Boing Boing 

Amazon kicks self-published Star Wars memoir out of the Kindle store on nebulous and nonsensical trademark grounds


Update: The Kindle edition is back. Amazon PR person Brittany Turner wrote, "Wanted to let you know that this book is now available in the Kindle Store." Ms Turner didn't offer any further explanation.

Gib Van Ert sez,

Amazon has decided to remove the book I self-published on Kindle, "A Long Time Ago: Growing up with and out of Star Wars", from their store for an unspecified trademark issue. Their emails are vague, but they seems to being saying that I have to have Lucasfilm's permission before selling on their store a book that talks about Star Wars. It's a crazy position--Star Wars is a massive pop cultural and generational phenomenon, as my book tries to explain through a personal narrative.

No one has a right to have their book sold on Amazon, of course. It's their store and they can decline to sell things if they like. But given how they dominate the book marketplace, being banned from Amazon is a major problem for an independent author. And when it is done on a spurious ground--Amazon has never said that Lucasfilm themselves have complained, and why would they?--it verges on a free speech issue.

"A Long Time Ago" is in my review pile, and has survived several purges of books of similar vintage (I've had it there for a long time!), because it looks awfully good, and got a great review from Wired's GeekDad. I hope that this is just some junior functionary at Amazon having a freakout and that someone higher up will see sense and realize that there's no reason in the world not to carry Van Ert's book.

Weirdly, Amazon is still carrying the print edition of the book, which makes things even more inexplicable. If Amazon faces some risk from selling an ebook, it faces the same risk from selling the print edition.

Amazon removes A Long Time Ago from Kindle for supposed trademark infringement

eBook review: Cornbread

Sean Hammer's Cornbread is a dark kindle single that made me laugh.

With an empty life and nothing to look forward to ever, Jenny's sole pride is the cornbread she feeds her husband once-a-week. When Jenny messes up the recipe, everything changes.

Well paced, Cornbread went by just a little too quickly.

Cornbread by Sean Hammer

Wool 6 & 7

If the only new author I'd been introduced to in 2012 was Hugh Howey, then 2012 would have been a fantastic year. His series Wool is the best set of kindle shorts I've read, bar none.

To avoid spoilers, Wool is a tale of discovery that shines through the open holes in its backstory. Howey takes advantage of the short form to create an amazing and full world, skillfully letting you imagine huge swaths of history. Parts 6 & 7 represent a prequel trilogy, First Shift and Second Shift tell part of the story, the beginning.

Book digitization: 1971-present

The Library of Congress's Leslie Johnson takes a stroll down memory lane, recounting the history of book digitization:

Text digitization in the cultural heritage sector started in earnest in 1971, when the first Project Gutenberg text — the United States Declaration of Independence — was keyed into a file on a mainframe at the University of Illinois. The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae began in 1972. The Oxford Text Archive was founded in 1976. The ARTFL Project was founded at the University of Chicago in 1982. The Perseus Digital Library started its development in 1985. The Text Encoding Initiative started in 1987. The Women Writers Project started at Brown University in 1988. The University of Michigan’s UMLibText project was started in 1989. The Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities was established jointly by Princeton University and Rutgers University in 1991. Sweden’s Project Runeberg went online in 1992. The University of Virginia EText Center was also founded in 1992.

Before You Were Born: We Were Digitizing Texts (Thanks, Joly!)

Copyright in the age of ebooks

Matt Rubinstein sez, "I won the 2012 Calibre Prize for my essay on copyright in the age of the electronic book, and the essay is now available free to read on the Australian Book Review website. The prize was sponsored by Australia's Copyright Agency Limited, and they have been excellent sports in promoting an essay that pretty much goes against the entrenched positions of most collecting agencies (hint: it namechecks Cory)."

Vigilante Wars

San Francisco is certainly a quirky place and Cecelia Holland's Vigilante Wars sheds a lot of light on how we got there! The inner-workings and many of the social mores that today are common-place were founded in some crazy times.

Holland recounts the lawlessness, mob rule and colorful characters that the 1849 Gold Rush brought to San Francisco. Tales of gangs like "the Hounds" wandering the streets, the massive in-flux of wealth seekers and the poverty that followed. You can easily see how today's San Francisco evolved.

Vigilante Wars by Cecelia Holland

Cold Days, a novel of the Dresden files

I am addicted to Jim Butcher's tales of Harry Dresden, Chicago's wizard PI. With the film noir touches, the old VW bug and a Fu dog of his very own, how could I not love Harry Dresden?

