On ebooks (again)

A message sent to the team at Lifeway.

January 02, 2017Filed under Tech#from-my-outboxMarkdown source

Yesterday, I tweet-complained about Lifeway’s ebook policy; posted here on this site:

For the record: @LifeWay has the single most user-hostile ebook policy I’ve encountered anywhere. Shame on whoever made these decisions.

They invited feedback:

@chriskrycho We’re sorry you feel this way. Please DM us the specifics of your concern. We are always trying to improve.

So they got it. But since the content of my response is not specific to Lifeway—I’ve seen the same kind of user/customer-hostile behavior in many places, albeit not to the same degree—I thought I’d repost it publicly:

Per your request, sending some info about ebooks. To be clear, I know whoever runs the social media account is far removed from this kind of decision, and I don’t hold anyone but the corporate decision-makers remotely responsible.

The current status on ebooks purchased at LifeWay is that you can read them only in the dedicated LifeWay app or in a web view (the latter of which is, frankly, terrible—both as a consumer of many such apps and as a web software developer).

Experientially, this makes for a massively more frustrating experience for the user. There is no reason why a customer should not be able to read the book on her Kindle, his Kobo, her Dell PC, his Mac, etc. except the idea that it will somehow “prevent piracy” to do so.

Empirically, however, these kinds of moves do not prevent piracy. Any and all DRM methods can and will be cracked (and indeed have been).

The net result, then, is a massive inconvenience to customers, with no actual increase in sales for the distributor.

For some corroborating evidence in this direction, please see here. Note especially this comment (emphasis mine):

Protecting our author’s intellectual copyright will always be of a key concern to us and we have very stringent anti-piracy controls in place. But DRM-protected titles are still subject to piracy, and we believe a great majority of readers are just as against piracy as publishers are, understanding that piracy impacts on an author’s ability to earn an income from their creative work. As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year.

Please respect your customers. Let us put the ebooks in whatever reading app or device we choose.

And please also understand that until you do so, I will go out my way to warn people off of buying any ebook from Lifeway, because the current approach is so consumer-hostile.

Again, I understand entirely that the folks running social media have nothing to do with these policies; I hope you’re able to pass it along to those who can and do. Have a great 2017!