that have started to use it for their app-development pipeline. Joseph T. Sinclair said “Adobe has a complete disregard for small-time digital publishing and authors and can no longer be trusted. It’s a shame, because Adobe has been one of the best software companies in the world all these years and was thought to be a booster of digital publishing. But I will advise everyone to find a new authoring system for book apps, which I believe are the future of digital publishing. And who will needs CC to make EPUBs? It won’t be long before you can make EPUB 3 ebooks with a wide variety of authoring software. “

Jason commented on the official Adobe Blog, lamenting “I just upgraded my entire design team for our non-profit org to Adobe CC, with a primary purpose being the use of DPS. We just published our first app to the app store and was planning to start scaling that up to one of our larger publications and now you’re pulling the functionality. EPUB is not a viable alternative. I purchased to publish to the app store, not to iBooks where the publication is hidden away in an app that very few users even use.”

Adobe has confirmed that if companies still want to create apps using their Digital Publishing Suite that they have to signup for an Enterprise Account. This is a costly endeavor as each license costs $2,875 a month. I doubt many can afford that, as the previous cost to publish apps to Apple was $49.99 per month or $19.99 to publish a single app.


The Philippines has become rather serious at combating book piracy in schools and on the consumer level. They are doing this to attract major publishers from Europe and the United States.

US based publishers have been unable to market their textbooks and print books to the Philippines because of sanctions imposed by the United States Trade Representatives 301 Report. This report basically establishes trade barriers due to flagrant abuses of intellectual property laws, such as copyright, patents and trademarks.

For the first time in twenty years due to anti-piracy measures being employed by the Intellectual Property Office and the National Book Development Board the Philippines has been removed from the 301 list.

The Philippines’ removal in the watch list does not mean it has eradicated book piracy. IP Philippines and its partners in government and in the private sector must continue to set-up effective mechanisms to protect IPRs including combating book piracy.

There are some big challenges in removing piracy altogether because there is a general acceptance. Organized crime are photocopying and scanning whole textbooks and selling them directly to schools, colleges and universities. These intuitions are aware that not all the textbooks they buy are genuine, but it is hard to tell the difference.

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When Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post last year for $250 million, many people were wondering what role it would play on the Amazon ecosystem. There is a new Post app exclusively available on the Kindle Fire line of tablets. Users will get access to two editions per day which the editorial team for The Washington Post will release at 5 am ET and 5 pm ET.

The new app, with pre-loaded stories, pictures and even advertisements, was designed in close collaboration with Mr. Bezos, said Shailesh Prakash, The Post’s chief technology officer. “We talked to him constantly,” Mr. Prakash said, describing feedback Mr. Bezos gave to developers. “He’s our most active beta tester.”

The Washington Post app has been developed to replicate the experience of reading the paper as if it was in print, the “pinch view” feature in this app attempts to replicate that experience.

The app will be free for Kindle Fire owners for six months, and will then cost a dollar for the next six months. A version of the app will be available for Android and iOS operating systems next year, at $3.99 a month.

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custom_picker@2x-730x547Liberio is a eBook publishing startup and has been quite vocal about embracing the cloud. The company launched with being able to tap into your documents on Google Drive to create your own eBooks.Authors have more options with the ability to integrate material from Dropbox, Github, OneDrive, SoundCloud and Vine into the platform.

Using Liberio’s custom file picker, you can import documents, cover images, and media files from these additional sources free of charge. If you created an eBook in the past with the system, you can edit it to add new media content or just create a new one from scratch. No other self-publishing system currently enjoys the flexibility to be able to create enhanced books with tons of media content from around the web.

The eBooks created with Liberio are 100% compliant with the types of formats major eBook stores require, such as Amazon, Google Play Books or the iBooks Store.

I think this is a bold move on the part of Liberio to embrace popular media channels such as Soundcloud and Vine. Frequently these platforms are employed by rising young internet stars and suddenly its quite viable to harvest your own material for publishing their own eBooks.

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If you have been regularly attending the largest professional publishing event in North America, Book Expo America, you are likely used to the last day of the event opening up to the general public. It is normally at this time that most of the executives and senior staff flee, leaving the interns and hired help to man the booths, giving away free swag. Starting in 2015, the public will no longer be invited to BEA.

Back in 2013, Book Expo America started a program that opened its door for one day to the general public. In 2014, it renamed and restructured Consumer Day as BookCon, making it a publishing-meets-pop culture event aimed at reaching a broad swath of readers. Authors loved this aspect of the event, because it gave them a chance to meet with their most loyal fans and signed many autographs. But while that consumer-friendly day “exceeded our wildest expectations,” says BEA Event Director Steve Rosato, selling 10,000 tickets before organizers had to draw the line, it mixed with the professional days like oil and water.

