"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 http://readingandraytracing.blogspot.com/2010/10/drms-and-ebooks.html), 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".
- It has a Cloud-like library (see my related post http://readingandraytracing.blogspot.com/2010/12/books-in-cloud.html)
- 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.
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.
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 :
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!