I wasn’t the only indie author to welcome the recent news that Microsoft had come to Barnes and Noble’s rescue. If you missed the news, see the Wall Street Journal article Microsoft Hooks Onto Nook: Software Maker’s $300 Million Deal Gives It a 17.6% Stake in Barnes & Noble Subsidiary
I started rereleasing my previously published books some years ago, when I applied to my print publisher for reversion of rights of some of my print-published titles. Back then I believed eBook adoption would be swift and enthusiastic, but it was actually over ten years before eReaders became a common sight.
The last few years have been filled with big changes in publishing, and where authors who chose to publish their own works were once looked down upon, so many big authors have joined the crowd of “indies” (independently published authors using the readily available vehicles for publishing their own eBooks and POD – AKA Print on Demand – books) that most traditionally published authors are at least considering applying for reversion of rights and independently ePublishing their backlist. It’s hard to argue that “real authors don’t self-publish” when J. K. Rowling is going the indie route for eBook releases of Harry Potter.
Amazon has taken the lead in making it easy and inexpensive for authors to publish independently with Kindle Digital Publishing and CreateSpace Print on Demand services, and supporting services and forums for indie authors. Authors wanting to make their books available on the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kobo, and Apple devices can go direct to the online vendors like Barnes & Noble and Apple, or they can go through Smashwords.com which offers eBook publishing and sales, and distribution services to other retail channels like Apple, Kobobooks, Sony, and Barnes and Noble.
When I learned that Microsoft was investing $300 million in Barnes and Noble’s digital book business, like many others, I hoped that this would give new life to Barnes and Noble’s digital book presence, and allow B&N to offer both authors and readers better service. Frankly, Barnes and Noble’s performance in this area has been disappointing.
Competition gives both readers and authors more choices, and creates a healthier industry.
Author Libby Fischer Hellman, publicist Rebecca Crowley, NYT bestselling author Ruth Harris, and thriller author CJ West have done more than wish good things for Microsoft’s investment in Barnes and Noble. They’ve taken the time to analyze their experience of digital publishing through Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and write an open letter to Microsoft sharing their view of how Microsoft can help make Barnes and Noble’s digital book presence better for readers, authors, and the publishing industry.
If you want to see healthy competition in the eBook world, pop over to Libby’s blog and read the Open Letter to Microsoft written by these four authors. While you’re there, take the time to use the share buttons at the top of the blog to spread the word, and make a comment yourself.
And have a good day!
Hopefully Shakespeare’s ghost will forgive me for mangling that line from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy!
(Note: This article has previously been posted on the PenWarriors blog)
A couple of weeks ago when I sent out a tweet announcing that all my eBooks are available in DRM-free editions from Amazon and Smashwords, someone asked for clarification. The subsequent conversation sent me on a hunt for clear descriptions of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) issue as it applies to eBooks. My aim in today’s blog is to give a brief, plain English explanation of Digital Rights Mangement (DRM), with links to more technical information for those who want to learn more.
What is Digital Rights Management?
- “DRM technologies attempt to control use of digital media [ebooks, digital music files, computer software] by preventing access, copying or conversion to other formats by end users.” Calibre eBook management
- “When you buy an e-book with DRM you don’t really own it but have purchased the permission to use it in a manner dictated to you by the seller. DRM limits what you can do with e-books you have ‘bought’.” Calibre eBook management
- For those who want the comprehensive, technical definition and history, see Wikipedia
Information About Digital Rights Management
- Background – software and CDs: In the 1980s and 1990s digital rights technology was used on some computer software and music CDs in an attempt to stop piracy. This technology frequently caused legitimate users to experience computer problems because of the temperamental nature of the DRM control software, and also violated privacy in some instances. The problems experienced by blameless users of select Sony BMG CDs resulted in the music industry giving up on DRM. The computer software industry also moved away from DRM to a “serial number” and “registration key” model because DRM not only made legitimate users furious, but it was found to be ineffective in stopping piracy.
- DRM does not stop piracy: As early as 2003, HP Laboratories Cambridge reported “We conclude that given the current and foreseeable state of technology the content protection features of DRM are not effective at combating piracy.”
- DRM and digital books: Despite the negative experience of the music and computer software industries, many traditional publishers use DRM on eBooks, although there is an increasing body of mainstream information indicating that although costly, it is not effective:
- It is estimated that the maintenance cost of DRM will reach $9 billion by 2012.
