Articles tagged "DRM"

Meet the Dropbox for Books…Ownshelf

OwnshelfIn only a few short years of existence, Dropbox has become indispensable for computer users the world over, who need to quickly share files with their friends, coworkers, and relatives. But until now, there hasn’t really been a popular way to share eBooks across platforms with the ease of simply accessing a communal cloud-based hard drive. So in that spirit, meet Ownshelf, which is marketing itself as the Dropbox for books.

Ownshelf lets eBook readers share their DRM-free eBooks (eBooks that are allowed to be shared without paying for them again) in a simple and fast way: you just add books to your virtual bookshelf, and your friends can browse them and download them to their reader or computer. Not only can you browse books posted by your friends, but you can also check out titles that have been recommended by complete strangers through the “Featured Shelves” component.

Since the precipitous rise of eBooks over the past few years, readers have been looking for ways to share eBooks with one another through website and social media. Ownshelf takes advantage of this tendency by directly plugging into your Facebook, allowing friends to see which books you’re currently sharing with the world, and which other one’s you’ve been reading. Of course, if sharing with the world that sort of thing is not you cup of social media tea, then you might be out of luck with Ownshelf, which heavily uses the Facebook element of its design.

Ownshelf is still in the early stages of it development, but has the potential to grow into an indispensable part of the eBook ecosystem. Unlike other platforms that make readers choose between “bookshelves” only available to certain products and companies, Ownshelf opens up eBook sharing to everyone, and is one of the first projects to do so.

As a reader, how do you find eBook recommendations? Do you think products like Ownshelf will encourage independent authors to publish without DRM protection, or will writers be scared away by the threat of piracy? As always with eBooks, the situation is constantly evolving, and whether an application sinks or swims is entirely dependent on just how helpful the (voracious) eBook-reading population finds it.

SiDiM…the future of DRM software

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the landing, holding a bowl of lather on which a glass and a razor were crossed.”

This is not the first sentence of James Joyce’s modernist masterpiece Ulysses. But one day it could be. Maybe. Joyce’s book actually begins like this:

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

I changed just three words in that first version of Ulysses‘ opening, “stairhead”, “holding,” and “mirror,” but that might well be enough to catch a pirate, according to DRM researchers at Germany’s Darmstadt Technical University. As I have discussed previously, DRM, which stands for Digital Rights Management, is any form of software that protects the copyright of digital books. Some software prevents piracy, other software alerts those charged with stopping it.

SiDiM, the radical new DRM software being developed by the aforementioned researchers with support from the German government, would achieve the latter. By making subtle changes to a book’s text, punctuation, or formatting, SiDiM would effectively “watermark” a digital book, making that book unique and therefore identifiable to agencies tracking pirates.

Researchers maintain that this is a consumer friendly version of DRM because it wouldn’t prevent sharing a book between devices or tether it to a specific account, but the prospect of altering a book’s text, however imperceptible, makes my skin crawl. How would you know you are reading what the author intended? The process is said to be automated, so what’s the guarantee the changes are slight, or even imperceptible?

I am always curious as to how new technologies will change the way we write (did the telegraph shorten our sentences? what will the SMS do??) but this kind of software, which literally changes the text, seems comically dystopic. Certainly writers need protections if their works are to circulate digitally. Author Phillip Pullman recently pointed out how much money authors stand to lose if they aren’t compensated when their books are borrowed, and he makes a good case.

What sort of protections do we want as writers and what sort do we want as readers? There is surely a balance to be found, but my guess is that it will be less intrusive than the vision advanced by SiDiM.

Living in a DRM-Free World

Digital Rights Management, the software that helped protect the copyright of books, but turned out to be a rather large hindrance to many readers, is beginning to go the way of the Dodo. More and more businesses that sell eBooks are taking the plunge and ditching DRM (including Lulu). But has the loss of this security measure affected sales? Has the eBook market been flooded with pirated copies of books that drag down the market and result in losses in profit to authors and publishers? In short, no.

Tor Books, the high-profile science-fiction publisher dropped DRM last April, and they have seen “no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year,” according to their editorial director, Julie Crisp.

Consumers of eBooks have long been in favor of getting rid of DRM. It has made a hassle out of switching eBooks from one reader to another, and hindered the reading experience of readers who have paid to read their favorite authors.

Authors as well have applauded the move away from DRM. However, some larger publishers believe that DRM-free copies of their books published in other territories will find their way back to their own market, thus increasing the likelihood of digital piracy. Still, Tor’s report that there hasn’t been any discernible change in sales and readership is proof that DRM didn’t do much to protect authors.