Staring in 2015 BEA will be held Wednesday, May 27, through Friday, May 29, while BookCon will be held Saturday and Sunday, May 30 and 31. Many of the top publishers and authors will likely stay the few extra days in New York to meet with the fans and professional companies that exist to market their services to libraries can take the chance to tear down their booths and flee for their lives.

I like the fact that there will be some separation between the best publishing event for professionals and the general public. It remains to be seen if BookCon can launch as a separate event successfully or not. The BookCon site compares their festival with the likes of Celebration X, PAX East and Comic-con. I seriously doubt they will even come remotely close to the cultural impact those other events have.


Thousands of scientific research and reports are issued every year and citation is a very big deal. The more a specific report is validated through other peoples research and more profound impact it can have. These days, articles that are ten years or younger tend to show up in Google searches and are very easy to find. What about the reports written in the early 20th century?

The impact of older articles has grown substantially over 1990-2013. In 2013, 36% of citations were to articles that are at least 10 years old; this fraction has grown 28% since 1990.

Scholarly research organizations have been digitizing their old reports at an accelerated rate the last five years. Now that finding and reading relevant older articles is about as easy as finding and reading recently published articles, significant advances aren’t getting lost on the shelves and are influencing work worldwide for years after.

Never has it been so easy to look up a circuit diagram, learn about gene therapy or read the latest papers about black holes.

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Theresa Horner the VP, Digital Content at Barnes & Noble has left the company. Depending on who you talk to she was either fired or left on her own volition. She played a pivitol role in the formation of the Nook division since its launch in 2011. The last major project she spearheaded was the second generation self-publishing system, Nook Press. Doug Carlson, CMO and EVP of Digital Content and he is now running Nook Press.

Barnes and Noble has lost over one billion dollars with the entire Nook division, that includes eBooks, e-readers and tablets. Over last year they have replaced much of the old guard and replaced them with fresh new talent. Some of the most notable departures in the last year was Jim Hilt, head of global eBook sales, and before him digital products director Jamie Iannone and VP of digital products Bill Saperstein.

The hope with the new talent is to bring fresh prospective to the entire Nook experience and this is evident in the recent initiative Sync-Up. This is a new system that allows customers who buy a print book to be able to get a discount on the digital edition. Another byproduct of the new blood is the fact Nook outsourced the hardware for their new tablet line to Samsung, instead of developing everything in-house, like they did in the past.

Update: Apparently Barnes and Noble is cleaning house right now in the Nook division and many people are afraid of losing their jobs.

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A former advertising executive for Kindle is suing Amazon for wrongful dismissal. The saga begins in 2012 with the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet. Amazon was seeking launch partners in order to build traction with their Special Offers edition. Credit card company Discover signed on, as they normally participated with pilot projects at Amazon. Then things got interesting.

In a signed affidavit to the Washington Attorney office, former executive Kivin Varghese outlined the following “Shortly after the successful launch of the ad platform in September 2012, we ran into an issue with one of our large launch partners, Discover Card. In addition to paying $1.2 million to be part of the launch, we ran a promotion where they paid an extra $500,000 that was intended to encourage Kindle owners with a Discover card, to switch their default 1-click card to Discover (ahead of the holiday shopping season).

The promotion was structured in a way where anyone with a Kindle, who used their Discover card to buy a digital good (e.g. mp3 or movie), would get a $10 Amazon Gift Card. The reason the good had to be digital is because to buy a digital good you need to use your 1-click default card, and Discover’s primary objective for this promotion was to get users who had a Discover card, to make it their 1-click default so Discover could be the card of choice for holiday shopping over the course of the fourth quarter. That was the only way Discover could justify spending $10 when someone ordered a $1 .mp3 music file.

The finance team and the ad execution team (who reported to my manager via a Product Manager) put together a forecast for Discover that showed we expected the $500K to last for the full 60 days of the promotion, and it had a wide ranging buffer, so we would monitor it weekly. I was not allowed to see the data that went into the forecast – only the finance team putting together the forecast was allowed to see that data – I and others were just provided a range.

About 10 days into the promotion, the Ad Execution team found that over $300,000 of the $500,000 allocated for the promotion had been spent. I had our development team look into the data to find out how this could happen – Was it fraud? Was it a bug?

