The Internet Ebook Library and DRM

I’m concerned with my new reader-friendly ebook publishing model, thanks to a post I read on William Patry’s blog. That post, titled “First Sale Victory in Verner”, describes a U.S. district court ruling which challenges the enforceability of certain software license agreements. I don’t have the legal knowledge to determine whether or not it will affect my ebook click license agreements, the comment thread of the post does touch on renting, physical copies and the idea of a “sale” in addition to a “license” version being available. Perhaps if there was no physical package involved, the opinion would have been different, though I couldn’t explain why myself. Patry ends his post with a quote from another blog about books and DRM, which reads, “To any publisher who sees the wisdom of DRM: don't.”

I’m worried about this direction, and that worry is coming from somebody who writes and publishes as living, rather than somebody who writes as an adjunct activity to an otherwise profitable career. I’m pointing this out because for many, especially academics and consultants, the writing of books is a necessary credentialing process for their careers that doesn’t usually generate a significant portion of their income. They often stand to win by wider distribution and fame, without regard to payment for the books. Just as there are two worlds of ebook publishers, the “book” crowd and the “get rich quick” crowd, there are two worlds of authors, full-time and part-time, and we don’t always see things the same way.

Back in the 1960’s, libraries in America may have been the largest customer for published books. I’ve spent so much time in libraries myself that it’s surprising I haven’t turned into one, though my taste in literature is solidly fixed in the 1800’s, meaning the books I read are well beyond their term of copyright protection. Even though libraries have lost some of their importance as a market for trade books as they expand into providing other services for their patrons, I don’t know anybody who argues that they shouldn’t be able to buy books from publishers and loan them out as long as they last.

Now fast forward to the Internet Ebook Library, which doesn’t yet exist. The Internet Ebook Library can serve the entire globe, the ebooks it holds don’t wear out after ten or twenty readings, they don’t take days or weeks to reach their patrons through inter-library loans, and they don’t get lost through improper shelving. The ebook library is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Everybody knows about the Internet Ebook Library, just like everybody knows that Google is the place to go to search the web. It’s that successful.

The Internet Ebook Library pays to license a copy of one of my ebooks, which are printable. I’m a publisher who saw the wisdom of DRM, but decided to gamble on the honesty of people and the validity of my license agreement which holds the ebooks nontransferable. The Internet Ebook Library loans out the ebook, the patron hits “print”, the ebook is returned as soon as the print buffer is empty. Maybe five minutes, maybe fifteen minutes, depends on the speed of the printer. If another patron shows up at the Internet Ebook Library seeking the title while it’s out, they get a message like, “Your expected wait is three minutes.” The copy of the ebook sold (if “licensed” is turned into “sold” by the courts) to the Internet Ebook Library represents the only revenue I earn, barring those individuals who actually like reading ebooks on the screen and decide to buy one from me as an act of charity.

As a publisher and as an author, my reaction would be the exact opposite of the blogs quoted above. I would implement restrictive DRM, the kind that marries an ebook to a particular computer and causes the customer all sorts of headaches if the computer crashes or is upgraded. On the other hand, I might just stop publishing ebook versions of any new titles available and stick with killing trees. And if the library doesn’t completely wipe out the market for new copies, a secondary market could easily spring up places like eBay, where nobody other than the seller would know how many copies of a single paid-up ebook were being resold.

My understanding of why copyrights are granted is that they encourage the production of useful and original works. As I’ve commented before on this blog, few of my favorite authors were aristocrats with trust funds, they wrote for a living and couldn’t have produced a body of work without the protection of copyright law. Perhaps I’m conflating the concepts of copyright and licensing, but I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a crazy guy with tinfoil on his head trying to predict the future of ebooks and DRM.