Cold Days is the latest installment in Butcher's series about the politics and antics of the magical realm and how they cross over into ours. The entire quirky cast is back and Harry isn't even dead! I'll hold off on other spoilers and suffice to say I loved it.

Cold Days, a novel of the Dresden files by Jim Butcher

Avi Solomon's Boing Boing interviews: the ebook

If you've enjoyed Avi Solomon's interviews here over the years, you'll be interested to hear that he's collected them in an ebook called MetaHacks: The Boing Boing Interviews. Though it's not an "official" Boing Boing publication, we surely wish him all the best with it!

Shadow Unit shared world book one is free and DRM-free


Elizabeth Bear writes,

Shadow Unit is an ongoing, now five-year-old science fiction web serial about a mysterious "anomaly" that causes affected human beings to simultaneously develop superpowers and sociopathy--and about the law enforcement agents who struggle to contain the crisis.

In more formal terms, it's is a semi-real-time semi-interactive shared-world hyperfiction narrative--which is to say, a story in which you can interact with some of the characters much of the time. It's the brainchild of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, and is written by Elizabeth Bear, Holly Black, Leah Bobet, Amanda Downum, Sarah Monette, Chelsea Polk, and Stephen Shipman--with art by Amanda Downum and Kyle Cassidy.

Shadow Unit's producers have always made the entire narrative available on a donation model on the website and its associated social media. We've also produced a series of ebooks (available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords)--and the first volume is available as a paper book. For a limited time (We're not yet sure how limited!) we're also giving the first ebook (Shadow Unit #1) away for free.

Shadow Unit 1 (Thanks, Bear)

Commensense about ebooks

Joanna Cabot's An Open Letter to E-Book Retailers: Let’s have a return to common sense is just what you'd hope for from a post with a title like that: three commensensical points about ebooks, licensing and DRM that I generally agree with (though I quibble a little here and there). 1. If your button says "Buy this ebook," then I own it. 2. Ebooks are read by households, not devices or the users to whom they're registered. 3. It's not piracy to share the kids' ebooks you buy with your kids. (Thanks, Dan!)

Kindle user claims Amazon deleted whole library without explanation

When your Kindle is wiped by Amazon without explanation, refund, or appeal, it's time to wake up and realize the truth: ebook readers treat you as a tenant-farmer of your books, not an owner. You have no rights, only a license-agreement that runs to thousands of words, and that you'll never fully satisfy.Read the rest

Humble Ebook Bundle breaks the $1,000,000 barrier

Just now, a few minutes before 10AM Pacific, the Humble Ebook Bundle crossed the $1 MILLION mark. Yes, it's an arbitrary round number, but it's a BIGGUN! For those of you who haven't clocked it, the Humble Ebook Bundle is a collection of 13 ebooks -- science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels -- for which you can name your price, and designate some or all of your money to charity in the process. I'm over the danged MOON. You've got just about three days to get in on the deal before it vanishes!

Price discrimination without coercion: the Humble Ebook Bundle

My latest Guardian column is "Giving online customers the chance to pay what they want works," which describes the thinking behind the Humble Ebook Bundle, a bold name-your-price ebook promo that launches today:

What if the experience of purchasing electronic media was redesigned around making you feel trusted and sincerely appreciated? What if you knew that the lion's share of the money you spent on electronic media went straight to the creator? What if, in short, you knew your honesty would be rewarded with a fair deal for all parties?

Of all the ideas from the heady days of internet futurism, none is as fraught as "price discrimination," the practice of charging different rates to different customers for the same product. Price discrimination is a mainstay of the travel industry, where airlines and hotels try all manner of tricks to try and figure out who's willing to pay more and charge them accordingly.

For example, travellers who won't endure an overnight Saturday stay are presumed to be travelling on business, charging the ticket to someone else, and therefore less price-sensitive. So itineraries with Saturday stays are often much cheaper than those without.

Region-coding on DVDs is a crack at this: the cost of producing a DVD is very low, so the retail price is pretty much arbitrary. The studios thought they could offer goods at one price in rich countries, and a lower price in poor countries, and use region-codes to prevent the flow of cheap versions from the poor world to the rich world. But DVDs actually cost something to produce on a per-unit basis. What about purely digital goods?