“The move has been a hugely positive one for us, it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern — and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community,” Crisp reported.

When it comes to independent publishing, DRM has long been considered something that was once thought necessary, but is no longer needed, especially in a reading atmosphere that so proudly supports its writers.  Already, video games and music have begun to move away from these protections, as well.

What will be interesting is to see is if anyone will stick to DRM in the next few years. How have you felt as a Lulu author in a DRM-free world? What other minor changes in the publishing model would you like to see happen over the next few years?

Lulu Says Goodbye to DRM

Lulu was founded on the philosophy of breaking down barriers that prevent talented authors from sharing their knowledge and telling their stories. Our goal is to help authors reach the broadest possible audience by providing tools to create, publish, market and sell their remarkable work. In an ongoing commitment to our founding philosophy, we continue to remove barriers when we see them, which brings us to the subject of Digital Rights Management (DRM)…

Effective January 15, 2013, Lulu will no longer offer Adobe’s Digital Editions DRM as an option when publishing or revising eBook content in EPUB and PDF formats. DRM works best when administered by those who control how content is purchased and viewed. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble integrate a reader’s experience from purchasing to downloading and finally to reading. These companies do a fantastic job in this area, and eBooks published through Lulu and distributed through these retail sites will continue to have the same rights management applied as they do today.

For readers who download eBooks directly from Lulu.com to the device of their choice, removing DRM on EPUBs and PDFs will remove their need to create an Adobe account, authorize the purchase in Digital Editions or install a third-party application. This creates possibilities for the growing number of readers who want to shop, purchase and download books to their eReaders from sites other than large corporate providers. And we see that as a step towards helping authors reach the broadest audience possible.

Lulu authors with DRM-protected content available today will soon receive an email with additional information about how this change affects their DRM-protected eBooks and the steps required to ensure continued availability of these titles in the Lulu Marketplace. You can also find additional – and more detailed – information about the change here: Announcement: DRM and eBooks Published on the Lulu Marketplace.

We realize that any mention of support for or opposition to DRM in a public blog post, forum, or article will spark a heated debate between publishers and consumers. In the spirit of open communication, we welcome your comments and will respond to your concerns as needed.

Thank you for choosing Lulu to tell your story. We wish you great success in the coming year.

eBooks, a Two-way Street?

Looking for the future of eBooks? It’s in the clouds! Err, well, it’s in the cloud. Cloud-based computing services let you access all sorts of data – from your address book to your music collection – remotely, via an increasing range of devices, from laptops to cellphones to, you guessed it, eReaders.

So far, cloud-based computing has made huge strides in helping you shuffle your data between the various gadgets you use throughout your day. Apple’s iCloud, for example, let’s me download the latest episode of Breaking Bad on my laptop, watch the first half on my phone during the trip to work, and voila, there it is on my TV when I get home.

Lately, we’ve seen lending capabilities pop up on the Kindle, and publishers like Tor Books are doing away with DRM to encourage sharing between eBook readers, but it sounds like this is just the beginning. Earlier this week, Democrasoft, Inc. and VOOK ePublishing announced an eBook with an exciting new feature: two-way interactivity. According to Digital Book World, the book, 11 Days in May, published by Waterfront Press, will allow “real-time author and reader-to-reader dialog and collaboration from inside [the] e-book.”

In other words, you’ll be able to comment, ask questions, and respond to the questions of others without taking your eyes off the page or flipping between applications. Exciting stuff! And then there’s the authorial angle. This technology, which will allow multiple readers to access the same digital book simultaneously, could really expand the reading experience and lead to a whole new dimension of an author’s engagement with the public.

It’s an exciting time for the eBook. A lot of the news we’re hearing these days is less focused on how digital publishing stacks up against traditional publishing, and more more concerned with the format coming into its own, taking advantage of social media, internet marketing, and developments like the cloud. Increased interactivity is a fascinating prospect, but is it a revolution or a gimmick? Should authors working with the format feel compelled to engage in a digital back-and-forth with their readers, or will this role be taken up by a select few? Time will tell, but I’d love to hear people sound off in the comments.

Unlocking the eBook

All too often, the discussion around the growing popularity of eBooks boils down to antagonisms: digital vs. printed, ink vs. pixels, the new vs. the old.  But more and more we are seeing the differences between eBooks and their paper predecessors erased — or at least narrowed.