Two Worlds of Ebook Publishing

As a result of writing about my ebook publishing experiences lately, I've been getting more e-mail on the subject. What I hadn't realized is that there are two completely different groups of ebook publishers. The first group, in which I put myself, are publishers who see ebooks as a supplemental or substitute method for delivering books to customers. The second group are primarily interested in ebooks as a way to make money off the Internet. Call me innocent, but until I started Googling around, I didn't realize that there was this whole subculture of publishing ebooks as a sort of "get rich quick" scheme. Perhaps the most successful of these ebook entrepreneurs are those who sell ebooks about how to get rich selling ebooks. The basic pitch runs something like this:

Start by using a variety of Internet tools designed for advertisers to determine what sort of interest there is in any number of subjects or key phrases. Next, run some test advertising campaigns to find out how expensive it will be for you to get traffic (visitors) using online advertising. Stick the information into a spreadsheet so you can determine the most favorable looking prospect, and then put together an ebook that won't leave your customers feeling completely ripped-off or get you sued for copyright infringement. Last, use internet based advertising to drive potential customers to a serious sales pitch page, and use all of the modern advertising methods available to tweak it for performance.

How the third bit is carried out, actually creating the ebook, determines whether we're talking about a publishing business or a spam business. Most successful publishers do what they can to determine whether or not there's a market for a title before embarking on writing or acquiring it, especially in the how-to and self-help genres. Most publishers don't run test advertising campaigns to gather e-mail addresses for nonexistent books that may never be published, but I'll let that slide as being Internet savvy. It's the way the creation of the ebook is treated as a chore to be gotten through that really gets my goat. Simply drawing up a list of hot subtopics under a more general title and then hiring a copywriter to churn out 30 to 50 pages (that seems to be the target range for purpose-written ebooks) is a good way to end up with the ebook equivalent of webspam. Even if you go the extra mile of interviewing "experts" in the field or including some nicely formatted public domain statistics, it's highly unlikely that a writer who doesn't have any experience or expertise in the subject matter can create value for the reader. At best, it's a form of journalism that might produce an mediocre magazine article or blog post, but not something a person would pay for if they knew what they were getting.

I write and publish books for a living, so I'm clearly not some academic snob who sees authorship as a sacred activity that needs to be its own reward. And as an avid reader of 19th century (ie, "real" literature:-) I can tell you that the vast majority of the classics were written by authors who were not only trying to make money, but some who would have watched their children go hungry had they failed. I believe there's a line to be drawn between books and between text content of sufficient length to be sold as if they were books. I'm not sure whether or not this distinction matters to the folks who promote ebook publishing as a way to make money online, but I do get the impression that they feel they're doing something smart rather than something wrong. Yes, market research and modern advertising methods are smart, but setting out to produce and sell products that have no inherent value is wrong. Of course, these ebook entrepreneurs could throw in my face all of the consumer products that are not only valueless but harmful, and I'd have to eat my words. As long as they're salty and crunchy, I won't complain.

Interview with David Maister

You left a prestigious academic post at Harvard Business School to become an independent consultant, author and speaker, which suggests you have a great passion for your work. Is it possible to teach passion to businessmen, or do you find yourself telling some clients that they're in the wrong business?

No, I don't believe that you can "teach passion." However, you can get people thinking about their work lives, whether they are fulfilled by their careers, and whether they want to do anything about it. I would very rarely tell someone they are in the wrong business - revolutionary changes are not what most people need. They just need to believe that life could be better, and that they can do something about it. (I write about my own career choices in my latest book, STRATEGY AND THE FAT SMOKER.) In many ways, it's like sports coaching - you don't say "Here's the world record, go!" Big changes like that intimidate rather than motivate. Instead, you ask "What's the one improvement you could make that would make things better?" Like all diet and exercise programs, it's about the rules of the journey, not setting ridiculously ambitious targets.

In addition to consulting, lecturing and writing books, you publish podcasts, videocasts, DVDs and subscriptions. As a businessman, do you see all of these outlets as potential revenue sources, or are some of them chiefly intended to enhance your platform?

My activities on the internet have all been a big experiment. I'm very glad I have done them, but I have found that it's very hard, indeed, to monetize things like blogs, podcasts and vidoecasts. They are mostly things which serve to build a reputation for my consulting and speaking services, which is pretty much my dominant (if not quite exclusive) revenue stream. Over the years, I've made some good royalties on my books, but it's always been a very, very minor portion of my income. My books are, in effect, also reputation-building tools, not stand-alone money-makers.