What we found was that there were tens of thousands of Kindle e-ink owners, the vast majority who hadn’t even seen the promotion details (as customers had to click on the ad to see the details), were qualifying for the $10 Gift card because every day, there are thousands of customers who own a Kindle and already have Discover set as their 1-click default card, that buy a digital good on Amazon in the ordinary course of their activity. As soon as we found this out, I sent out a 7-step solution that I recommended we implement to fix the issue, which involved being transparent with Discover about the issue and refunding a significant portion of the promotional funds that went to subsidized behavior. Munira disagreed with my approach, directing me to spin this as ‘good news, that the promotion is tracking ahead of plan’ and urged me to try to get more budget from Discover. Meanwhile the promotion continued to run and within a few more days we had gone over the $500,000 budget.

Our finance and ad execution team had missed the key fact when doing the forecast – the forecast should have shown that there was a 100% certainty that the promotion as structured, would go through the $500,000 budget within a couple of weeks given everyday activity. This was clear, the data was available during the forecast, and it was missed.

So in other words, Discover was essentially paying $10 to tens of thousands of users who had no idea the promotion was going on, and were just subsidizing existing behavior – Discover was paying $10 mostly to consumers that already had Discover set as their 1-click default and were unaware of any Kindle promotion. That was not Discover’s intention, nor was it Amazon’s when we ran the promotion. But it was our mistake to rectify.”

A number of internal emails were sent between project managers of the advertising platform, trying to get Discover to pay more money, without divulging that e-Ink owners were the ones taking advantage of the promotion. According to the emails, Amazon executives directly downplayed the amount spent directly to Discover. Also, according to the legal filing Amazon lied to Discover about specific metrics and page impressions on the custom landing page for the promotion. When Discover pulled out of the promotion, this is when it all hit the fan.

The Ad executive was brought in for his monthly PIP meeting, where they went over milestone goals. He was scolded for not asking Discover for more money, even though he knew all of the funds were spent and Amazon still had not fixed the bug for e-ink Kindles. He was asked to transfer to another department, and upon refusing went to HR and was promptly fired.

The legal brief ended with “To me, it seems like a culture of treating its employees like robots and numbers. And perhaps that is what spawns and encourages the kind of dark behavior I saw at Amazon. Employees aren’t just Bezeos-Bots and numbers. Customers aren’t just a source of free-cash flow at any price.”

You can read the entire legal briefing HERE. It is very long and a compelling read for Amazon intrigue.


Digital Watermarks or Social DRM is starting to catch on in Europe in a very big way. This new system of encryption makes loading eBooks on other devices or loaning them how to friends quick and intuitive. There are not special programs or tools needed to do any of this, which makes it quite attractive to publishers and online bookstores looking to sell books and still maintain a degree of security.

BooXtream is one of the largest companies who are involved in watermark technology and CEO Huub van de Pol sat down with Good e-Reader to talk how it all fundamentally works and provides an eye opening introspective into the world of digital watermarks and social DRM.

When did you guys seriously start to focus on digital watermarks as a viable business model?

Since 1993, Icontact develops bespoke software solutions for the book and library industry in The Netherlands and Belgium.

The very first start with digital watermarks was in 2006, when Icontact developed a custom digital distribution and fulfilment platform for audio books to be used by a Dutch audio book web shop and distributor.

The music industry was still using DRM at that time, and we all knew the problems with DRM. So to be customer friendly we decided that the shop needed to deliver MP3 audio files instead of one (or more) platform specific audio formats with DRM. As you know, MP3 cannot be copy protected and doesn’t support DRM. Instead, we developed a simple but effective way to personalize each MP3 file with info about the transaction, the name of the end user and the web shop that sold the audio book. This enabled us to locate the end user when an audio book is found on an illegal site or CD-ROM. The end users knew it worked like this and had no problem with it, so it worked like a reasonable deterrent.

We used all available tricks to add extra data in the mp3 file while keeping it compatible with the standard. Some data was visible (when you checked the file properties), but most were invisible to the end user. All personalisation took place dynamically after a valid order was registered. All mp3 files where then stored in a single ZIP container and a download link to this ZIP was presented to the end user. So essentially, every end user received a unique file with a personalized audio book. We registered the brand name BooXtream for this concept and technology.

After a couple of years, only very few of these audio books were found ‘in the wild’. 99.9% of all pirated content was ripped from CD’s. We presented this experience on a national eBook conference in 2010. After our keynote “Lessons learned with Social DRM”, several publishers not only liked the idea, they also asked us if we could do the same with eBooks instead of audio books.

