Authors asking for a boycott of Dorchester Press

Popular mid-list author Brian Keene has asked on his blog for a boycott of Dorchester Press (Leisure) for non-payment of royalties and publishing ebooks whose rights have reverted back to the authors. He is asking fans to:

*If you follow them on Twitter, please unfollow them.
*If you like them on Facebook, please unlike them.
*If you receive their marketing emails, please remove yourself from their list.
*If you belong to one of their book clubs, please consider canceling your membership.
*If you are considering publishing with them, please reconsider.
*Most importantly, please don’t buy their books, regardless of whether it’s on their website, in the $1.99 dump bin at Wal-Mart, or available on the Kindle.

When asked why he doesn’t hire a lawyer, he answers succinctly:

… someone asked me why we (the authors) didn’t just seek legal means. Well, I can’t speak for any of the other authors involved, but I’ll tell you why I haven’t — because I’m broke. I’m broke because Dorchester didn’t pay me what was owed, and then I gambled to get my rights back, and then they continued to fuck me. And yes, I’ve got a nice new deal with Deadite and Ghoul starts filming next month, but I won’t see checks from either of those until a few months from now, and until then, I can barely pay the rent and eat anything more than Ramen noodles, let alone hire an attorney.

Keene gives a list of authors supporting the boycott and links to a post by Robert Swartwood also asking for a boycott.

This situation is disturbing for several reasons. First, generally speaking, fans want to see authors to get paid.  That’s part of the reason that indie authors do well in the ebook market. As of today, Keene has 224 comments on his blog post and I read message after message of support.

Secondly, this highlights a concern about ebooks and digital property. There have been issues before about people publishing content they don’t have rights for. Amazon will certainly assume that a publisher (especially a well-known one) has the right to distribute an ebook for an author. 

Keene’s books happen to be on my TBR list; I don’t own them yet. And as a potential fan who wants to buy the books in an ebook format, it is extremely frustrating. I want to support the author but want to make sure that I don’t put money into the hands of a greedy publisher who would treat authors in this way.

Today Keene updated his blog with information from some other authors owed money by Dorchester.

This post composed while listening to the Ramones’ Greatest Hits.

Using the Literati

Note: This is a follow up to my previous post “Literati ereader on sale.” 

After trying my new Literati for a few weeks, I thought I would share my perceptions about the reader.

The Literati needs a software update when you start using it for the first time. While I have heard of problems connecting to WiFi, mine connected without any difficulties. The software actually requires two updates and the device needs a restart after the first. The reader does not automatically restart and I had to do it manually.

The Literati is less intuitive and is much more complicated than either my Kindle 1 or My Kindle  3. It took a little time to figure out the operations of the eReader. The input keys are a little too close together in my opinion, especially if I was going to be using the keys more than occasionally. The D-pad control is definitely too small and even after more experience with the device, it still is the cause of most of my operational errors.

The page forward and page back controls are not actually buttons, but are touch sensitive, which is a nice touch. Since the controls are not buttons, there is no noise associated with using them. This is a real plus if you are trying to read in bed without disturbing your partner.

I am used to reading on a Kindle, which has an e-ink screen. The Literati screen is a backlit one. Because I have vision problems, I found the backlit screen very difficult to read on, especially for a long session.

The exception was the Literati’s night reading mode, where the screen is black and the text is white. This mode is truly excellent for night-time reading. In some reviews,  people have complained about not being able to see the forward and back page controls when reading in the night mode. Some have suggested gluing reinforcements on the buttons to be able to feel the controls. I found that if I used my thumb, started at the bottom of the display screen, and moved with an upward motion until I saw the page turn symbol on the display, I could turn pages in the dark just fine. Using the d-pad control and the home buttons in the dark was another story. I have to use my Mighty Bright or my Kandle in order to see those.

The Literati is tied to the Kobo bookstore, which is not as intuitive to use as Amazon. I had a little difficulty in navigating the site and finding the books I wanted. After creating an account, I was able to start downloading the 125 free public domain books fairly easily. The new books appeared on the Literati after I synced the device.

It seems to be hit or miss whether my computers recognize the device via USB. My netbook running XP recognized it and the books I put on showed up in the Literati’s bookshelf  just fine. Vista was able to recognize the device, but books I loaded onto it were not recognized by the reader. After a second attempt, of the two books I loaded, one book was shown on my bookshelf on the Literati while the other was not.  The Calibre software program recognizes the device with no problem.