You published your latest book, "Strategy and the Fat Smoker," through your own press, rather than giving it to a trade publisher. What motivated you to make the transition to self publishing?

Like many of my friends and colleagues, I have been disappointed over the years at dealing with publishers. Basically, it's hard to see what added value they provide. Even if they publish your book, it's up to you to market your own book and hire your own PR people (if any). In the old days, they provided a convenient way to get things like typesetting, design and editing done, but even these tended to be done in a cursory way. I know of no-one who has been very happy with what was done on their behalf. Nowadays, of course, all of these services are obtainable easily, so you don't have to do a "package deal" with the publisher.

It's still true that the "supply chain" of book distribution is designed around the large publishers. For example, while you can get a self-published book listed on Amazon, it's very hard to get one into the retail chains or the airport bookstores. In addition, it's hard (though not impossible) to get the media to take seriously and review a self-published book. I made it happen through a great PR guy (Mark Fortier at Fortier Public Relations) but it was a lot of work.

Do you see yourself continuing to publish your own books in the future, or did you find the extra work and up-front expenses a poor trade-off for full control of the process and the publisher's share of the profit?

The jury is still out. Both sides of your question are true - it WAS a lot of administrative detail and hard work taking responsibility for the book production and distribution, but it also DID feel good to be able to make all my own decisions. Right now, I'm in the "post-partum" stage, so the thought of another book is the last thing on my mind.

If I thought I could find a publisher who'd really get behind my books, I'd switch back in a minute. But I'm not holding my breath!

David Maister is widely acknowledged as one of the world's leading authorities on the management of professional service firms. For twenty-five years he has advised firms in a broad spectrum of professions, covering all strategic and managerial issues. His first book on professional businesses, Managing the Professional Service Firm, was published in 1993, followed by True Professionalism, The Trusted Advisor, Practice What You Preach , First Among Equals and Strategy and the Fat Smoker. His books are currently available in 14 languages.

The Law Of The Publishing Jungle

Today a class action lawsuit was filed in response to Amazon’s threat to remove the "Buy" buttons of publishers who refuse to sign up with their on-demand printing subsidiary, Booksurge. If certified, the class action will most likely include all publishers who use on demand printing to print their books for distribution. If it functions like the class action lawsuits involving credit card or telephone billing that we all find ourselves party to on a regular basis, publishers will automatically be included unless they opt out. The primary plaintiff in the suit is, Inc., the company that first broke the silence about the heavy-handed tactics Booksurge was using against Lightning Source's larger publisher customers. Quoting from the complaint:

…to obtain injunctive and monetary relief against, Inc. (“Amazon”) with regard to an anticompetitive tying arrangement that violates section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.

America is known the world over as a litigious society, and there is often a stigma attached to people in the publishing world who turn to the courts. But if you talk to entrepreneurs who have owned businesses for any amount of time, you'll soon find that businesses have limited options when dealing with legal problems. You can't call the cops if somebody infringes on your copyrights, breaks contractual obligations or doesn't pay their bills. A publisher can avoid litigation by ignoring small problems and hoping the mid-sized problems will resolve themselves, but a publisher that hides from large problems to avoid legal entanglement is just begging to go out of business.

Three years ago, the most popular page on my website disappeared from Google, and I lost over five hundred visitors (and potential customers) a day. After a stressful period of knocking my head against the wall, I found out that Google had indexed a page on the website of a large American company that had incorporated (verbatim) the draft version of a chapter from my book. Since their website had a higher trust ranking than my own, Google had apparently imposed a duplicate content penalty. The loss of five hundred potential customers a day was a direct threat to my business model, so I contacted that company and was told by a tight-lipped employee that I'd be hearing from their lawyer. We ended up in Federal court, and after two years of pre-trial maneuvering, settled the case. I even came out ahead, and I sure learned a lot about the way copyright law and the courts work.