Like most passionate readers, I have a few nostalgic hang-ups when it comes to books, and I’m certainly not alone. I like being able to dog-ear pages, write inscriptions to friends, and make notes in the margins. I like the feel of a pulpy paperback and the reassuring heft of a big book in my tote bag. An eReader, on the other hand, offers an entirely different set of joys: storage! convenience! portability!

To go on stressing the strengths of each would really just rehash an argument that’s gone back and forth and around in circles since eBooks started getting serious press, but I couldn’t help revisiting the debate after a recent article I read on the BBC’s Future section. In the piece, Tom Chatfield discusses Tor Books’ decision to release all of their eBooks DRM free. To those unfamiliar with DRM, which stands for Digital Rights Management, Chatfield explains:

“Consider the difference between owning a book, and merely owning the right to read a book under certain circumstances – say on a limited number of devices or for a limited period of time. The first is what traditional print publishing offers. The second is the DRM model – one intended to protect publishers and authors against piracy.”

Chatfield goes on to suggest that selling books DRM free, without the use restrictions that most eBooks presently have, opens up “the tantalizing possibility of helping digital reading preserve all the advantages of its weightless, infinitely capacious medium while regaining some of the rich possibilities of physical books – and specifically those communities of lending, discussion, sharing and recommendation that are the traditional lifeblood of reading.”

Certainly there are the interests of authors and publishers to consider with an issue like this, but I am excited by Chatfield’s thinking. Imagine being able to pass an eBook back and forth among your friends, each of you scribbling in notes and maybe even a doodle or two. Think about snagging your favorite quotes and sending them straight to a reading group, or posting them in an online literary community.

It’s unclear what this move spells for the young industry, but it’s neat to think about the potential for eBooks to not only become more like the endlessly shareable, modifiable printed books we love, but to push the boundary of how we can read and talk about books.

Would you let readers price your book?

Piracy is rampant. Music, eBooks, and films are all susceptible to being illegally downloaded for free, which deprives creators of compensation for their art. In the digital age, one way to combat piracy has been to use a “pay what you want” pricing model.

Ever since the band Radiohead released its highly anticipated 2007 album In Rainbows with a “pay what you want” scheme, it’s been viewed as a profitable way for large, highly successful bands to earn money in the era of internet piracy. But what about for smaller artists? And what about for books?

StoryBundle offers a “pay what you want” payment method for bundles of DRM-free eBooks, with each bundle comprised of a group of excellently reviewed eBooks from a specific genre. Readers decide how much of the money will go to the author, and how much will go StoryBundle.

This kind of innovative pricing leaves authors at a crossroads, choosing between making a surefire profit on their work (if priced at a consistent level and counting on good sales) or leaving it up to the goodwill of readers. If you’re beloved (like Radiohead) you stand a good chance of making a considerable amount of money. Still, this is a big risk to take.

The genius part of the StoryBundle project isn’t the pricing, though — it’s the bundling. By bundling your work with other authors, particularly if they are in the same genre, you stand a greater chance of reaching new readers, as well as a better chance of making money in a “pay what you want” model. When consumers buy a single book, they might be inclined to only cough up a dollar or so. But if they are buying five, well, that seems more like something that should cost $10. Of course, you’re still at the mercy of your readers.

Innovative pricing and bundling are just among the options writers get when they publish an eBook. By avoiding the overhead cost associated with print, they can experiment and become more entrepreneurial with selling their work. Not only that, but if a certain pricing model doesn’t work — then chuck it. If you find that a DRM model isn’t working for you, then maybe try being DRM-free for a while to see how sales go. Or even reach out to other, similar authors, and see if a bundle is something they’d be interested in.

The key thing is to keep trying new ways of selling your book. Remember, you have to be just as creative while marketing your book as you are when writing it.

The Word on Used eBooks

You walk around the old marketplace, through antique stores and old stacks of records, looking, hopefully, for that one store where you’ll be able to enter entirely new worlds. Yes, you’ve found it! The used eBookstore.

Used eBooks? As outrageous as that sounds, if a new ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union is followed by similar rulings, a used eBook could soon be coming your way. Of course, that all depends on how eBook publishers deal with this paradigm.

When you buy an eBook, you buy the license to use that file. The ruling declares that you have the right to resell that license to a third party, but only if you cease to use that file (and not make duplicates of it). Whether eBooks will now come with the ability to be resold, or if new software will create a whole market of secondhand books, remains to be seen. But if this ruling gains traction, it appears that publishers will at least have to make this option available. Or not — it’s also quite possible that a publisher would slap on a “no resale” protection to their eBooks.