- Book piracy: less DRM, more Data – O’Reilly Radar. O’Reilly’s research on sales of their books showed an increase in sales for their books that had been pirated. O’Reilly subsequently removed DRM from their titles.
- DRM does not stop eBook piracy. The DRM technologies used by Amazon, Adobe, and Barnes and Noble have all been broken by pirates
- Recent studies like this one reported in The Register indicate that piracy may not be a serious threat to publishers. Joe Karaganis, vice president of the American Assembly think-tank told The Register - “… ethics [are] at work in these decisions [by consumers] …All other things being equal, people prefer to obey the law.”
I first began reading eBooks in the 1990s when I purchased a Rocket eBook reader, and have owned a number of electronic reading devices since then. I quickly learned that when I buy a book with DRM technology, I might not be able to read that book on future devices I purchase.
That’s a problem for me. I love to reread favorite books, and I don’t want to have to pay over and over again for the same book. So whenever possible I choose to purchase DRM-Free versions of eBooks.
For more information on digital rights for readers, see
- Digital Books and Your rights: A Checklist for Readers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
- Canadian readers see E-Books and the New Copyright Bill
How can you tell if the book you want has DRM technology?
In The Real Cost of Free, Cory Doctorow reports that, “Apple, Audible, Sony and others have stitched up several digital distribution channels with mandatory DRM requirements, so copyright holders don’t get to choose to make their works available on equitable terms.”
However, many eBook sellers do allow copyright holders to choose whether books will be sold with, or without DRM, and a growing number sell only DRM-Free books. I’ve given a list below, and if you know of other sources for DRM-Free books, please comment and I’ll update the list.
Sources for DRM-free books
- Project Gutenberg –free books in the public domain for multiple formats.
- Smashwords – over 30,000 books, available in multiple formats – EPUB, Kindle, and others
- Calibre Open Books – listings for DRM-Free eBooks. Follow links under titles to see formats available. If you are an author or publisher of DRM-Free eBooks and your books are not listed on Calibre’s site, you can add your books to their listings
- BeWrite Books – all DRM-Free books in multiple formats
- Baen – speculative fiction DRM-Free eBooks for multiple formats
Sources selling DRM and DRM-Free eBooks. Check to be sure which you’re getting.
- Fictionwise.com – books labeled “multiformat” are DRM-Free and are available in multiple formats.
- KoboBooks – see “Download options” in the book description, and look for the words DRM-Free
- Amazon Kindle books – the method described on this Calibre page for checking if books are DRM-Free no longer works. If anyone knows how to tell if an Amazon book has DRM, please comment and I’ll update this post.
Converting eBooks from one format to another
Calibre’s free eBook library management application is the tool I use to convert DRM-Free books so that I can read them on my iPad AND my Kindle – and any other device I buy in future. It’s also a great program, the price is right (I do donate periodically because Calibre does a great job of updating its library of reading devices and it’s a great free service.) Information on converting is available at Calibre‘s website
A short post … NOT! LOL!
I intended to write a short post, less than 500 words, but I couldn’t manage it! Sorry for the length, but I hope this is useful to eBook readers and authors.
This edition includes a free preview of The Colors of Love.
In my September 23, 2011 blog Yippee! … If You Loved Me I shared some amusing moments during this novel’s original journey to publication has some amusing moments, and talked about my excitement about this new edition of this romantic novel.
The majority of If You Loved Me is set in a beautiful – and remote – area of the Pacific Northwest coastline that was my home for many years.
She needed his help to find her son – no matter what the cost!Surgeon Emma Garrett had made sacrifices to follow her dream of becoming a doctor – and yet none was as painful as turning down Gray McKenzie. But not even the threat of losing her greatest love could stop Emma from fulfilling her dream of repairing the bodies of damaged children.Now widowed with a thriving Seattle practice and an eighteen-year-old son, Emma is suddenly plunged into the wilderness when her son and his friend disappear on a kayaking trip. She desperately needs the help of an expert who knows the territory – and nobody knows the Pacific Ocean’s north coast wilderness like Gray McKenzie.But when Emma arrives on Gray’s remote doorstep unannounced and determined that Gray will rescue her son, she soon realizes that reawakening her past may cost far more than she’d imagined.