Lawyers are the closest thing to business police in the American system. There's nothing new about business litigation, and what's more, it’s probably one of the hallmarks of a healthy society. I've been reading Scott's Waverly novels (I'm up to volume 20) and I was amused by an incident he writes about in the late 1700's. A Scottish farmer insists on suing his neighbor over grazing rights to a tiny parcel of land, despite the lawyer explaining to him that the legal costs would be far above the value of the grazing. The farmer persisted for the principle of the thing, and as the lawyer points out to a friend, if it had been fifty years earlier, they would have settled the issue with claymores or daggers.

Lawsuits are modern society’s replacement for blood feuds and murder in the street and anybody who yearns for the days when justice came from the barrel of a six-shooter is yearning for a time when justice was the exclusive right of the strong. The anti-trust laws on which the class action filing against Amazon rests are beyond my professional understanding, much less my ability explain, and it will be up to the court to determine whether the complaint has merit. But without the lawyers doing what they do for a living and filing the class action suit, the publishers using Lightning Source who are threatened by Amazon's moves would have no hope of a preventive injunction and little hope of prevailing otherwise.

For Amazon, litigation risk is just another line item in the corporate filing. It's business, not personal, and Amazon is quick enough to turn to the courts and the legislature when their own business model is at risk. For the publishers in the class, it's business as well, but much more than a line item or a minor change in strategy, as for many, Amazon represents the primary outlet for their books. For all of the parties involved, a class action lawsuit may not sound romantic, but it beats reaching for our guns.

Publishing Business Model Choices

As some of my readers enjoy telling me, I don't do a very good job maximizing the potential of my publishing business. I'm quick to admit that the main flaw in my business model for publishing is me. I just don't have the fire in the belly that I had ten or twenty years ago, and the idea of taking on a lot of potential aggravation just to make more money isn't compelling. But in the next couple weeks I'll be wrapping up all of my open projects (with the exception of house/property hunting), so I thought I'd write down some of those business model criticisms and give them some thought.

#1 You should publish other authors books

Strangely enough, I get this one a lot from unpublished authors:-) But the point is taken, especially given the breadth of my website platform, I could publish non-fiction books in a number of areas and have a running start on marketing. I think my main objection at this point is that publishing other author's books would end up eating all of my energy, if not all of my time. If I was trying to build a publishing business with the eventual goal of selling it, that might make sense, but I don't think that's my goal.

#2 You should sell other publishers books

It's true that with the exception of a few Associates links, I make no attempt to leverage my business model to sell other books. In fact, I've never followed up with buyers of my previous books to tell them when a new book is released, much less promoting other publisher's books to them. My publishing business is based on passive marketing because I've never cared for businesses that pursue their customers and try to milk them of every last penny. But it is certainly true that my title list isn't comprehensive in any way, and that if I could find high quality synergistic titles, it would be a benefit to my customers. But I'm not looking for more customer service or fulfillment issues at the moment.

#3 You should offer consulting services

The general rule in consulting is that the customer is buying the consultant's time, not paying for results. I'm a results oriented person, and I hate selling my time, so it's a bad match. The problem with selling results as a business model is that forces the consultant to only accept customers who are certain to be successful, otherwise the consultant will be working for free. Since most of the people who want to hire me as a publishing consultant are engaged in projects that have a low likelihood of commercial success, I'd have to charge them an hourly rate that I don't believe they'd ever earn back in sales. The other problem is that the results depend far more on the client than on the consultant.

#4 You should become a publishing coach, like Dan Poynter

Despite all the little publishing lectures I've been putting out on video, I don't see myself ever getting on the speaker circuit for self publishers, or any other kind of publishers. I really have the wrong attitude to be an inspirational speaker. I don't believe that most people will succeed in publishing or any other business for that matter unless they happen to be at the right point in life to do so. The closest I've come to wanting to get involved in working directly with new publishers is the occasional fantasy about setting up a retreat center. I think with the right staff and pre-screened participants, a three or four day retreat would be enough to get most authors a good start for their own publishing company. The primary aim would be to teach marketing and market research (ie, choosing titles that have a chance) but a couple sessions on book design a couple sessions on website design would be useful. But it's not something I'd ever try by starting at zero and making a big investment of time and money, I'd have to grow it from something much more modest.