At that time there were only a few ‘serious’ eBook shops in The Netherlands, but we saw the potential. We were excited by the possibilities and opportunities of the market. We decided to create an SDK to watermark ePub eBooks, which evolved into the web service as we are now offering. We built BooXtream for eBooks based on the idea (concept) of adding as much ‘invisible’ data as possible to the files in an ePub, tightly integrated with a digital distribution and fulfillment platform, an easy to integrate web service (RESTful) and an attractive and simple price model (no upfront costs, only pay by use).

BooXtream for eBooks 1.0 was released in fall 2010 and was offered as a web service based standard solution. (FYI: Icontact still develops custom software solutions. The BooXtream brand and product was bootstrapped, like an internally funded start-up.) Our launching customer was a small forward looking publisher in the Netherlands, but eBook watermarking really took off when UK based Pottermore decided to use it for the Harry Potter eBooks in 2012. This really created headlines all over the industry.

How does the essence of your technology work?

The essence is that we add ‘hidden’ data to all files in an ePub eBook file while keeping the eBook 100% valid, using several different proprietary algorithms. Our technology offers two basic features: adding invisible watermarks and adding visible extra’s like a personalized ex libris page, a personalized footer text at the end of every chapter or a personalized chapter at the end of the eBook. The invisible part is essentially a transactional watermark, creating unique files for every eBook and every end user..

Everything is configurable by our customers. BooXtream operates in real time, on transaction level, so our technology has to be integrated at the point of sale (where the actual distribution to the end user takes place).

There is no need to update any ‘client software’ when we update and improve our algorithms (as with Adobe DRM), which is possible because the eBooks are 100% valid and ePub compliant. In a technical sense, they are DRM free so they can be read by every e-reader and e-reading device out there.

One of the essential characteristics of eBooks with watermarks is that there is no need to remove watermarks to make a backup, read it on multiple devices or share it with someone you trust (casual sharing). This isn’t the case with DRM, which is one of the reasons a lot of people that have no intention to pirate or hack do use DRM removal tools.

Who would you say are your largest clients right now?

Our technology is used worldwide by 2 of the Big 5 publishers, some very large independent D2C publishers, several hundreds of medium sized publishers selling D2C, quite a few independent eBook web shops and also numerous web shops of smaller publishers, self publishing authors and systems integration.

Some publishers like to keep their name under the radar, but to name a few: Verso Books (US, UK), Cappelen Damm (largest publisher in Norway), Elly’s Choice (largest eBook subscription service in The Netherlands), Firsty Group (large solutions provider for the publishing industry in the UK), Profile Books (UK); web shops from Finland to Spain and from Peru to Colombia.

I saw you guys are a member of the IDPF, we sponsor many of their events, such as the main conference at Book Expo America.  How has being a  member affected your business?

We are big fan of Bill McCoy. He is doing a marvelous job with IDPF, creating and maintaining the ePub standards, Readium, EduPub and basically uniting the eBook publishing world. I think it was Bill who coined the term ‘Social DRM’ which we adopted for our original BooXtream tagline. Being a member gives us insight in the working groups and future developments, but it also helps us to be found by potential customers.

What are the main benefits as you see it, between watermarks and ADOBE DRM.

The only benefit of Adobe DRM is that it can be used for library lending purposes. You cannot use watermarking for this, as watermarking is not able to disable an eBook after a certain amount of time. The few libraries that are using watermarking do this as a ‘second line of defense in a closed ecosystems with apps.

There are quite a few benefits of watermarking:

With watermarked eBooks there is no need to use a specific (proprietary) e-reading client. Watermarked eBooks can be read on any device, with any software, as long as they are ePub compatible. This is a huge advantage, because it’s both user friendly and support desk friendly.

An eBook with watermarks can be read on different devices simultaneously. There is no need to remove DRM to do this. As an aside, there are plenty of DRM removal tools out there, but quite a few are Trojans or might contain a virus. The computer illiterate end user is far better off when he doesn’t need these tools, apart from the question if it’s legal or not to use them.

An eBook with watermarks can be backed-up using standard backup software. Again, there is no need to remove DRM to do this. This is very important because eBooks with DRM might get inaccessible when the web shop is getting out of business. This happened more than once.

Our watermarking tools also offers visible personalisation, which creates new business possibilities and makes the eBook really personal. It is being used to personalize review copies, it is used to personalize course guides and business reports (even those that are distributed for free). One of our customers allow their end users to customer the ex libris in their own eBooks, like the personal stamp from earlier times. Others insert personalized messages or dynamically add some banner links in the eBook.