Giving online customers the chance to pay what they want works

Humble Ebook Bundle: Name your price for eight bestselling, ass-kicking sf novels


I'm delighted to announce that the Humble Ebook Bundle is live! Based on the wildly successful Humble Indie Bundles for distributing video games on a name-your-price basis, the Humble Ebook Bundle is a name-your-price collection of awesome entertainment that also helps you support three great charities.

The Humble Ebook Bundle boasts eight science fiction and fantasy books by Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Lauren Beukes, Kelly Link, Paolo Bacigalupi, Mercedes Lackey, and me (!). Name your price for these great books (you'll need to pay more than the average to date for the Scalzi and Gaiman) and then choose how much of your payment to divert to our chosen charities: Child's Play (games for children's hospitals), EFF (defending your digital rights) and the Science Fiction Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund (saving sf writers from medical ruin). The books come in a variety of formats for all ereaders, and there is no DRM!

The previous Bundles have raised over $7,250,000 for charity, and also demonstrated that creators and their audiences can cooperate with one another, eschewing digital rights management and trusting one another to do the right thing.

I'm especially excited that my latest novel, Pirate Cinema, is part of the Bundle. Tor Books were fantastic about giving me permission to add a new release title -- it's only been out for a week! -- to this experimental Bundle. Tor is also donating its share of the proceeds to the SFWA medical fund. There is no better way to reward Tor and these authors for saying no to DRM and restrictive user-agreements, and no better way to support the writers you love, than to buy this Bundle.

I volunteered to curate this Bundle, and I'm incredibly proud of the collection we assembled. You've got two weeks to take advantage of this promotion, and there's more surprises to come!

Humble Ebook Bundle

How DRM screws people with visual disabilities: a report from the front lines

ZDNet's Rupert Goodwins is going blind. Most of us will lose a substantial fraction of our visual acuity, should we live long enough. As a service to his readers, Goodwins is documenting the way that technology can be adapted for people with visual disabilities. It's a fascinating story: as he says, "there's never been a better time to go blind: we are busy converting the world to digital, and digital is supremely easy to convert."

But that's only true as long as there's no DRM in the mix. Once DRM gets into your information stream, your ability to adapt what's happening on your screen to work with your disability is severely curtailed. As Goodwins discovered, the world of ebooks is especially hard on people with visual disabilities.

...[I]t turned out I needed Adobe Digital Editions to 'manage my content'. Some fun later — you have to download it from a particularly brain-dead web page with teeny-tiny dialog boxes that were broken in Chrome and invisible in Firefox — and I had a large blob of code to install on my Windows box.

It tried, of course, to force me to give Adobe my email and other details for the 'Adobe ID' that it assured me I needed to get full functionality. I demurred... and was confronted by a user interface that was tiny white text on a black background. Unreadable. Options to change this? If they exist, I couldn't find them.

Getting this far had taken me half an hour fighting my way through a nest of misery and frustration with broken eyes and a sinking heart. Along the way, I'd been bombarded by marketing messages telling me to "enjoy the experience" and "enjoy your book".

Reader, I wept. Marketing departments, here's a top tip: if your customer is reduced to actual, hot, stinging tears, you may wish to fine-tune your messaging.

This is the reward you get for being disabled and wanting to do the right thing. This is how the world's most splendid machine for freeing our minds from our physical shackles is itself being shackled. This is what will happen to all of you reading this as you get old. I know this, I've done the research: most of you will start to go blind before you die.

Going blind? DRM will dim your world

A Medieval Bestiary: When a book breaks your heart

This review is cross-posted on DownloadTheUniverse, a group blog that reviews science-related ebooks and discusses the future of the written word.

An illustration from the The Royal Bestiary, depicting a unicorn laying its head on the lap of a lady. Presumably, the illustrator had never seen a unicorn, nor (one suspects) a lady.

A Medeival Bestiary is just not that into me.

We should have gone so well together. It was a scanned copy of The Royal Bestiary, a 13th century manuscript stored in the British Library, enhanced for the iPad with text and audio interpretation on every page. I was a giant nerd. Clearly, a match made in heaven.

But I don't think it's going to work out.