More On Selling Ebooks

Last Friday I expanded my "new" ebook business by publishing updated versions of two of my existing titles. This includes a PDF version of Print-on-Demand Book Publishing for $9.95, but it's absolutely not worth getting if you already own the paperback. The updates are very minor and consist largely of removing descriptive material about Internet sites and functions that are no longer available.

My main complaint about e-junkie fulfillment to date remains the process of e-mailing a download link to the customer rather than presenting one on screen. I've looked at a half dozen ebook selling sites by now, and they all use e-mail to send a download link to the customer. Bryan Rosner suggested Yahoo! stores on my last ebook sales post, but I can't see setting up yet another new account and paying their fees while still using PayPal as the processor.

What I'm really looking for is an ebook download site that acts as the merchant processor and provides an immediate download at the time of the transaction rather than e-mailing a link. Otherwise, I'll just stay with e-junkie for the time being and send out reminder e-mails to anybody who pays for an e-book and doesn't download it. If a few days go by without a download, I'll just issue a refund, since I'm in business to sell ebooks, not to collect payments from people who don't quite get the process.

I'm reminded of an incident from four or five years ago when I received an angry e-mail from some guy who'd purchased an ebook about PC hardware and was threatening to sue me, since he felt it was a waste of $6.00. The only problem was that I wasn't selling any ebooks at the time, so after exchanging a couple e-mails, it sounded like somebody had stolen material from my website and was selling it as an ebook. When I looked into it further, it turned out that nobody had stolen anything, the ebook he'd purchased simply contained a link to my site which had led this individual to believe I must have been involved. My sympathy at this point shifted to the guy who was selling the ebook, because even though he'd refunded the $6.00, the loopy buyer was threatening to sue him for fraud. I'm not going to pass judgment on the ebook he was selling, but I believe he quit the ebook business because he didn't feel it was worth the aggravation.

It's important for people new to small business to unlearn the old adage about the customer always being right. Sometimes the customer is wrong and sometimes the customer is a lunatic. My customer service ends at issuing refunds I think a refund is in order. I've always suspected the instant gratification element of ebooks leads customers to make more impulse buys, which can lead to buyer's regret. But it's no longer clear to me that impulse buying is a major factor in selling ebooks, especially after I checked my e-mail this morning and saw that somebody had purchased an ebook from me using an e-check. Since the download isn't available until the e-check clears, the buyer will wait longer to read the book than if it had been ordered as a paperback with 2nd day shipping!

Interview with Dave Taylor, Information Entrepreneur

What led you to make the leap from the "safe" world of trade authoring to your current role as a leading information entrepreneur?

I think it was more of an evolutionary ooze than a thoughtful leap, actually. :-) I've always been interested in online information dissemination and even back in the 1980's I was working with email systems and online conferencing systems. In my first book I included an email address, and by my second or third book I was including a Web site address. I admit, those first few Web sites were crude, but that was the state of the art back then, and it didn't take long for me to be writing books about HTML and web page design myself, so at that point my skills increased significantly in terms of what I could accomplish.

Nonetheless, even as recently as 3-4 years ago, I looked at book publishing as a safety net for my career: if things were moving really slowly, I could still make a buck writing a few books in a year. Then one day an entrepreneurial colleague told me about Google AdSense and commented that with the traffic to my Web site, I could probably make a few dollars that way, without having to "do" anything. I was hooked.

Then I remember the glorious month when my Google AdSense check was more than my hosting bill for my site and online connectivity. Suddenly it was as if a light bulb had lit over my head: my online activity could be a profit center, not a cost center! (I have an MBA, I think in business jargon) Then I really started looking at the online world and online publishing in earnest. A few months later, my Google check paid my mortgage and I realized that there was more profit in writing 100,000 words and putting them online with ad revenue than in selling that same tome to a publisher and hoping that it'll find sufficient market traction that I'd make any money at all
beyond the initial advance.

