Do you feel you’re treated as a potential criminal every time you download an ebook?
That’s how Andy Woodworth feels. In his eBook User’s Bill of Rights, he writes:
I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.
And what makes him feel like this? The copyright notice that most of us add at the front of our ebooks. Thousands of us have followed the excellent Smashwords Style-Guide as we make multi-format versions available, using the suggested wording:
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…
So who reads copyright notices? Well, clearly some people do, and you can understand Andy’s indignation. Just imagine if the same rules applied to print books, and you needed a separate copy for every member of your family. A library in every room!
But it’s not just that the demand is unreasonable. We indie authors need sales and income, certainly, but that’s unlikely to happen unless we can first create a buzz. What’s the best way to do that? With family members and friends. I remember 20 years ago, when my son was about 7, I spent weeks reading Lord of the Rings to him. He doesn’t hate me for it, although he still thinks he’s Aragorn today. We shared our delight in Pratchett together. And later, he introduced me to Wilbur Smith and Jason Fforde. Now, as adults we each buy our own copies.
So, maybe our copyright notice should be active, not passive. Not just allowing sharing, but encouraging it. Here then is my new copyright notice:
Treat this ebook as you would a printed book. If you enjoy it and want to share it with friends and family – as we hope you will – then please do so. The best support you can give is by helping to spread the word about a Rapscallion author or book. All we ask is that you respect the author’s right to make a living from his art: so please do not re-distribute this book in any format for commercial purposes, or modify the content in any way.
If you distribute through Amazon you might have noticed a new checkbox that appeared at the turn of the year as you upload your masterpieces. By default, you opt in to Kindle’s lending program. So, in effect, unless you uncheck the box, you’re probably nullifying any restrictive copyright notice anyway. (To set your mind at rest, if you’re worried this could mean you’ll never see another dime for your work, Amazon only allows each purchased book to be lent once.)
Again we can be pro-active about this and actually encourage our readers to lend. Booklending.com is a free site, not affiliated to Amazon, that makes lending and borrowing Kindle (or Kindle for PC) books a breeze. You log in and enter the details of the book you want to borrow. As soon as someone’s ready to lend it, the deal is done, and like all matchmaking sites, you both live happily ever after – well, for 14 days at least, until the title is automatically transferred back to the book owner’s Kindle.
You may not be a best-selling author yet. You may not have thousands or even dozens of your books in circulation yet, with people willing to lend. People may not be clamouring to get a copy of your book. So much the better – that’s why you need Booklending.com to help build reputation.
Just tell both the readers you have – who love your book of course – that you want them to think of someone whose life would also be forever changed after reading The Lebanese Troubles (er … you can substitute your title here of course, although I’m not forcing you). They both go to the site. One lends; the other borrows. Oh and you might also mention that the owner is welcome to leave a short Amazon review, and that the borrower can at least click the ‘Like’ button and check the content-tags at the bottom of the Amazon page – so that other potential readers will know you’re getting popular, and won’t be shy to buy.
I won’t detain you. You can start now.