 If people started to pirate books via BooXtream, what do you guys do about it, if anything?

Tracking and tracing illegal uploads is not our primary business. Sometimes pirated eBooks are discovered by our customers (publishers) when they search for their own titles. Part of our standard service is to help them decode the watermarks (if any, because the bulk of all pirated books are titles with DRM removed, not watermarked titles), so they can decide what to do. For larger-scale and automated discovery and enforcement we offer tools to anti-piracy third parties like MarkMonitor and Muso that are specialised in tracing copyright infringements, crawling the web, sending notice-and-take-down letters etc. Our tools enable them to look for the hidden watermarks within eBooks, decode them and take appropriate measures. They can use these tools as part of our and their arrangement with a publisher.


Sony is developing a new form of digital rights management to combat Adobes stranglehold on the eBook market. The new encryption system will have an SDK that can be integrated into any existing e-reader or mobile app. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this new security system is a viable platform in which eBooks can be resold.

Adobe Digital Editions is the current industry standard when it comes to eBooks having a layer of security to curb piracy. If you purchase a digital title from one store and want to load it onto your favorite e-reader or tablet you have to download and install the ADE Software, make an account and enter your credit card details. This software is also required for people who borrow eBooks from the library and aren’t using an official app from 3M, Baker & Taylor or Overdrive.

The new Sony encryption system has been a product of three years of development at Sony DADC. This is a Sony subsidiary that primarily focuses on the development of storage media (CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays), but in addition offers Digital Rights Management Services. 

Sony plans on making their new eBook encryption system very appealing towards publishers and e-reader manufactures. The developed a brand new SDK that will play nice with any 3rd party reading app on Android, iOS or Windows. It also can integrated directly into any e-reader on the market. The key selling points of the Sony DRM are; to make eBook rentals viable, to lend an eBook to a friend easier, to define a clear path of ownership, better pay per chapter (metered) support and the ability to resell a book.

The big problem in the eBook industry right now is the lack of clear ownership. When you click the BUY button on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, or Google you are simply licensing the book and it is never truly yours. Sony wants to change this and define a clear path of ownership, this will allow people to sell a used eBook and it will actually physically disappear from the original owners account.

Sony plans on shopping their new DRM system in the spring of 2015 and will likely be conducting private meetings at notable events like the London Book Fair, Book Expo America and IDPF gatherings. I have heard from a reputable source that Sony already has six publishers locked up and will be leveraging those relationship in order to establish new ones.

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Blurb is one of the largest self-publishing services in the world and was originally launched in 2006. The company has assisted eBook authors in launching over three million titles globally and they have launched a new program that will allow them to better compete with Amazon.

Dream Team is a new initiative that will connect aspiring or existing eBook authors with talent to help them take their title to the next level. The online marketplace is a creative hotbed of industry professionals with expertise in copy editing, developmental editing, book design, art direction, illustration, photography, cover design, ghostwriting, ebook conversion, and more.

Here is how it works. Blurb has tapped publishing industry veterans Richard Nash and Molly Barton to handpick and vet the Dream Team collaborators, populating the group with a range of experience that offers a commensurate range of price points. In order to hire anyone in the marketplace you have to be an existing Blurb member and agree to self-publish your title through them. You basically just browse profiles, checking out their rates and connect up with them to ask questions or to hire them. When it comes to payment, this is done outside of Blurb and its up to the talent to determine how they want to be paid, Blurb abstains from the entire payment process.

Blurb makes no money from this. They are simply connectors. The benefit for them is that statistically, when authors have help they more likely to complete their books. Therefore title completion and unit rates will increase.

A marketplace connecting writers with freelance talent was originally pioneered by Amazon with their seminal Creation Exchange platform. Sadly, this only is relevant for audiobooks, connecting writers with producers, mixers and narrators. Blurb might have stumbled upon a unified service to assist authors in all aspects of eBook creation, under a single platform.

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Education Tablets

Major Publishers and Bookstores are staring to forgo Adobe DRM and instead embrace Digital Watermarking technology. They are doing this because it is easier for the customer to be able to load the eBooks they purchase onto their e-Reader, smartphone or tablet. Right now Watermarking is big in Europe and being the de’facto standard in the publishing arena, but now North Americans are starting to realize the potential.