You're the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Growing Your Business with Google. Does Google send the majority of the over 1 million visitors a month to, or do you rely on a subscription/syndication model?

I am a strong proponent of the "Long Tail" idea, where there's more value in providing information that eschews the "top ten" topics in a given marketplace but covers everything else. For example, there aren't many books on Windows XP coming out nowadays, but if you look at the statistics, there are still a TON of people using it. That's a long tail opportunity.

The implication of this is that rather than have thousands of devoted readers (the magazine model) I really am more of an online resource, a reference work where people can find what they need when they need it, but are otherwise not likely to stay engaged in the long term. It's like a car mechanic: you don't want to be friends with them and see them every month, but when something's wrong, you know where to go.

What I'm leading to is that, yes, Google and other search engines account for the lion's share of my monthly traffic. I do have quite a few repeat visitors, subscribers to my email newsletter and RSS feed, etc., that amount to approximately 15% of my 1.2 million unique visitors/month. That's not bad if you do the math, it's 180,000 monthly readers.

Alexa used to show five years of history for websites, and I used to send people to graph your site against my older site to show how rapidly an informative website can go from new to successful. Can you give point to a few milestones from your site's early history that explain it's meteoric rise?

Gosh, I wish I could, because it'd help me duplicate it! I think it's really just been about plugging away and trying to stay on top of the major technical challenges in the community. For example, two years ago I was writing about how to use Firefox, and now I write about Facebook IM and Twitter configuration issues.

Are you working on any books currently, and given your Internet platform, do you consider starting your own publishing company or would you just leverage your presence for a larger advance?

Yes, but before I talk about that, I want to say that there have always been two different types of books in the trade space, though I don't know that most people acknowledge it. They are user guides/tutorials and reference works. The former is "how to" or a Dummies guide, while the latter is a dictionary. This is an important differentiation because I believe that the rise of the Web has directly led to the demise of the latter category. It's far, far faster for me to look up a word online than to pull out a dictionary, and as Web access becomes more and more pervasive (e.g.,cellphones and smart phones, pervasive wifi, etc) I think it's folly to try and publish anything that's not a tutorial or learning guide.

So the book I'm working on is actually a sequel to my popular "Wicked Cool Shell Scripts" (NoStarch Press) and is going to be based on a compilation of my shell script programming column in Linux Journal. No announced release date, but I view it as repurposing existing material in a form that'll make it more useful, more interesting and certainly more educational.

Will it be a successful book? It's so hard to say. Publishing's always been about guessing, dice rolls, the toss of a dart, the peek into a crystal ball, but I think one realization that major publishers now have is that successful books are now more driven by personality or community. That's why bloggers writing books is currently such a fad.

In terms of my own publishing company, well, I think I already have that with my Web sites and the frequent guest contributions I publish.

Small Press Branding

I got an e-mail the other day asking if $30,000 was enough to open a business. When it comes to self publishing, $300 will buy your first block of 10 ISBN numbers, which is all the infrastructure you really need. But if your goal is to open a small literary press and be the envy of the Indy publishing world, you're going to need some start-up cash to to get off the ground. People who dream about starting a literary press need to put together a little kitty of cash since it's essentially a marketing proposition. But first, a brief video on where not to spend the money:-)

Anybody who is frequently asked for advice about new publishing ventures can tell you that a good proportion of start-ups waste a lot of money "playing business." Why some publishers think they need to stock up on new office furniture in order to start a small press is beyond me, who do they expect will see it or care? What's the point of rushing into a business phone listing unless you want local folks to find you in the Yellow Pages and call you about publishing their memoirs? Even business cards are overkill if you aren't attending any trade shows, and if you are, not handing out business cards is a great way cut down on spam.

