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Old 11-02-2009, 02:24 PM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Smashwords to B&N: Should there be an "Opt-in"?

As I’ve watched Barnes & Noble’s troubles in getting their Smashwords content to properly display on the B&N store (what can I say? They obviously missed some bugs before their big rollout, but these things do happen), it occurred to me: Suppose I liked my content on Smashwords, but for some reason didn’t want it to be available on Barnes & Noble’s site? Should it be easy for me to do one without the other?

I realize not that many authors would necessarily want to exclude their content from the B&N site. But I can think of a few reasons to do so: Concern about security, for one; or a displeasure with the B&N eReader’s display of my books, for another. For people like that, there should be a way to keep your material out of B&N’s site if they wish. But does Smashwords make that easy to do? Can you do it at all? Should it be considered okay for them to do it without my express permission? Or should they have to formally ask?

I think Smashwords should have an “opt-in” (or “opt-out”) button prominently displayed on its publishing or dashboard pages, giving authors the clear choice of having their material forwarded to Barnes & Noble.

According to Smashwords’ legalese, you can do a few things to keep your e-book out of B&N’s catalog. Some of those things are the exclusion of certain material they are looking for (like copyright info). Another thing you can do is to not select the ePub format to convert your e-book (apparently B&N will use the ePub file to do their own conversion, as opposed to using the eReader format you may have already converted your e-book into… interesting). But I had to dig down into the Premium Content pages to find these tips. And for those of us who happen to like the idea of our books being available in ePub, having to de-select one of the fastest-growing formats to keep it out of the B&N store doesn’t seem very right.

There could be a clear “opt-in” on the publishing page the Smashwords member uses to build their e-book offering, or possibly on the member dashboard. Right there, along with pricing and selecting of formats, tag-words, etc, should be a button to check that gives permission to have your material forwarded to B&N (assuming it passes muster otherwise). That would allow users to prepare their Smashwords e-books as they desired, and not worry about how they will appear in the B&N site.

I realize that my very use of Smashwords could be considered a de-facto agreement to allow my material to be uploaded to B&N (though that obviously wasn’t an option when I put them in, but applied after the fact). But I wonder if that’s good enough, legally. I wonder if there shouldn’t be a more obvious “opt-in” choice for Smashwords users. My feeling is yes. What do you think?
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:07 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
But I wonder if that’s good enough, legally.
Their Q&A claims that author can remove his works at any time hence canceling the distribution through Smashwords and its affiliates.

I am not a lawyer, but it does sound difficult to legally challenge any Smashwords action with open contract like that.
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:49 PM   #3
Steven Lyle Jordan
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My point was, you may want the book the book available on Smashwords, but not on B&N. (Perhaps because you don't like some business aspect of B&N, or perhaps because you have a prior publishing agreement that prohibits it.) If that was the case, is it satisfactory not to have a clear "opt-in" or "opt-out" without digging down looking for people to contact and proper wording to use to do so?

For someone like me, who had their books in Smashwords before the word came down about adding them to the B&N site, should I have an easier way to go back and indicate, "No, I do not want this book to go to B&N"? And should I therefore have to remove my books from Smashwords as well?
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Old 11-02-2009, 04:12 PM   #4
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Steve, yes, I think you should have the choice. And it should be clear and easy to use.
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Old 11-02-2009, 04:27 PM   #5
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If anything nothing else, the author should be able to work with B&N to make a better formatted version. We all know how shoddy automatic conversion can be, so, if the author says "I don't like your conversion, but here's a better one." then should be done.
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Old 11-02-2009, 06:03 PM   #6
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I believe there is a checkbox in your Dashboard where you can turn off B&N distribution. But I haven't looked today.
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Old 11-02-2009, 07:39 PM   #7
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Turns out there is a way to opt-out on Smashwords, I just completely missed it. On the dashboard is a new feature, the Distribution Channel Manager link, that takes you to a page and allows you to opt-out. (Actually, I feel like a bit of an idiot for not stumbling on it before.)

Although it does the job, I still feel there should be an opt-in on the page you publish the book on... as opposed to doing the publish, then going to this page and opting-out after the fact. Maybe that's just me.
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Old 11-03-2009, 06:21 AM   #8
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It's an interesting question.

In the world of pbooks, can an author say, for instance, my book will not be sold in WallMart?

(On balance, given that it *should* be easy to support this, I think it should be done, and I guess Kudos is owed to SmashWords for supporting the author's ability to control this....)
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