It's not that the book is terrible. In fact, parts of it are, objectively, pretty damn cool. We are, after all, talking about an opportunity to virtually thumb through the pages of a very old book. And the scans are excellent. You can see stains on the vellum, and the margin lines drawn by the scribe or illustrator to make certain that text and images were put into just the right place on every page. You can zoom in on the beautiful, colored and gilded drawings of bees and eagles, lions and centuars. On every page, there is, indeed, a little tab that you can tap to learn more about the animals you see in the pictures – especially helpful for the book's many imaginary animals, such as the leucrota. Leucrotas, you may be interested to know, happen when a male hyena mates with a female lion. The result of that partnership looks, for some reason, rather like a horse, but with a forked tail and a creepy, Jack Nicholson smile. The Medieval Bestiary assures me that the leucrota's "teeth" are actually a single piece of sharp bone, curved into a U shape. If I tap the "Listen" button, this information will be read to me by a soothing, female, British voice.

Read the rest

Librarians to Hachette: Seriously? You want to triple the cost of ebooks?

The American Library Association has decried Hachette's decision to increase the cost of library ebooks by 220 percent. Hachette is the same publisher that has demanded that authors it publishes lean on Tor books to reinstate DRM on their books. Way to handle the 21st century, folks.

"After these tentative steps forward, we were stunned to learn that Hachette plans to more than double triple its prices starting October 1. Now we must ask, “With friends like these …’

"We are weary of faltering half steps and even more so of publishers that refuse to sell ebook titles to libraries at all. Today I have asked the ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group to develop more aggressive strategies and approaches for the nation’s library community to meet these challenges.

"Libraries must have the ability to purchase a wide range of digital content at a fair price so that all readers have full access to our world’s creative and cultural resources, especially the many millions who depend on libraries as their only source of reading material.”

This Just In: ALA Decries Hachette’s 220% Library Ebook Price Increase (Thanks, Aaron!)

StoryBundle: pay what you like for DRM-free ebooks

StoryBundle publishes and promotes ebooks by bundling them and letting readers pay what they want: a sales model that's proven itself with games and apps, and a great way to sample new voices.

There are a fixed set of books that we offer in a bundle, and each bundle is available only for a limited time. If you miss out on the bundle, you'll have to buy the books individually from each author. We only have one bundle on sale at a time, once it's gone, it's gone.

Again, one of the central concepts is that you get to decide how much each bundle is worth to you. Think each individual book in a bundle of five books is worth $2? That's fine! Pay $10 and get five books! Only think they're worth $1 because you're not sure if you like a certain genre? That's fine too. If you want to reward these authors and encourage more independent writers by giving a bit more, that's fantastic as well. One reason we started StoryBundle is because indie authors need our support, and we want to do our part in showcasing awesome writers.

The current bundle features five SFF titles from Geoffrey Morrison, Lou Hood, Joseph Nasisse (previously at BB), with two bonus books for high rollers. Best of all, the bundles are totally DRM-free.

StoryBundle

Channel Sk1n: Jeff Noon's first novel in 10 years

Alex sez,

Seminal science fiction author Jeff Noon has a new book coming out called Channel Sk1n. This is Jeff's first novel in 10 years, and what makes it even more exciting is the fact that Jeff has chosen to publish it independently, and as an ebook before print. After decades of working with the publishing industry Jeff wants the freedom to create, to interact with his fans 24/7 and to be as prolific as he likes with his writing. He's hoping this new venture will amplify his creative freedom and build on the truly original work he's been doing recently on Twitter @jeffnoon, whence his 140 character fictions have been rippling through cyberspace.

The new book, which reflects on ideas of parasitic media, fame and a possible new 'human' interface, follows popstar Nola Blue on a journey of mutated self-discovery. The ebook is available from Amazon Kindle store, and there's more info on his website.

Channel Skin

Free NASA iPad book on space food

There are some topics that inspire an almost universal fascination—weird animal penises, for instance ... or, more SFW-ly, space food. The question, "what do people eat in space?", quickly leads down a rabbit hole of strange preparation machines, esoteric packaging, and futuristic gels. Decades after we gave up on a 1950s idea of what the 21st century would be like, space food remains this sort of weird holdover, combining modern science with the physical/design sensibilities of a different time.

And there's more to it than just freeze-drying some Neapolitan ice cream. Space menus are highly organized things—a function of limited storage space and long missions to the space station. They're also deeply researched. There's no entree, not even a snack, that reaches the space station without a very good reason for it being there. Caloric intake, nutrient content, every aspect has been thoroughly micromanaged.

