Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Thanks to all of you for your input!
danskmacabre, thank you in particular for your detailed "wants". We greatly appreciate it!
Please understand that a bookstore's ability to fulfill a number of the requests I see here is limited based upon the many contractual requirements of publishers and/or distributors. Generally speaking, though, I'm in favor of your suggestions whenever possible. Here are a few specific points to consider:
** DRM-Free eBooks: I'm for them, whenever possible. However, many publishers STILL require DRM. That's not the bookstore's fault. When eReading.com is contractually required to use DRM, we will use Adobe. We believe this choice will offer our customers the most flexibility we can when it comes to DRM-protected content, for better or for worse. It's not a perfect world, but as an end-user myself I much prefer Adobe over being effectively locked into a walled-garden. Obviously, this excludes people who are hobbyists and comfortable breaking DRM.
My take on breaking DRM is that it's illegal. I don't do it and I wouldn't want people to do it to my work if it's something my publisher has elected to require, despite my wishes to the contrary. The fact is, no one is "required" to buy ebooks; they can always buy paper books. The rules are as they are, at the moment. Fortunately, though, I see that changing in favor of customers. Still, there is one practical, common-sense approach that I think should be considered by ALL readers, myself included:
If you purchased a physical book, you’d be able to lend it to one person at a time, as often as you like. You’d also be able to sell it to someone else as you like, but only ONE time every time (unless, of course, you bought it back and then resold it again). I don’t see why a similar policy is unfair for ebooks. For example, a family can own an ebook and share it among their devices, but only one may read it at a time.
As for authors, I think some kind of protection is needed (such as watermarking) to help prevent unfettered piracy. Authors make precious little money as it is, on average. If an individual buys 1 copy of a novel from a so-called "midlist" author and allows it to be distributed to the point that there are 10,000 or more illegal copies out there, it just might destroy the digital market for that novel. Really. Right now, digital sales are helping push print sales; but as print goes away, authors most assuredly WILL suffer from pirated digital content undermining their paid digital sales. Some authors who are friends of mine, names that you would recognize, already are suffering from pirating affecting their ability to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
** "Spamming" via newsletters: I would hope that any bookstore would have a clearly-defined policy where a newsletter subscription is requested by the end-user. I would also hope that a newsletter would actually be useful to the customer, although I must admit I get virtually no use out of the newsletters I receive from the “Big 3” or even the smaller stores. If you don't want a newsletter, however, then you shouldn’t get one if you’ve opted out.
As far as I know every online bookstore gives customers the option to opt-in or out of newsletters and other marketing communications; in my view it should always be a clearly defined option for the customer and not something that is in any way forced upon them.
** Goodreads: Integration with them is just not realistic without the cooperation of their management team. eReading.com has approached them about this idea, but I expect they probably have their own plans for a bookstore in the future.
** Regional sales and distribution issues: These are largely a product of the publishers and their contracts, not the booksellers. As more authors put their backlist work into digital form and maintain more control over their ebook contracts with traditional publishers, I think you'll see this change quite a bit for the better.
** Re-downloading your books: You should always be able to do this. Who does not allow it? Fortunately, I’ve never had to re-download any of my books from any of the stores I frequent, so I’m curious about other people’s experiences.
** Owning your books outright: Not possible because of the contract between the bookstore, the distributor, and the publisher/author. More importantly, however, granting ownership of a digital file is obviously not the same as granting ownership of a physical copy of the same product, for obvious reasons—some of which I indirectly touched upon above.
** Subscriptions: I think there is a bright future for a subscription-based ebook model, but obviously it won't be for everyone. Your mileage will vary on this one, of course. Either way, I don’t believe such programs will interfere too much, if at all, with traditional online bookselling programs.
** Browser downloading: I see things moving more this direction, but it will be a while. While I know some people don’t like readers, I’d have to say that the average customer does like a value-added, non-intrusive app for managing their libraries and other reading-related tasks. However, I think there is room for both. It will be interesting to see if there is a way for the online bookstore space to accommodate both methods in a way that is practical, cost-efficient, and meets all of the legal requirements that a bookstore must adhere to.