That tricky “Reply to:”
Last month I received the following e-mail  from a new customer:
Hey I bought this book and I’m sharing it with you, you might find it very helpful.
I replied:
I’m assuming both that you didn’t mean to send this e-mail to me, and that you didn’t read the license agreement:-)
Yes, it was a link to one of my books. Didn’t hear back.

You have the right to procrastinate…
Every day I check the eJunkie logs (my download service) to make sure that customers have actually downloaded the eBooks they have purchased. If they haven’t, I send a follow up e-mail, and if they don’t respond within a day or two, I assume something is wrong and issue a refund. A couple of times after issuing a refund, the customer has immediately purchased the eBook again.  I finally got a response from another follow-up to one of these customers who explained (paraphrase),
“It was late when I purchased the eBook and I was doing other things, but I was going to get to downloading it eventually.”
Takes all sorts, but my preemptive refund policy remains in place.

The pirate’s code
My favorite ScribD copyright infringement story is the guy who posted a copy of my most popular eBook there with my name and copyright notification replaced with “For ScribD.” After e-mailing ScribD to remove it, I commented on the guy’s listing, “Stolen eBook.” He messaged my ScribD account with:
“Who are you to say it’s stolen. My friend actually bought this eBook. What are you doing on ScribD anyway?”
What was I doing on ScribD? Running down a copyright infringement turned up by Google.

Conservation of energy
Ten years ago I attended an eBook conference in Washington D.C. co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Standards. It was an early attempt to get eBook publishers and vendors on the same page. I left some horrifically boring session early and ran into the inventor of the Rocket Reader, a Kindle-like device that preceded Kindle by nearly a decade. He was promoting it to everybody who came by, but after holding the thing for a few seconds, I had to hand it back and comment:
“Gee, it’s kind of hot, isn’t it?
They were working on that. I don’t imagine the batteries could have lasted very long when the reader doubled as a space heater.

I’m going to sue, somebody…
Some years ago I got an angry e-mail from an eBook buyer stating that he was going to sue me. Oddly enough, I wasn’t selling any eBooks then, but the follow-up correspondence seemed to indicate that somebody had sold him an eBook that included some material stolen from me. So I contacted the publisher of the eBook to seek clarification, and he sent me a copy. The only link to me was a standard hyperlink for a reference, which his nutty customer had followed and then finding my contact information, decided I was somebody to threaten with legal action. In the meantime, the original e-mailer had started sending “I’m going to sue you” e-mails to the publisher who had already refunded the $6 for the sale, and was now turning to me for legal advice. My advice was that he ignore the whacko, but he seemed so upset over the whole thing that I believe he gave up publishing.

Your money is our money
My second favorite piracy story is the time I had to purchase a pirate mash-up from DocStocin order to prove to them it was a copyright infringement, and the downloaded file included a bonus virus. I received the following damage control e-mail from the CEO or his intern:
I noticed you blog post today at: (gone now) I wanted to check in to first say thank you for bringing this to our attention.   I checked with our staff and I was informed that the document you referenced had been removed from our site.  Please let me know if I can assist any further in this matter.�
Jason Lawrence Nazar
I didn’t chase them for a refund, thinking it would make a good test of their intelligence and sincerity. I didn’t get one.

Mixed media
I take home delivery of a newspaper, which sits on the floor next to my reading chair throughout the day, and my habit for years has been to rip scraps from the newspaper margins to use as bookmarks. A couple months ago, I was coming up on the end of a chapter in a book and decide to stop there and get back to work. I absent mindedly ripped a srap from the edge of the newspaper and held it over the book in preparation for completing the paragraph. After a few seconds of engineering frustration, I realized that I was reading on my Kindle.

A tale of two business models
Just a few weeks ago I blogged about receiving an e-mail from Amazon that they were changing their policy for public domain books. I had recently published my first public domain book as an experiment to blog about, A Tale Of Two Cities, which I chose because there were no free copies available and I wanted to reread it on my Kindle. I was astonished as sales rapidly built to several copies a day, but riches (33 cents a copy) eluded me as Amazon unpublished it. In their e-mail they explained that in cases where a free copy was available, they were limiting the number of undifferentiated editions for sale.

As it turns out, A Tale Of Two Cities is the only new fiction classic Amazon has released free since 2006, which they did a couple weeks after I published my version.  Why? It was added to a “must read” list by Oprah a few weeks ago, and Amazon didn’t want a lot of complaints from Kindle owners who couldn’t find a free copy. So the two business models remain intact. Amazon’s business model is oiling the squeaky wheel and the public domain publishers business model is frictionless publishing made possible by Project Gutenberg.

Ur #1
My favorite Torrent story is the time I found an infringement of one of my titles that had been downloaded so many times that there were 57 thank you notes posted to the pirate. Of course, he had gone the extra mile by including a link to my YouTube video that describes the book. Most of the notes were short and to the point, such as:
 “Gr8!! I’ve been looking for this… Ur #1!!”
 I suppose that makes me #2, which is nothing to brag about if we’re all talking like children.

Autocomplete or Autoaccomplice?

I think this last story, really a sight gag, falls more into the category of sad than funny, but I wanted to get to ten stories and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These days, if I start typing my name into Google to see if I still exist, Google autocomplete offers up the following options:

Up until a couple weeks ago, searches for my blog were more popular than searches for my books on Torrent. I don’t know if that means my eBooks are getting more popular, albeit with the wrong crowd, or if my blog is getting less popular because I’m losing my sense of humor:-)

Posted: 20 Dec 2010 02:03 AM PST