My publisher finally decided to upload my list on Smashwords. They arrived at this decision after some research and thought. If you’re an author of an ebook, you should take these factors into consideration, too.

As you know if you’re following this blog, I’ve got Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com links for all my titles. That accommodates everyone with a Nook or a Kindle ereader, which amounts to at least fifty percent of devices out there.

But what about the rest? Especially folks with iPhones or some other Apple device, not to mention Kobo and Sony readers? There are multitudes of iPhones out there, right? At last count, 40 million Kobos worldwide.

My publisher and I used to be Kindle purists. It’s like that old song “On Broadway.” “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” But not having my books accessible to iPhones, etc. misses out on a lot of readers.

Here’s why I used to rely on Amazon and Barnes and Noble: Digital Rights Management, or DRM.

What that means is when you upload on those two sites, your intellectual property has some hard protection against piracy. You’re protected automatically under U.S. and international copyright protection, of course, but go tell that to the pirate sites out there that steal ebooks and then resell them or give them away (I don’t know how the giveaway sites make money, but that’s another question.) With DRM, the purchaser can lend that book to one other person (with the same device) and that’s it. Amazon and Barnes and Noble have ways to monitor that.

Now, three years ago, when ebooks were just emerging as a viable way to read and distribute books, there was a hue and cry against DRM. Why? The theory went that when you buy a print book, you can give it to anyone or can lend it multiple times, so why shouldn’t anyone be able to do the same with an ebook? That DRM was controlling and dictatorial.

I’ve always thought this argument was bogus because an ebook can be recopied once or a million times digitally. You obviously can’t, as a private person, reprint a print book the same way. If a specific copy of a print book could somehow be passed around to a million people, it would go hand to hand to hand, and I suspect it would fall apart long before it reached the millionth person. That’s just not the case with an ebook.

But, today, even Amazon and Barnes and Noble include a non-DRM option when you upload your ebook. In fact–head’s up–non-DRM is the default (and you can’t change it once the option is chosen). So if you want DRM, you have to choose it. My publisher and I always do. Why do they have that option? (They didn’t used to.) Because the purchaser can then lend the book—still under the one-reader rule, I assume—to someone who has a different device. And Amazon, at least, supports a number of devices, including Android. With DRM, you can only lend the book to another Kindle.

What does this have to do with Smashwords? Smashwords has an ingenious program that converts your Word .doc file into every type of ebook digital format there is! It’s affectionately called “The Meatgrinder,” and your .doc file must have the correct format to pass the conversion. Smashwords supplies a fantastic free format guide on their site. (We studied the guide to format all my ebooks for Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and the results have been wonderful.) To enable Smashwords to supply your ebook to every vendor out there in all these different formats, though, the file has to be DRM-free. Period. End of discussion.

We resisted going to Smashwords for this very reason.

Is ebook piracy a serious problem? Oh, yeah. Many-millions-of-dollars-lost-to authors-and-publishers serious. There are anti-piracy services and programs out there, but let’s face it. Authors and independent publishers count every coin. For us right now, a service isn’t feasible. There are other things you can do, of course. Google your ebook and study what comes up. If your ebook shows up on a strange site other than the legitimate vendors, go there and demand that they take your ebook down. Sometimes they will.

So there you have it, my friend. We weighed the lost opportunities of not having my ebooks distributed to the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, Sony, and all the rest against the possibility of piracy. We decided to take the chance and have faith in our fellow human beings.

Smashwords ebooks contain the following language on the title page:

Smashwords Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting my hard work.

Will that do the trick? Gosh, I hope so!

Please note a lot of preparation and time goes into uploading each book. I’ve got Smashwords links for Summer of Love, A Time Travel (see the following post) and The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series (see the post tomorrow). I’ll post the links for the rest of my list as I receive them and will reissue the Virtual Bookstore when all the links are in place. Thank you for your patience!

And if you read ebooks on your iPhone or other Apple device, a Kobo, Sony, or any other reader, check it out!

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more. And on my Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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