At Download the Universe, Veronique Greenwood reviews Space Nutrition, a new NASA ebook for iPad that's available for free download online. The book is written with children in mind, but Greenwood says there's enough detail and behind-the-scenes perspective that adults can get something out of it, as well. The formatting is occasionally frustrating (it only works in portrait mode), but for a free book, it's hard to complain too much.

.. the book's primary charm is in the photographs and asides that you can’t find in a Wikipedia article on the subject. One photogallery is full of snapshots taken by excited Nutritional Biochemistry Lab members as they drive to Kennedy Space Center to pick up astronaut blood samples from the ISS, which they use to determine the effects of space flight on nutrient absorption, bones, and muscles. The shots of the Experiment Payload truck that retrieves the samples and of the little blue NASA duffel bags they are carried home in give the process of space research a refreshing physicality.

And spaceflight seen from a food scientist's point of view is endearingly kooky. Crumbs are a big no-no for space foods—they fly around and clog the instruments. Tortillas that last almost a year, on the other hand, are a very exciting development, the authors write, because you would need three hands to make a traditional sandwich with two slices of bread and a slice of baloney in space. The book's history of manned spaceflight missions reads like no other you'll find. Gemini: Shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, pudding, applesauce. Apollo: bread slices, cheddar cheese spread, frankfurters, fruit juice. Skylab: steak, vanilla ice cream.

Read the rest of the review at Download the Universe

Amazing Stories reboot offering a free issue

Steve sez, "Amazing Stories magazine is in the process of being resurrected. In order to satisfy trademark registration requirements, have some content to capture a bit of attention and to help get the ball rolling for a future fund raiser, the publisher - The Experimenter Publishing Company - is offering anyone and everyone the opportunity to obtain a free copy of the Ezine."

Amazing is the oldest sf magazine in the world, founded by Hugo "Award" Gernsback himself in 1926. I have been published in one of its many incarnations along the way. Nice to see it still around, and DRM-free, to boot.

Get A Copy of Amazing Stories Relaunch Prelaunch Issue (Thanks, Steve!)

All Tor books are DRM free from today on

Following up from their announcement earlier this year, all ebooks from Tor/Forge -- the largest science fiction publisher in the world -- are now DRM free, in all ebook stores, for all platforms. I'm incredibly proud to be published by Tor, and moreso today.

“It’s clear to us that this is what our customers want,” said senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden. “We see it in the success of SF publishers like Baen and Angry Robot that have preceded us in going DRM-free. To the best of our knowledge we’re the first division of a Big Six publishing conglomerate to go down this road, but we doubt very much that we’ll be the last.”

The new DRM-free editions are available from the same retailers that have sold Tor e-books in the past. In addition, the company expects to begin selling titles through retailers that sell only DRM-free books.

Tor/Forge E-Books Are Now DRM-Free

Kathe Koja's The Cipher, brilliant horror novel, back as an ebook

I've mentioned Kathe Koja's fantastic, erotic, terrifying debut novel The Cipher before, and celebrated her recent return to horror after a long stint of writing amazing YA novels.

Now I'm delighted to report that The Cipher is back in print as a $3.99 DRM-free ebook, thanks to the good folks at Roadswell, a new ebook imprint.

The Cipher

Self-published automation book is out, at a researched price


John, a lighting/show automation guy, has written a new edition of Show Networks and Control Systems, a book about networking for automation techs.

He sez, "Back in January, Cory re-posted my analysis of the reader survey I used to determine the price and title of my newly self-published book. Self publishing has been a fascinating process, and the survey actually led me to price the book higher ($50) than I had originally thought was feasible. That's $8 less than my publisher was charging, but high enough to give me discounting flexibility.

"For example, I'm running a contest on my website this week (link provided) to give away a copy to the reader who can come closest to guessing the number of times I use the word 'Ethernet' in the book. Every one who enters gets a discount code for $5 off the book. The other cool thing about self publishing is that once I've recouped my costs (copy editor, cover designer, graphics assistant, ISBN and Library of Congress numbers) I can reconsider the price."

Show Networks and Control Systems Book Now Available! Win a Free Copy! (Thanks, John!)

PT Barnum's get rich slow advice

Austin "Steal Like an Artist" Kleon pulls the Table of Contents from PT Barnum's 1880 book Art of Money Getting (which Mark wrote about last year), noting "Like most prescriptive books (including my own) you could probably write a whole book simply stating the opposite, but there’s so much in this book I love..."