The Literati is also quite heavy for its size. Because of this, I found that it is easier to read without a cover on. The difference in weight between the Literati and the Kindle is significant.

I haven’t tried the SD card function yet.

I wanted the Literati because it is capable of borrowing library books. After using the Literati, I realized that I would really need another e-ink device if I wanted to borrow library books. Right after I came to that decision, Harper Collins announced that it would limit the number of times an eBook would be allowed to circulate in order to force libraries to buy new copies. Because of this, coupled with the fact the Macmillan and Simon & Schuster do not allow library lending at all, I have put plans for a new eReader on hold.

My final opinion is that this is okay for night reading and as a backup reader. However because the backlighting is really hard on the eyes and the device is very complicated to use, I would not want to be using this for my primary eReader.

This blog entry composed while listening to Drunken Lullabies by Flogging Molly.

Lendle Axed by Amazon

The Kindle lending service Lendle had its access to Amazon’s API shut off today.  Lendle has made a statement on the situation on their website, saying that:

The letter we received from Amazon states that the reason our API and Amazon Associates accounts have been revoked is that Lendle does not “serve the principal purpose of driving sales of products and services on the Amazon site.”

Lendle goes on to say:

We do know that we’re not the only eBook lending site who had their API access revoked today, so we can only speculate that it wasn’t anything about Lendle specifically that caused Amazon to act today, but rather something a bit bigger than us. We know publishers have been skittish about lending, and aren’t yet seeing how much value it brings them, so we might speculate Amazon was acting on pressure from them. [Emphasis added]

Personally, I don’t think that it is all that difficult to speculate what that pressure might be about. This is happening almost exactly a year since Macmillan boycott and the Agency Model went into effect. If, as I surmise, Amazon is once again in negotiations with publishers then lending and ebook rights are almost certainly on the agenda. That, coupled with the sudden rise of several services facilitating the loan of ebooks (with some even charging a fee for the service), does not bode well for readers’ rights in the future.

I also think that it is highly unlikely that it is a coincidence that this situation and the Harper Collins limit on libraries lending eBooks are happening at the same time. Harper Collins has been strangely silent on the library lending issue which may mean that it has some bearing on larger negotiations with retailers.

Watch this space; we are going to hear a lot more about these lending issues.

This blog entry composed while listening to American VI: Ain’t No Grave by Johnny Cash

New York Times Kindle Covers

One of the things that is great about the new popularity of eBook readers is the ever-increasing number of accessories that are available.  The plethora of choices really allows an eReader owner to personalize their reader and express their own individual personality.

Today, I saw these new covers for the Kindle and absolutely fell in love! Made by Verso, each of the three covers features an image of New York City from the The New York Times Photo Archive.  The pictures included in the series are View from River House, The Flatiron Building and The Statue of Liberty (pictured). The Amazon page for each cover includes information about the photo.

This blog post composed while listening to The Best of Sam Cooke.

New Kindle Notepad App

There’s a new Notepad App available for the Kindle that looks pretty interesting. The ability to take notes on the Kindle has been something that many users have been asking for. This one has many of the most requested features: Speed, searchability, ease of use and the ability to transfer files to a computer. The early reviews on the program are quite promising. And did I mention the fact that it’s only a dollar?

The developers have put some video explaining the use of the program on their blog.

A couple of caveats for new Kindle users: This is active Kindle content which does not work on the first generation Kindle (K1). It should work on the second generation Kindle (K2). As of March 17, the app is not yet available for purchase in Canada.

I just downloaded it myself and will do a review as soon as I have had a chance to work with it.

This blog entry composed while listening to Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach, J.S.: Motets

Where to Find Free eBooks

Surprisingly, there are a lot more sources for legal free books online than one might think.  You can find quite a variety, ranging from plain vanilla text versions to books that have been lovingly formatted by ebook aficionados. Most of these are DRM free.

Amazon and Smashwords both offer free books fairly consistently.  Most titles that are offered are free only for a short time, so it is best to download them when you find them. Sometimes a book may only be free for as little as a few hours; most titles are free for at least a day or more.