I’m very pleased to be releasing this new version of The Colors of Love, a romance novel I originally wrote for Kensington books a few years ago. I had a lot of fun writing this novel, and editing the novel in preparation for this new release brought me some joyous memories of my uncle, the artist John Keast, who passed away recently. John had a passionate interest in life, people, and art. My journey back through the love story of my fictitious artist heroine, Jamie Ferguson, brought some wonderful memories back for me.
She needed his help to find her son – no matter what the cost!
Surgeon Emma Garrett had made sacrifices to follow her dream of becoming a doctor – and yet none was as painful as turning down Gray McKenzie. But not even the threat of losing her greatest love could stop Emma from fulfilling her dream of repairing the bodies of damaged children.
Now widowed with a thriving Seattle practice and an eighteen-year-old son, Emma is suddenly plunged into the wilderness when her son and his friend disappear on a kayaking trip. She desperately needs the help of an expert who knows the territory – and nobody knows the Pacific Ocean’s north coast wilderness like Gray McKenzie.
But when Emma arrives on Gray’s remote doorstep unannounced and determined that Gray will rescue her son, she soon realizes that reawakening her past may cost far more than she’d imagined.
I’m thrilled to be able to announce that If You Loved Me is now available. The story of children’s surgeon Emma and wilderness photographer Gray McKenzie is one of my favourite, and the first of four books I wrote for Kensington Books a few years ago.
(This post also appeared at PenWarriors.com)
It’s January and I’m plotting my life in 2012. As with most tales, there’s a backstory:
- SETTING: Vanessa’s newly remodelled study. Fresh paint, new carpet, several years of hoarding cleared out. Time: mid-December
- GREMLIN (Vanessa’s internal critic): Here it is 2012 and you’ve got a todo list the size of the Grand Canyon. Get organized, woman!
- VANESSA: I visited the grand canyon back in 2011 and I KNOW it’s a mile deep. Maybe I can sort this mess into a stack of smaller piles.
- GREMLIN: You need a system.
- VANESSA (sorting):
- GREMLIN: Look at that heap of TODOs! I suppose you think you’re Superwoman now?
- VANESSA: Shut up. I’m setting goals.
- GREMLIN: Hah! You cleaned out your office last month, now you’re going for world’s worst task hoarder!
- VANESSA (looking for lethal weapon): Kill the gremlin … kill the gremlin.
- GREMLIN: You need a syst–No! No! Don’t shoot! You– (GREMLIN slinks out of room, slamming door and leaving blood behind on new carpet)
- VANESSA (Locks door behind GREMLIN, then starts looking for a system…)
- CRITIC (whispers through door): I told you so!
Obviously, this story is never going to hit the bestseller lists, but thankfully as December rolled towards January, I embarked on a search for a … (okay, GREMLIN, you win) a system for managing my Grand Canyon sized TODO list. Back in October (see Necessary Lies, Stephen Covey, and This Writer), I resolved to follow Stephen Covey’s suggestion of focusing on those important but not urgent tasks that build towards future goals (Quadrant II goals). I succeeded in putting First Things First for ten days and spent the first part of each day on my novel, NECESSARY LIES. On the eleventh day, unfortunately, NECESSARY LIES got buried by a pile of important AND urgent tasks, and GREMLIN woke up.
- GREMLIN: How can you call yourself a writer, if you’re not writing? You’ll never finish that book.
- VANESSA: Yes, I will, but other things are important too! I just need a system that keeps the most important things in front of me.
- GREMLIN: System, smystem. You gotta USE your system. Every day. Like brushing your teeth.
- VANESSA: Well … yeah.
- keep Quadrant II goals in front of me each day
- remind me of urgent-but-not-important commitments (Quadrant I)
- give me a way to record (and remember) time-sensitive commitments
- allow me to access both urgent and non-urgent goals and tasks on my iPhone, iPad, and any computer I use.