* Don’t mistake your vocation
* Select the right location
* Avoid debt
* Persevere
* Whatever you do, do it with all your might
* Depend upon your own personal exertions
* Use the best tools
* Don’t get above your business
* Learn something useful
* Let hope predominate, but be not too visionary
* Do not scatter your powers
* Be systematic
* Read the newspapers
* Beware of “outside operations”
* Don’t indorse without security
* Advertise your business
* Be polite and kind to your customers
* Be charitable
* Don’t blab
* Preserve your integrity

P.T. Barnum, The Art Of Money Getting (1880) (via Beth Pratt)

Why the ebook you want isn't for sale in your country

Tor Books' senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden takes to the comments of John Scalzi's Whatever to explain why ebooks are often not available at all places in the world at the same time. It's a combination of the way that publishers feel about e-rights (publishers who acquire print rights almost always demand e-rights, too), the fact that writers and their agents sometimes feel that they can make more money by selling to different publishers in different regions, and the fact that ebook retailers have a hard time keeping things straight when it comes to who has the right to sell where, and generally default to the "safe" choice of not selling at all when there's any doubt.

John and his agent could have sold us the “World English” package of rights, which would entitle us to publish the book in English everywhere–we would certainly have been willing to offer for that–but instead they opted to take the slightly riskier path of selling us rights only in our core market, reserving the “UK-and-a-bunch-of-Commonwealth-and-former-Commonwealth-countries” package to themselves, in order to try to sell it separately to a British publisher. (This is a slightly riskier path for most genre writers who aren’t top-level New York Times bestsellers, because British publishers don’t really buy very much SF and fantasy from the US below that sales level. This wasn’t always the case but it certainly is now.) After a period during which I imagine John’s agent shopped the book around to various British publishers (I don’t know the details because it’s, literally, not my business), they accepted an offer from Gollancz. However, that deal was concluded just a month or two ago, so it was vanishingly unlikely that Gollancz was going to get their edition out simultaneously with ours. I believe their edition is scheduled for November...

The more interesting question you ask is: Why can you, in South Africa, buy a copy of the US REDSHIRTS hardcover from (for instance) bn.com in the US, but you can’t buy the US e-book edition? Why do online retailers pay attention to your address and credit card when assessing your eligibility to buy an e-book, while being willing to ship any edition of any print book anywhere?

The answer is a little arcane, but bear with me. The fact of the matter is that, when it comes to traditional printed books, neither the retail booksellers nor their customers (that’s you) are party to the contracts between John and his various publishers. Our contract with John says that _we_ won’t sell our editions of his book outside the territories in which John grants us exclusive and non-exclusive rights. Gollancz’s contract with John says that _they_ won’t sell their editions of his book outside the territories in which John grants them exclusive and non-exclusive rights. But if Amazon buys a bunch of copies in the US and someone in South Africa says “Hi, here’s my credit card, send me one,” no contractual agreement has been violated. Amazon owns those books, not us. They can do what they want with them, including selling them to people in South Africa, Shropshire, or the moons of Jupiter. Amazon is not John Scalzi, Tor, or Gollancz. You are not John Scalzi, Tor, or Gollancz.

One small quibble with Patrick's otherwise excellent explanation: there are, in fact, some international restrictions on what's called "parallel importation" or "grey market selling," where a retailer imports goods intended for sale in country X and offers them for sale in country Y. Recent trade treaties (especially ACTA and TPP) have attempted to strengthen these restrictions, and an apocalyptically stupid Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Decision has further eroded this practice.

The entertainment industry's representatives deliberately blur the lines between counterfeiting, infringement and parallel importation. When you hear that ACTA is a treaty intended to fight "counterfeiting," you probably don't think that the "counterfeit" jewelry, DVDs, books, and perfume under discussion is the actual, bona fide item, manufactured for sale in poor countries and imported without permission to a rich country. Most of us understand that a "counterfeit Omega watch" is a fake Omega watch, not a real Omega watch that was manufactured for sale in India and then imported to the USA.

The white-hot center of this stupidity is the watch trade. For example, "genuine Rolex products can only be imported with the permission of the trademark owner, Rolex Watch U.S.A. Inc. A private individual can hand carry one Rolex watch from a trip overseas without obtaining permission. Bring in more than one, and they will all be seized as a trademark violation. Purchasing a Rolex from overseas by mail is also a trademark violation."

