Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Caring is Sharing, right?

Ok so you know it's NOT a  good morning when you wake up with a headache, have to drive one kidlet to school while it's still DARK, stop at Tim Hortons for a bagel and coffee away from the drive thru without your food.


At least I was still in the parking lot when I clued in, parked, went in, and had a laugh with the girl behind the counter.  But still.  Sigh.

So today's topic - sharing e-books.  A conversation erupted on amazon's forums after a twitter incident last week and let me say that once people got over the whole urge to lynch the people involved the conversation was kind of interesting.  It brought up all sorts of points about what constitutes sharing and what constitutes piracy, and I learned a lot.

I learned that you can have six devices registered to your kindle account, and that there's a loophole that makes it so all those devices don't have to belong to you.  They just have to be registered to your account.  So the woman that bought a book and put it on her friend's devices was within the TOS. this right or wrong?

It's a slippery slope, because we got talking about sharing books.  Most people I know read books, share them with friends, borrow them from friends, pop into a used bookstore, donate books to different places.  Heck, I do it myself. Is this wrong? 

Most authors I know also agree that word of mouth - reader recommendation - is an author's best friend.  If someone goes into Barnes and Noble, picks up my book, reads it, loves it, and gives it to their sister to read, I'm going to say hell yeah.  Maybe the sister will become a fan, or maybe she'll tell two friends...the simplest form of viral marketing there is.

But most people all agree that e-books are a different issue.  For one thing, when you give someone the book, you are actually making another COPY of that book, and that goes against copyright.  So...I get paid for the first copy, but I don't get paid for the copy you just sent your friend. You also have no say about what that person does with it.  Maybe you recommended and sent a copy trusting they'd be honest with it, but then maybe they send a copy to someone...and so on.  At this moment we have three copies of the book on the go and the author has made royalties on one.  Maybe one of those people decides they should pop it up on a torrent or file sharing site.  And there we go.  You can't control what happens to it after you've sent that file to someone else. 

The difference between sharing a paper book and an e-book is that with a paper book there is only ONE COPY floating around. 

And yet - of course we want those readers to recommend our books to other readers.  The stupid thing is...the vast majority of e-book readers out there are simply dedicated readers.  It's a minority that are causing all the uproar.  But then - isn't that true with most things?  :-)

Barnes and Noble have launched their "Nook" device and with it a lending feature.  This allows you to lend a book to someone, but during that time, you cannot access the file.  I'm not 100% sure of the time frame but I believe it allows you to lend it for 14 days.  After that - back to the original owner.  This feature is also coming under scrutiny.

Libraries are now lending e-books (hooray, I say!).  In the same way, you borrow the e-book.  On the due date, you cannot access that file anymore.  I love it.  I truly do.  Why?  Because it is fabulous for those people who can't get out to the library.  And because libraries that might not have copies of my books because they are unavailable can still add me to their circulation.  Case in point - the Halifax Public Library bought up my backlist on e-book when one of my readers requested it. 

The problem is we need to make things as user friendly as possible.  Being an author, I buy my online music and I purchase dvds rather than download from sites.  But what happens when I try to obtain a song or a show and I keep hitting brick walls?  Look, I understand the temptation.  We need to make our books accessible to readers so they don't have to look elsewhere.

At the same time, we need to protect copyright. Right of First Sale means that once that book is sold, the consumer can do what he wants with that book in regards to ownership.  The catch is, the consumer cannot make a copy.  When you share an e-book, you're making another copy. 

Complicated issue, isn't it?  And there are SO many opinions on the matter of DRM (digital rights management) and what it should be, is, and isn't.  At the end of the day, here's what I know for sure.  The e-book market is changing - and faster than I expected.  With change comes adjustment, and like any other development, a lot of the time it is a matter of playing catch-up.  It's exciting and perhaps a little scary to see it all unfold.  And while I'm keeping my eyes and ears open, the number one thing I'm going to do is keep writing books.


  1. I love the ebook library idea! That hasn't reached my little corner of the world yet but I love it!

  2. Well said. In my opinion DRM is not popular jet but maybe it will be in the future?

    To be more popular it should offer MORE than only to prohibit access or identifies the end user.
    What does MORE mean?
    Let's see at YouTube: