Today’s Topic: I Didn’t Know About eBook Pirating - Digital Designers, Protections & Self Publishing Mistakes…
Where do we start with today’s episode? I’ve been in the marketing, advertising, and book business for most of my career and the one thing that gets under the skin as a professional in any industry is when someone has a quick fix solution or work around for the thing you do professionally with great pride.
Now, it’s not something to get agitated about, because business people need quick solutions and that’s why services like Canva or Fiverr or some of the others are so successful. You have a need and there is a quick fix solution to keep rolling along in your business. But, there’s a huge difference between digital and print that is a bit challenging to explain to someone that doesn’t have a background in it.
Print is nearly obsolete these days outside of the book industry. Most things go into a system and output digitally or you create digitally and it arrives in your mailbox a short time later. A book is a different animal and it sometimes takes a bit of explaining to help out a new author or anyone not familiar with how things get created in different environments and why people like me exist. So, let me help you understand how you can have a great relationship with a professional designer while you are working on your book and in the future for all things related to your book.
So, I often get a call from an author that has gone through the process of producing a book with me or someone affiliated with my system… they need something and don’t know who provides it and have no idea the time allocation required to get it or they might not even know they could be approaching the satisfaction of their needs differently.
I often get a call… “hey I need my book cover…can you send it to me?” I ask what they need it for. "Oh, I’m creating an eBook."
My first thought is that I try to make it clear to all my clients that I do eBook’s. I’m not upset they went somewhere else because clearly I didn’t do a good job of communicating all my services. So, my next questions is “who is doing your eBook?” because that might determine what I provide you.
My second thought is that, when they are not using my services, they probably aren’t doing it the right way. Also, that using another service means its going to be hard later if there are changes. There is lots of room for mistakes and errors.
Since the original manuscript is in my hands (not in the other rogue designer’s) there is always going to be an inconsistency in files if a change in content needs to happen. Since I haven’t usually given the other designer access to the original file they are doing some kind of copy and paste to gather the content. My next thought is that this other designer may not be ethical or knowledgeable about the ISBN number or proprietary rights of the author and they could take advantage by selling out the rights to their eBook, or inputting it into improper services. I mean, remember the days of Napster? There were all kinds of corrupt and pirated files all over the place and artists weren’t getting paid. I don’t even want to tell you how many billions are lost in the eBook business due to pirated books. In 2021 it was somewhere around 300 million alone.
According to a report by the International Publishers Association, eBooks currently account for around 20-25% of the global book market. If your eBook gets pirated there is very little you can do to protect your intellectual property. Do you know that I uploaded an eBook for a client once and I forgot to log out of my account and neither of us even noticed that I was collecting the royalties for the sales. Imagine how many stories like this can happen that aren’t so innocent! There are lots of ebook distribution services online and multiple places where unknown copies could exist.
Protecting Your Digital Rights
There is something called Social DRM that might slow down digital theft. Social DRM is a process where the author’s ebook is stamped or watermarked with details such as the authors’s email address and date of purchase. It gets stamped in the top left of each page for example. This can be done for PDF files. It doesn’t negatively affect the author and it can discourage piracy (as it would be obvious who’s shared the file). This is not commonly done in the book industry, nor is it done on the big retailers websites, like Amazon. But, if you only go through a service like Kindle to distribute your eBook, if it is pirated you know it happened there. If you go through some unknown creator on Fiverr lets say, then what they do with your eBook is anybody’s guess.
An author can also limit the number of downloads available but, again, this is not a service on the big retailer sites. You might sell the eBook on your own website then only allow the purchaser to download the book say 3 or 5 times. There are some services like payhip.com that can mange this. I’ve never had to look into this kind of thing for a client but I know I have a future client coming through that is looking to limit and control the production of her material.
So, there really isn’t much an author can do once their material is pirated but, if you do find it in the hands of someone selling it, and you know you didn’t upload it there, then you can simply ask them to stop selling it or get a bit more aggressive with issuing a DMCA notice to the web hosting company. DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The other thing an author can do once they go live with their printed or ebook is to set up a Google alert. This is something I did for my first books but now that I’m thinking about it, I never did it for anything else. A Google alert will let you now when your book or your name is mentioned anywhere on the web. This is a good way to monitor where it’s being talked about or sold. Mention.com is a similar service. You’ll get a sudden rush of alerts if it starts to show up somewhere online and you’ll be able to see where that is.
You generally don’t have to copyright an ebook, but this might also be an option for sensitive information. It won’t necessarily keep the information from being used, but if it is, or someone claims it as their own, then you have a likely copyright legal issue and a good case. However, if you are a new author the cost and time might not be worth it. It’s against the law to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. There will be a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250K for violating the Copyright Act.