Outside of the publishing meccas where editors still "do lunch" and attend industry breakfasts, the business is conducted by e-mail. If you have to leave voice-mail reminders asking people if they've checked their e-mail, you know you haven't arrived yet. Since literary presses are unlikely to be traffic magnets on the Internet, the face of the business on starting out will most likely be from paid advertising. Just a few years ago, that advertising would have been limited to glossy print ads, wherever they might appear, but today, targeted Internet advertising is the better value proposition, providing you can find a way to effectively target your potential readers.

Creating a successful brand is one of the most powerful ways to build value in a business, and that was true even in the days before modern advertising. In a sense, branding is the same thing as reputation, and in both cases, it's possible to have a great reputation or brand even if the product or service is lacking. That's where marketing comes in. Spending a lot of money associating your company name with attractive young people in scanty apparel is a quick way to earn a reputation for being cutting-edge, but is it an effective way to sell cutting edge books? Well, it makes more sense than distributing thousands of baseball caps with "Cutting Edge Books" embroidered on them.

But like other commodities, branding is valuable precisely because its scarcity. Branding attempts are what keep many publicity and marketing firms afloat, but the genuine successes are few and far between. In publishing, branding successes rely primarily on the books, or at the least, the covers. So if you are just starting out with a small literary press, put together a tight list, so the branding dollars you spend will impact all of your titles. If you try batting to all fields and publishing titles for different demographic groups in order to prove your breadth, you're diluting your brand before you've even established it. And don't commit to a launch schedule until you've found at least one manuscript that knock your socks off. Remember, you're easy to impress, you're already a fan of the genre.

New PDF Ebook Sales Data And Problems

I started selling a new ebook three weeks ago, procrastinated posting this week until I could pull some data together and resolve some customer service issues. I used Microsoft Word from Office 2007 to produce the PDF file, which worked out pretty good, and I didn't employ any copy protection this time around. After discussing it with my lawyer, I went with a "click" agreement on the order page that states:

Your paid download of this ebook from Foner Books grants you a non-transferable license to retain an electronic copy of the PDF file for reading and to print one copy for personal use in your home or business. You may not create copies of this ebook or excerpts therof, whether electronic or printed on paper, for sale or distribution.

The order process is pretty balky, I'm using PayPal for the payment processor and E-Junkie for the download service. I looked at a couple other download services, but their legal agreements struck me as bizarre, like insisting they could do anything they wanted with your ebook content for the sake of promoting their own business. If somebody gives me a lead for a better method that I end up using, I'll offer a free Foner Books T-shirt as a bounty:-)

In the first 20 days, I sold 30 copies, with exactly half of them being purchased by US residents. The majority of the non-US sales were to UK and Australia, but included single sales to Austria, The Netherlands and Ireland. I was slightly surprised by the 50/50 split, because a strong majority of my web traffic is from the US. It's possible that the weak US dollar made the $13.95 ebook look very inexpensive overseas, but I suspect it has more to do with higher ebook acceptance outside the US.

The 30 ebook sales have already resulted in two claims being filed with PayPal, though it's impossible for me to know whether they were actually fraudulent usage of accounts or buyer's remorse. In one case, the ebook was never downloaded, so I refunded that one immediately, in the other case, the ebook was downloaded from E-Junkie twice, so I'm going through the dispute resolution process to see what happens.

In three more cases, the customers went for days without downloading the ebook, so I wrote them directly to ask if there was a problem. One e-mail bounced, so I just issued a refund. One downloaded the e-book right after I wrote (I pointed out that the buyers should check their bulk or spam folder to make sure the download link wasn't trashed) and the other wrote back to admit confusion with the whole process. I resent him the E-junkie link to download the ebook, and he succeeded.

My goal when I started out was to sell one copy a day, so I'm happy enough on that account, but I wonder if the balky ordering process is costing me sales. I've fooled around each week with a different sales pitch and progression to the order page, but I haven't seen that make any difference in the sales tempo. I think it goes back to the concept that there are buyers and browsers, and the people who want to buy the ebook will jump through a couple hoops to get there.