Why is the ebook version not made available worldwide considering there are no physical constraints that may apply for the hardcopy version?" (via Making Light)

(Image: International currency, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 53936799@N05's photostream)

Indie author gets sticker shock from Amazon "delivery fees"


Andrew Hyde wrote and self-published a great-looking travel book and put it up for sale on Amazon, iBooks, B&N, and an indie marketplace called Gumroad that retails the PDF. The book had an exciting launch and the sales on Amazon were really high, but he got some sticker-shock when he found out that Amazon was charging very high "delivery fees" for his books, even when the buyers were buying from WiFi. He calculated the book-delivery markup over the rate Amazon charges for website hosting and concluded that Amazon charges authors a 129,000% markup for moving a file from A to B. Apple did better, but are total jerks about it. B&N didn't sell enough to move the needle for him. The whole post is a bracing reality-check.

The file itself is under their suggested 50MB cap Amazon says to keep it under at 18.1MB. The book contains upwards of 50 pictures and the one file for Kindle needs to be able to be read on their smallest displays in black and white and their full color large screen Mac app). I’m confused. Amazon stores a ton of the Internet on S3/EC2, they should have the storage and delivery down. If I stored that file on S3/EC2 it would cost me $.01 PER FIVE DOWNLOADS. Hat tip to Robby for that one. Use Amazon to run your website: .01 to download a file. Use amazon to sell your book: $2.58 per download + 30% of whatever you sell.

Amazon’s markup of digital delivery to indie authors is ~129,000%

...Apple is actually quite good at a flat looking $7 per $9.99 purchase. They host the file and their iBooks Author is fantastic for book creation. Their app store customer service is about as bad as I can immagine (no phone, email or ticket support). You have to play by their rules and their rules happen to include error messages that block your book from being published with the descriptive “Unknown Error.” As a testament to their not giving single fuck, their “Contact Us” is a FAQ with no way to send a message. The book looks amazing on iPads through iBooks though!

Amazon’s markup of digital delivery to indie authors is ~129,000%

The Watt?: Great Kickstarter project aims at helping people better understand energy

The Watt? is an interactive energy primer aimed at making the complicated and completely non-intuitive world of energy use a bit more understandable to laypeople.

I wholeheartedly support any effort to make this stuff make more sense. In the course of researching my book, Before the Lights Go Out, I stumbled across tons of extremely important information that was basic "duh" knowledge to energy experts—but not to you, me, and everybody actually doing the decision making on energy issues.

I ended up focusing on the story of the electric grid, how it works today, and where it might be headed in the future. But there's no way I could cover everything. The Watt? promises to fill in some of those gaps—fleshing out the details on everything from physics and terminology, to economics and technology. There will be some really lovely-looking charts and graphics, guest "speakers" embedded into the e-book, and lots of other cool surprises.

The team behind this is trying to raise funds now through Kickstarter. Their deadline is in 18 hours. If you want to better understand energy systems (or you want to help other Americans better understand them) I suggest making a donation.

The Watt? on Kickstarter

How book publishing learned from music's digital mistake

Rob Reid writes in the WSJ, praising publishing for getting behind ebook publishing by licensing books for electronic formats, rather than boycotting e-readers, as the music industry boycotted MP3 players in its early days, and suggests that publishing may fare better than music because of it. I agree with Reid that publishing has generally handled the digital transition with more grace than record labels, but I think it's worth pointing out that publishing did commit many of the same blunders as the record industry -- notably using DRM (which drives piracy instead of sales), and embracing proprietary formats (which locks their products to vendors' platforms).

This doesn't necessarily make publishers the Einstein to the music world's Ozzy Osbourne. Publishing had music's dismal example to learn from. It is also easier to see the digital light when a game-changing product is released by a major partner and customer, even if Amazon inspires more dread than comfort among publishers. Of course, things haven't gone perfectly smoothly: In April, three publishers—Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins—settled a Justice Department lawsuit alleging they conspired to raise e-book prices. (HarperCollins is owned by News Corp., as is The Wall Street Journal.)

Publishers face many challenges today, and some may be existential—Amazon's dominance, for one, and the potential for authors to sell directly to readers. But as one industry executive wryly observed to me after ticking off a list of his industry's perils, "at least we're not self-immolators."

What To Do When Attacked by Pirates (Thanks, Rob!)

Happy Day Against DRM!

Today, May 4, is the International Day Against DRM, the day in which the Free Software Foundation's "Defective By Design" campaign urges you to celebrate DRM-free media and boycott DRM.

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