Some people think that piracy can be helpful to authors, because it gets your books into the hands of more people … some of whom may become paying readers. When I created my online book publishing program I copyrighted it. The material is from the printed book so, in essence, the book is copyrighted. It’s the same content re-purposed. If someone were to try and teach my courses with my content they would be breaking the law. In fact, when I went to the local FedEx to get my training manual printed they wanted me to sign something in order to reproduce it. I was both flattered and confused. I said, this is my material. If I sign something am I releasing my own rights? Hmmm… that was confusing!
Did you know that you can’t even share pictures or videos of copyrighted books? So, if I ever taught a class I’d have to be careful not to record the screen if I were showing copyrighted information. My students might want to take pictures of the screen shots too and they’d be breaking the law! So, just keep that in mind if this is you. The Library of Congress holds the copyright by the way, so if something is in question you can go to their website to look up the owner of the copyright.
I generally tell all my clients to use Amazon’s Kindle to upload their eBook and only use Amazon. I also like to keep the ebook as a fixed file format as this can make pirating it slightly more challenging. You can sell exclusive with Amazon and make a slightly bigger return. Nothing in the ebook world will likely produce any monumental profit however. But, you will see sales numbers in reports and will have a pretty good idea how your ebook is selling and the income it’s generating. If the numbers start to change than it’s a pretty good indication it’s been pirated. This is where something like a Google alert would be helpful because now you might be likely to find the place it’s selling.
You know, lots of people think if they don’t sign up with the big retailers they can control the pirating but in fact it might be worse unless you have a pretty talented tech person and a way to watermark the material or limit downloads or track who buys from your website, but you can’t really track who shares your material. On that note, lets talk about public domain libraries briefly…
Public Domain Libraries
There used to be something called Z-Library. It was one of the internet’s largest pirated e-book databases, which are also called “shadow libraries,” Z-Library offered more than 10 million e-books and 86 million articles at its peak, with a limited number of monthly downloads accessible to millions of users free of charge, and more available for a small fee. Many college students were known to use this website. Z-Library was far from the only shadow library on the internet, but there are plenty of non-pirated options for free e-books - like Open Library and OverDrive.
Meanwhile, Project Gutenberg specializes in public domain e-books. When you go to the Projectgutenberg.org page you will see that it is a library of over 60K ebooks. It’s mission statement is "To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.” Basically, any book published with a copyright before 1923 has entered the public domain. Any work published between 1923 and 1977 retains it’s copyright for 95 years. The copyright on any work published in later years expires 70 years after the author’s death or 95 years after publication in the case of a corporate work. Generally what is found here are older books… more historical writing, but there is also a more modern version called the Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press and it houses more contemporary and poetry books. You can find this at self.gutenberg.org.
Returning to Online Designers
Alright, I got a little off topic here but, I want to return to the idea of someone on Fiverr (or any other online design service) doing an eBook or a book cover for you. The random online designer might do a great job but, not be available for changes or future re-prints. They are likely doing this work in passing as it’s not very profitable for them to continue working for these low rates. They tend to come and go… never to be found again when you return.
We’ve talked about the issues of piracy and file ownership, but we haven’t talked so much about distribution sources or printing issues that will occur and how the online designer is unable to support this.
It might be that you are having your Fiverr connection help you create the file and once you get it you are able to choose where you distribute it. I wouldn’t have it any other way as you have no idea where else this person might upload your file to make a profit or they might even place it in a free ebook database. If you haven’t signed any kind of agreement (and you likely haven’t) you just don’t have a lot of control. You are always taking your chances with this kind of environment. But, when it comes to printing something created in the environment, you are going to have oodles of issues!
It’s nearly impossible for a designer to design much more than a front cover of your book in these kind of environments. Because the designer doesn’t know where you are printing the book, its going to be very challenging for them to know the proper dimensions of you jacket and all the bleeds, folds, and margins. This is all going to change depending on whether you are printing soft or hard copy and if you are going to a professional printer or an on demand service. The type of paper and boards you use will also effect the spine width. All these things make it challenging to take any of these online creative relationships much further beyond concepts. So, the idea of saving a buck might be great up front, but in the end you’re going to always want to hire a professional designer to do your ebook, your printed book, and both your interior layout and cover design.
Into the Matrix
I’m gonna totally shift things up here as I bring this episode to a close. Have you heard the term “the matrix”? If you’ve seen the movie then you might have some concept but there’s a school of thought in the metaphysical communities about the matrix being a little different than the movie. It’s often referred to as the place where all information exists. Some might even confuse this with the Akashic records. This would be another place where it can be said that the records of each soul exists.
Let’s just go a bit broader here as we think about the rights to information. It can be said that all information exists in a matrix… a matrix of thoughts, ideas, information, records, and knowledge… and it’s a spiritual place that feeds data into the beings living in the matrix. Perhaps from a spiritual place there is no independent thought and all information is intuitively available… because once it has energy it is assessable. If we think of things on a broader and more conscious level perhaps there really is not much that ultimately remains protected. I guess perhaps it becomes a record only released with a like vibrational resonance? That’s a curious thought, no?
I’ll leave you there for now… wishing you peace, love, and light.
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