A watermark or social DRM is imperceptible to the average book reader because the underlying technology is invisible to the naked eye. The way it handles data can take two distinctive forms: personal information about the user who purchased the eBook (such as an email address) or an ID number that the distributor can use to look up the user or transaction in a database and is otherwise meaningless.

There are a few major players in the Watermarking arena that have gained the most traction from publishers and have been adopted by some fairly big companies. The Dutch firm Booxtream has been providing social DRM since 2011 to its roster of Dutch bookstores and has recently spread their wings globally.  One of their biggest clients is Pottermore. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter focused online community and ebookstore. They have been using the technology since the service first launched in 2012.

HarperColllins and ebook distributor LibreDigital decided to embrace a competitor; Guardian Watermarking for Publishing from Digimarc. It is a fairly new anti-piracy technology that not only embeds an invisible watermark into eBooks, but it also crawls the web 24×7 searching for watermarked content. When a watermark is detected, Digimarc provides the unique identifier to the publisher to match against its own transaction records. Digimarc Guardian Watermarks do not contain any personal or user information; the Digimarc Watermarks contain only anonymous digital IDs.

One of the ways publishers safeguard their watermarking technology is to turn towards companies that specialize in anti-piracy measures.  eBoekhuis is based in the Netherlands and has developed their own system of watermarking. Recently they signed an agreement with fellow countrymen BRIEN, to protect their assets from file sharing and Torrent websites. Any bookstore that sells eBooks with their proprietary system is mandated to share previously-private customer data directly with copyright holders and BREIN.  This basically gives BREIN a ton of power to be able to go directly after eBook pirates.  This sounds valid, I realize you have to protect your clients from unlawful activity, but things took a very dark twist. “We got a new contract that states that we must directly give information about the buyer if some anti-piracy agency (BREIN) finds an ebook file online,” said Kurt Roeckx, who operates the Dutch ebook store E-webshops. “We must keep the information about the buyer for minimum of 2 years and maximum of 5 years. And if we don’t sign the contract we won’t be allowed to sell e-books with watermark anymore.”

Some companies actually take watermarking technology too far and are making their readers feel like criminals. Verso Books recently introduced their bookstore in March 2014 and when customers buy a book their name and email address are blasted on the cover art. Not only that but the info is also on the title page, copyright page, TOC, bibliography, forward, and e very second page of the eBook. One user stated “Personally, I felt like I was constantly being sent a stalker’s note saying, “I know where you live.” It put me off reading the books entirely.”

Watermarking’s greatest shortcoming (from a publisher’s perspective; a boon for the reader) is that it does nothing to protect against small-time file-sharing among friends. Though book lending is a staple of the traditional reading experience, in the digital sphere, it terrifies publishers. Ursula Mackenzie, Little, Brown and Company chief executive and president of the Publishers Association recently stated: “We are fully aware that DRM does not inhibit determined pirates or even those who are sufficiently sophisticated to download DRM removal software. The central point is that we are in favor of DRM because it inhibits file-sharing between the mainstream readers who are so valuable to us and our authors.”

Watermarking or social DRM is very popular in Europe, with most publishers and digital bookstores choosing this technology. Mainstream companies such as DriveThru, Tor, Baen and bokus all sell their content in this fashion. In the Netherlands 65% of all publishers have adopted it and Digimark concluded Fifty-five magazine titles were read, contributing to a 300% increase in sales in 2013.

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Kindle Scout introductory image Amazon

Amazon has just taken the beta sticker off their new author and reading community, Kindle Scout. The essence of this program is to give authors a chance to pitch their upcoming books to the public and readers cast their vote on what ones get published.

Amazon is throwing their marketing and financial efforts behind authors to publish their next book exclusively through them. They are giving an advance of $1,500 and a 50% eBook royalty rate to authors who successfully woo the crowd to get behind their next title. The book will then get hyped with Amazon, and likely the books in the early stages of the Scout lifetime will get a ton of media attention.

“We’re always looking for new ways to add meaningful connections between readers and authors,” said Dina Hilal, General Manager of Kindle Scout. “We’ve been delighted by the submissions so far and are excited to give readers a say in which books they want to read. We also hope they’ll have a lot of fun getting to know authors and their work.”

I think Scout is a really great idea and will assist in a huge problem in the publishing world, the dirge of indie author titles. Every week, thousands of horrendous books are released that pollute the digital ecosystem and hinder the eBook discovery process. In all honesty, indie authors are destroying literature as we know it. Scout attempts to vet out the wheat from the chafe, and hopefully we will only hear about the best of the best and not indie generic title number 19281210912.

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