At least one of my goals had been achieved – with my wonderful husband’s help, we’d transformed my study from a hoarder’s hell into an inviting study. Now it was time to organize my goals and my life. Over Christmas, I tried out a few ideas:
- I read the Michael Hyatt article, “Is that task important or merely urgent?” which mentioned using Priority Matrix to emulate the Covey 4-sector organizer. I downloaded Priority Matrix (for Mac, iPad, and iPhone). I installed the software and put my TODO list into Priority Matrix sectors. Here’s a simplified version of what I did:
- Priority Matrix + Covey trial: I found Priority Matrix flexible, and definitely easy to work with using Covey’s 4-quadrant model on my Mac, and I was pleased to find that the Apps for the iPhone and iPad synchronized well. (I also learned that Priority Matrix is in alpha development for Windows.) By Christmas I had realized that while I loved the 4-sector view and synchronization features of Priority Matrix, for the system to be effective, I needed to visit it every day. The best way too make sure I did that was to use the same application for appointments, other time sensitive commitments, and goals. Priority matrix didn’t have the scheduling and reporting features I needed.
- Getting Things Done + Remember the Milk - Over Christmas I talked with my son about his experience using David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system with Remember the Milk, a Web/Android/iPhone app. GTD sounded too high-maintenance for me, but if you’re a GTD fan, check out Advanced GTD with Remember The Milk, and also take a look at the simplified version described in Monk to Done.
- Covey + Remember the Milk - If Remember the Milk could work with GTD, maybe I could make it work with Covey’s First Things First model. I decided to try out the free version of Remember the Milk (RTM) and soon realized that this friendly, flexible application could:
- be used on in all common Web browsers, Android phones, iPhones, and iPad
- synchronize across all installations, i.e. phone, tablet, Web (daily sync is free, more frequent sync requires upgrading to the pro version)
- have separate lists for different category tasks (achieved by setting task “category” and adding your own lists and/or modifying RTM’s default lists. Some of my categories are WRITING, RESEARCH, PROMOTION, BUSINESS TASKS, PERSONAL) Tasks can be viewed by category, or in a big list of “All Tasks”
- optionally set due date and time, specify repeating intervals for regular tasks, plus time commitment for tasks (I’ve set Quadrant II goals I want to visit every day to “repeat: every 1 day”)
- prioritize (priority 1, 2, or 3), categorize, and tag tasks
- create saved searches using lists (I Googled “rtm + Covey” and found links to a number of posts on RTM’s website (the Google search gave me better results than RTM’s own internal site search)
- send a daily list of tasks, and also a 15 minute reminder of individual tasks, to my phone.
- It would be wonderful if RTM allowed me to choose either its Priority 1, 2, 3 system or a Covey quadrant model of priorities, but many RTM users have found ways to make Covey’s First Things First and RTM work together.
- Result = RTM + Covey. I tried using RTM’s priorities, but I couldn’t get the result I wanted. When I read Using the “First Things First” Paradigm with RTM and got the idea of simplifying the author’s system and tagging items as “important” to flag them for my Quadrant II list, then using the Due Date to determine urgency. I then created 2 saved searches based on Due Date and “important” tag status, and named them Q1 and Q2. I’ll probably refine the searches over time. I can see from what others have done that there’s lots of room for tweaking the system.
The beginning of a New Year is a great time to be playing with plotting the year ahead, and I’m pretty happy with how my new system is shaping up. I’ve been using Remember the Milk for about a week now. I spent the first day getting enough tasks and appointments into the system to allow me to experiment with searching, tested that the syncing was working well across my iPhone, iPad, and computer (Web). Then upgraded to the Pro version to allow unlimited synchronizing.
Alright, Gremlin. I’ve got a system I like and I’m USING it. It’s even got a name I like - Remember the Milk has a friendly casual sound. I’ve got my January appointments recorded and RTM sends my iPhone reminders of important-to-me, time-sensitive things like my daughter’s birthday dinner yesterday, while giving me a way to track less urgent, but still important items like this blog and a commitment to myself to write every day (tag: important and repeat:every 1 day) .
So there, Gremlin! I can too do this.
Check out my new release: Storm – the Author’s Cut, now available on Kindle
Catalina’s Lover (Latin Legacy)
Years ago she ran from a hopeless love … she never dreamed she’d return as his prisoner!
Juan Corsica Perez was a man who believed the earth belonged to him, and everyone in it. Only Cathy Jenan thought otherwise. They had known each other once and once it had been wonderful, but although Cathy had traveled all over the world since she last saw her first love, she’d never returned to Peru. Then fate, and Juan Corsica Perez, forced her back.
Book 1 of the Latin Legacy series.
Also available from iBooks, B&N, Kobo, and other distributors