Baen Books Free Library:  http://www.baen.com/library/ and http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/ This is a great site for Sci-Fi fans. Offers both paid and free books.

Public Domain Books:

Project Gutenberg:  www.gutenberg.org  You can choose between ePub, Kindle, HTML and simple text formats.

The Internet Archives: http://archive.org  Offers over 2 million items in a variety of  books and texts of all kinds.

Manybooks: http://manybooks.net Offers many Project Gutenberg books as well as public domain and creative commons works from many other sources.

Mobilereads Forum: The Patricia Clark Memorial Library: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=137 Public Domain works formatted and archived by Mobilereads members.

Feedbooks: http://www.feedbooks.com/ Offers free Public Domain and original books as well as new releases from major publishers. Requires registration.

The Free Library: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/ Over 16 million items, ranging from literary classics to periodicals from many fields.

 

WikiBooks.org:  http://www.wikibooks.org/ Offers open content textbooks that anyone can edit.

For the Kindle specifically:

Mobipocket: http://www.mobipocket.com/freebooks/default.aspx Includes a variety of Public Domain non-fiction and academic works.

Free Kindle Books: http://freekindlebooks.org/ Many of the files offered here are Project Gutenberg files that have been reformatted to look better on the Kindle.

Search Engines:

InkMesh: http://www.inkmesh.com/ Ebook search engine to find and compare prices on books for Kindle, Sony, Kobo, Nook and more.

Just Free Books: http://justfreebooks.info/ Audio and ebook search engine.

What’s in your ebook bill of rights?

One of the big issues over this last week has been Harper Collins’ announcement that they were placing limits on how many times a library book may be circulated. The last-minute announcement broadsided librarians and readers alike. (There are roundups of the blog entries and media coverage available and  you can follow the discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #HCOD.) EDIT: Sorry, but that hashtag no longer has the same meaning and that information is no longer available.

Ironically, the new limits went into effect on March 7, 2011, right at the beginning of Read an Ebook Week.

Those discussions have yielded a lot of interesting ideas about accessibility, DRM (Digital Rights Management) and the future of ebooks. One of these ideas is the aggressive promotion of an eBook User’s Bill of Rights, most frequently the one offered by Sarah Houghton-Jan on her blog, Librarian in Black.

Sarah’s bill of rights focuses on:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

Well known tech blogger Mike Cane tackled this subject as well on his own blog last August in his article the Ebook Buyer’s Bill of Rights.   His bill of rights focuses mainly on issues involving appearance and functionality: covers, table of content, bookmarks. Formatting issues are also important in his version:

3) You have the right to proper formatting by default.
a) Formatting should mirror a proper printed book.
b) Paragraphs should have indents without spaces between paragraphs.
c) Only after such proper default formatting should a reader be able to mix things up via a device’s software settings (typesize, spacing, margins — in other words, reflow overrides).

A site called the Reader’s Bill of Rights promotes rights for readers of digital books. Created by librarian Alycia Sellie and technologist Matthew Goins, the site advocates critical looks at the downsides of ereader technology and has an anti-DRM stance. The powerful graphic for Libraians against DRM shown above comes from their site. (Note that this site was registered in April 2010, well before the Harper Collins OverDrive announcement.) Its bill of rights focuses more on DRM and accessibility.

The Readers’ Bill of Rights for Digital Books:
1. Ability to retain, archive and transfer purchased materials
2. Ability to create a paper copy of the item in its entirety
3. Digital Books should be in an open format (e.g. you could read on a computer, not just a device)
4. Choice of hardware to access books (e.g. in 3 years when your device has broken, you can still read your book on other hardware)
5. Reader information will remain private (what, when and how we read will not be stored, sold or marketed)

The site also has an interesting blog entry about the ALA president speaking out about this issue on Facebook. The entry links to one of the best arguments I have ever seen for NOT joining the social networking giant.

Each of these rights statements makes it extremely clear that they are meant to be starting points for the conversation about rights. It is also quite obvious that each author has different priorities that are important to them, whether it is the first sale doctrine or DRM.

What I personally find extremely surprising, given all the discussion about eBook prices, is that none of these rights statements even mentions the concept of the price of digital books as an important factor.

How about you?  Is there something that you think should be included in an ebook bill of rights?  Is a fair price something you would like to see as part of the discussion?