Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Love Smashwords ... don't you ?

Roughly one year ago, I became the proud owner of an ereader. A few months later, I became aware of Smashwords. Now, the first step when considering buying an ebook is to check it's presence on Smashwords. If present, that's one major good point. And with a few exceptions, when buying there, I buy from the Smashwords website.

Why ?

"Ideological reasons" :
  • I don't like "monopolies", hence I prefer my money going in "smaller players" pockets. I know Amazon is no monopoly, but it has a dominant position, and I think everyone benefits if it's kept from becoming one. Each ebook cent I put in Smashwords pocket is one less in Amazon's, and one more in its opposition's.
  • I don't like DRMs (reasons explained in THIS OTHER POST, and Smashwords is clearly opposed to them as seen in the FAQ).
  • It has no geo-restrictions, either hard (as B&N does, which prohibits me from buying ANY books for my Nook from them), or soft (like Amazon's International $2 surcharge).
  • It "benefits" writers due to it's high royalties rate (for direct selling) : 85% regardless of the price/geo-location (I'm pointing at you Amazon), except if the sell is through an affiliate in which case it's  70.5%, 11% going to the affiliate.
  • Multi-format (Kindle/azw, epub, pdf, text,html) downloads enable users to use whichever reading device/software they want.
  • Smashwords as a company has stated AND SHOWN that it follows a few goals that coincide with my "ethics".

"Practical reasons"
  • It has a Cloud-like library (see my related post
  • It's an "easy way" for writers to distribute to high number of  retailers (except Amazon) without having to negotiate/register at each one.
  • Coupons allow writers lots of marketing promotions and to "gift" books without having to pay. Wide range of coupons.Since I can't use any "direct" buying from my reader (a Nook, abroad), I have to sideload anyway. Not a reason per se, but an acknowledgement that if I had an ereader-included 1 click buying app I would be tempted to use it instead.

Mixed :
I'm mixed on the "reviewing" system : Only people having "bought" the book can review it. On one hand, this "ensures" that people having it have at least access to it to review. This of course makes sure that Hordes of non-readers are unable to post bad reviews, but on the other hand with coupons an author can still ensure "hordes" of good reviews. It also limits the number of reviews, since readers having read a non-smashwords version are unable to post on SW. The small number of reviews in turn diminishes the "legitimacy" of the reviews. Amazon, with its two classes of reviews manages it best I think.
A mitigating way to manage that (and maybe a smart way to help readers regarding "portability") can be to add in your Amazon/Kindle book a coupon for acquiring the book at Smashwords too...

What I don't like :
  • The Smashwords formatting and MeatGrinder seem difficult for authors, and doesn't necessarily allow them to format the final files as they want, hence discouraging authors to publish through them.
  • There is no integrated easy way to organize the library. Only a pseudo Wish-List (books you've added) and a purchased list : "Books I've purchased".
  • The "search" is quite dumb and not sophisticated enough. 
  • Likewise some kind of "also bought" like feature, and other "curation" would be appreciated.
  • While addressing remarkably well international authors, the website is only available in English (minor) but misses a "language" filter, which could allow easier access to non-English content. 
  • The Meatgrinder uses Word as input. I understand that an other format (such as ODT) would force writers still an other tool to write, the Word format is NOT standardized, not standard, and belongs to the Microsoft monopoly. 
  • There is no fully integrated "1 click" buying software that I know of, but I may be wrong here. (Stanza anyone ?) 
  • (Stanza seems to be one such application, but is restricted to Apple hardware, Aldiko on Android seems also to allow 'inside app browsing')
  • There is not enough content/customer. One being the consequence of the other.
  • For writer, strategy-wise, putting the book in numerous stores, it dilutes the sells between stores, hence the "top100 effect", unless everyone does the same. 
  • Free books in the library can't be "bought" for free hence are "lost" when becoming paying.

Enhancements :
In addition to finding solutions to the above problems, there are a few enhancements that I think would improve the Smashwords website:

  • Proposing to remove books from the library when they are bought, hence having no dupes between the two "shelves" of the Library
  • Having something like "MicroPay" (Webscription) would go some way to help "impulse buying" (instead of the whole Paypal shebang).
  • Finding (perhaps negociating) a way to get/use reviews/ratings from retailers, which could be used to improve the "reviews" part of the website for example: 3stars at B&N (50 reviews) , 3.5 at AppleStore (20 reviews) --> ponderated at 3.2

And you ? What is your opinion on Smashwords ?

Other Smashwords related related blog posts :
Finally, here a a list of other related blog posts:

Distribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 1
Distribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 2Distribution : the issues of DRM and geographic restrictions
Think Like A Publisher #11… Electronic Sales to Bookstores
Independent Publishing: That’s Evolution!

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Gems

Back from the holidays. I had a great fun, quite a lot of quality time with my family ! But also some time to read. I had taken some ebooks with me, and didn't read them all, but also bought supplementary books. Ebook makes it SO easy ! So I now have a few more "Gems" to share with you.

Great: (4-5 stars on my scale)
Blood of Requiem (Daniel Arenson) $3 at Smashwords
One I forgot to write about last time. Great Fantasy book, where "Were-Dragons" fight for their race. Some new ideas regarding dragons, good writing... The followup just became available at Smashwords.

Stray : Touchstone part 1 (Andrea K Höst) $3 at Smashwords
Just one of Andrea K Höst excellent books. A YA three part story (waiting now anxiously for the third and last part) about a girl "trapped" away from home. Mostly funny/light when the hero "escapes" through humor what sometimes would call a dire situation, but also sometimes grave, all in all a good book.

Sex Zombies (S. Wolf) $3 at Smashwords, $1 @ Amazon
Not for children !! Definitely adults only !! Take a Zombie B movie, Take out the gore, replace it by sex, add humor, shake... and you get a damn good ebook.

Good : (equivalent 3-4 stars)
Arranger (L.J. Sellers) $3 at Amazon, B&N
A thriller set in a "fast-forward" future, just a good mix of action, police work and little romantic interest. I really liked the "cyberpunk-lite" atmosphere and settings, and hope the author (used to more contemporary thrillers) will explore it further.

Talon of the Unnamed Goddess (J.R. Tomlin) $3 at Smashwords
Mix some Ninja/Warriors with "medieval-scale" politics and battles, and you get a book worth it's price and your reading time. Would clearly have been "Great" with some "internal conflict".

Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should (David Gaughran) $3 at Smashwords and PDF for free at the author's homepage
A great source of information for people interested in self-publishing. A great addition/comparison to ...

How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months (John Locke) $5 at Smashwords
John Locke explains the marketing approach he took to sell his self-published books. While his books are fun to read, marketing  is clearly where John Locke excels.

Priscilla the Great (Sybil Nelson) $1 at Smashwords
A MG book about a girl discovering she's got Super-Hero powers... Some kind of mix between James-Bond (villains) and Marvel (powers), with the parodic distance of a MG/YA, without too much angst. A Light, easy read. Your children may appreciate. I did.

These Hellish Happenings (Jennifer Rainey)  $1 at Amazon
Life in Hell is what not it's claimed to be. You may have seen from previous "reviews" how much humor is important to me. It doesn't  miss here either. Still, the book also explores some other deeper themes. A nice read too.