As a writer, does it make sense to allow your eBook to be resold? You don’t make any money on a resale (at least not traditional ones), and it’s possible your eBook could just be traded around until it’s sold for mere pennies. Still, it never seemed like used bookstores were to be the downfall of the publishing industry in the pre-digital days.

However, Digital Book World paints a very positive picture of this new development:

“If eBooks could be easily resold by readers, the effects on the growing e-book industry would be great. Used eBookstores could pop up; new, exotic forms of digital rights management (DRM) software could be developed; and the price of eBooks, facing upward pressure from their new-found resale value and downward pressure from a used book market, could change.”

Do you think the idea of a used eBook is a good one? As a writer, will you offer the option for used copies of your eBook to be resold? Is this a good alternative to piracy?

Building Selection to Boost Author Success

Dan Brown. Malcolm Gladwell. Emeril Lagasse. They all have something in common with you: They’re on Lulu.

You’ll now find their works — and about 200,000 other eBook titles from traditionally published authors — in the Lulu Marketplace. We’ve added them through agreements with Ingram and other distributors to make their public catalogs available on our site.

It’s a significant shift for Lulu, but one rooted in a strategy to maximize author success that has guided us from the beginning. To sell more books, you need more exposure. We’ve long provided distribution choices to help you reach customers in myriad stores, including Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. We’re continuing to expand those options, and we’ll have more to share soon.

But that’s not enough. The time has come for a better marketplace. Like many of you, we’re discouraged by some trends in the industry and what they might mean for the future of books. Here at Lulu we champion books, and the people who create them, because of what they represent. Books are conversations between generations that convey our best thinking and help move us forward. They deserve appreciation. And authors deserve success.

The open marketplace we’re building will have the broadest selection. It will be a one-stop shop with content from all authors, in all styles and in all formats, paper and electronic. The goal is to give readers access to the best knowledge, ideas and entertainment and to give authors access to the best audience for their works. We believe the increased choice offered by increased selection will attract more readers. And as we attract more readers, we will have more opportunity to get Lulu authors in front of people most likely to buy. In fact, we’ve invested in recommendation technology to help with that by steering readers based on their browsing patterns.

Adding 200,000 eBooks is just the first step in a journey that will unfold over the coming months, one intended to bring more success to Lulu authors every day. As always, I welcome your suggestions and feedback as we move forward.

New Lulu eBooks are Here!

Last summer, while sitting in a team meeting reviewing numbers (bear with me, it gets better), an intriguing stat caught my eye: 70% of our authors make their print books available as downloads, and those authors sell 30% more books than those who offer print editions only! Even without a “real” eBook publishing option, Lulu authors were flocking to make digital files available, and succeeding in increasing their sales. Since then, we’ve been on a mission to provide a better eBook option. Today, I’m pleased to announce, new Lulu eBooks have arrived!

Why publish an eBook? The simple answer is it makes sense for both authors (universal distribution, more sales, and higher royalties) and readers (cheaper than print, instant delivery, and mobile access). How can Lulu help? By providing features to support a wide range of scenarios: give eBooks away for free as a marketing tool, automatically link eBook and print editions to enhance discovery and provide more options to readers, and offer optional copy-protection (DRM) to prevent piracy and unlicensed distribution.

Beginning today, Lulu supports all of these options, and more. With multi-device support, readers can access your eBook on a Mac, PC, iPhone (Stanza), Sony Reader, and many others. You can now upload files in the popular EPUB format, which is quickly becoming the industry standard (see recent announcements by Barnes & Noble and Sony). Concerned about losing sales when you make unprotected digital content available in the marketplace? You can now apply DRM to your eBook, and sell a licensed version which can’t be freely copied and distributed.

To support enabling these features for more than a million Lulu authors, Lulu has adopted a new pricing structure for eBooks and print downloads.  As always, it’s still free to publish, and if you choose, you can continue to give away your digital content for free. For authors who want to sell eBooks and downloads, we’ve added a fixed $1.49 base price to cover our credit card processing and hosting expenses. Applying DRM (optional, eBooks only) adds $.99 to the base price to offset the fee charged by our DRM provider.  To reiterate, authors never pay to publish, these fees are reflected in the list price and are only charged to the purchaser at purchase time.

All of us at Lulu are excited about our new eBooks, and welcome your feedback. Stay tuned–we’re actively exploring many more features, including providing easy access to retail distribution channels with the goal of enabling Lulu authors to sell eBooks in every online marketplace.  Meanwhile, we encourage you to get started and publish an eBook today.