Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thoughts about my e-book shopping requirements

This post is partly information and partly a rant. And it's also kind of long. Sorry about that.

One of my favorite self-published authors, M.C.A. Hogarth, recently announced that she'll no longer be distributing her works via Smashwords. Her reasons made sense and fit with what I've seen other authors say about Smashwords – it sounds like it's a complete pain in the butt to work with. But I'm not an author, and I have my own requirements for online bookstores. Hogarth's post got me to thinking about those requirements, and I figured I'd post some of those thoughts.

When I first started buying e-books, one of my big rules was that I would not buy DRM-protected e-books. I bought my very first Nook a little over three years ago and, since then, I've only broken my rule only once. I wanted to see how hard DRM would be to deal with, particularly if I purchased a DRM'd e-book from somewhere other than Barnes & Noble. The answer was “very hard.” There was a glitch when I tried to authorize my Nook via Adobe Digital Editions, and I couldn't figure out how to transfer my book from my computer to my Nook. This meant that my legally purchased book could only be read on my computer, unless I stripped the DRM off.

I know there are lots of people who buy DRM-protected e-books and then merrily strip the DRM off. One, I'd rather not have to deal with that. Two, I don't want my dollars to make it look like I support DRM. So, I specifically look for sources of e-books that make it easy for me to avoid DRM.

Here is a list of the places where I shop and why:
  • All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit – I don't buy as much from here as I used to, because they don't seem to have 50% rebate sales very often anymore. However, this is still my favorite not-publisher-specific e-book shopping site, for several reasons. One, they have shopping cart capability, so I can put together a huge order of books and only pay once. Two, their advanced search allows you to limit your searches by specific file formats, including Epub (DRM-free) vs. Secure Adobe Epub. Three, for every 10 books you buy, you get one free.
  • Smashwords – This site is limited to self-published and small press works, mostly self-published. I avoided it for the longest time, because it was so hard to sort the good stuff from the crap. However, every single book is DRM-free, and there are quite a few freebie offerings. Once a year, during “Read an E-book Week,” many Smashwords authors offer some of their works either for free or at a steep discount, which takes some of the risk out of trying unknown authors.
  • Samhain Publishing – A DRM-free publisher. Their new releases are always 30% off during the first week, which is the primary reason why I buy new Samhain titles from here rather than All Romance Ebooks.
  • Baen Ebooks – Another DRM-free publisher, great for when I need a sci-fi/fantasy fix.
  • Plus occasional purchases direct from other DRM-free publishers, usually because certain books I wanted weren't for sale anywhere else. For example, I've purchased from Bold Strokes Books a grand total of once for this reason (and the site was one of the most terrible I've ever used, unfortunately).
As a Nook owner, I could shop at B&N. I think the Kobo store may also be an option. Here's why I don't shop at either place: I cannot tell what sort of file I'm going to get. Will it have DRM or not? Unless I've missed something, there's no way to know prior to purchasing. I got all excited when I realized that B&N had an advanced search, but, unlike All Romance Ebooks' advanced search, it won't allow customers to limit searches to DRM-free files only. Some DRM-free books on the B&N site will say they're DRM-free in the description, but not all of them.

Another lesser issue I have with B&N and Kobo is that neither site allows customers to add items to a shopping cart and then pay for them all at once. I think I might be one of the last people on the planet who balances her checkbook. I'm not going to go on a 20-book shopping spree if it means I have to mark down 20 separate transactions.

So, back to M.C.A. Hogarth. I already know I like her books, and I know all her books are DRM-free via B&N. I'll move from buying her works at Smashwords to buying them through B&N, although I'll no longer buy a bunch at once. If I had heard about her books later, after her decision to leave Smashwords, would I have bought them via B&N? More than likely not.

Writing this post reminded me, once again, how much I hate the B&N site search options. Why do they have to be so terrible?

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