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FICTIONWISE ALERT: Please Read

THIRD UPDATE: I’m just going to rewrite the post for tomorrow. Fictionwise is working assiduously (my word) to get publisher approval and it sounds like it is all going well. Also, I expressed my despair that so few new titles were available this week and this too is going to be addressed and there should be more new titles and more formats for books available soon. Which is good because I still have $70 micropay dollars left to spend.

SECONDARY UPDATE:   I wanted to make clear that Fictionwise is working with publishers to provide replacement copies of all the ebooks that are being affected by Overdrive’s termination of its contract.   Harlequin, for example, has agreed to provide replacements.   I’m not sure what other publishers have although, according to Fictionwise 80% of the publishers have agreed.

I am trying to get   a list of what houses have not agreed to provide preplacements.   Please check out Fictionwise’s FAQ for more details.

UPDATE:   I checked my Fictionwise account to see what books are affected.   I have over 100 titles that will be expiring.   Fictionwise suggests not to do a bulk download, but to download them one by one (gah!) but 80% of them are being replaced with eReader copies so far.   Fictionwise is negotiating with publishers to provide replacement copies. I hope that works out okay.   

I have been a longtime Fictionwise buyer, but lately I have been very, very frustrated by the lack of new content. Case in point, I wanted to buy For the Love of Pete by Julia Harper but only Books on Board had it and only in Mobi. There were a number of new releases that were also not available at Fictionwise this last go around.

It appears that Fictionwise and Overdrive have broken up. This is important because Overdrive supplies over 300,000 books to Fictionwise:

The affected units include some Secure Mobipocket, Secure Microsoft Reader, and Secure Adobe Digital titles, but Secure eReader and Multiformat are unaffected.

You’ll want to go to Fictionwise and download all those titles. If they are secured titles, you might want to think about stripping the DRM (note this is illegal in some countries including the US) because those titles will no longer be available through Fictionwise and if you have DRM issues later, well, you are likely to be screwed.

I said on Twitter this past week that I was done with Fictionwise after my micropay rebate was exhausted because of content issues (i.e., not enough new content). Maybe I’ll come back if they work out a deal with publishers.

MobileRead via Teleread.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

38 Comments

  1. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:48:47

    It looks like I got lucky and none of the few DRM titles I bought seem to be affected, but that’s going to make me even more reluctant to buy any!

    Grumble, mumble, but guess what: pretty much every single DRM book is a Samhain book… go figure.

    Anybody got any ideas for secure PDFs?

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  2. Kerry D.
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:51:00

    Thanks for letting us know about this. I didn’t know a thing before your post, although I had certainly noticed that there seemed to be less books (and certainly less books that interested me) being released through Fictionwise.

    For me, it turns out to only affect 12 books and all of them have eReader replacements, but that might not have been the case.

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  3. Mia
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:06:34

    All Harlequin books are replaceable…no worries there.

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  4. Kris Kennedy
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:33:37

    Hi,
    Not an eReader (perhaps it’s just a matter of time, but I do love the feel of a book in my hands) so I’m not sure what ‘stripping the DRM” means. Does it mean making to so you can copy the content?

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  5. Becca
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:50:26

    and it’s things like this that keep me from getting an ebook of any kind. Yeah, the technology is sexy, and it would reduce the clutter, but I hate the idea of having my library be at someone else’s mercy.

    Maybe in a couple of years, when (with luck) the DRM issues will be solved, I’ll look at it again.

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  6. SandyW
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:58:05

    I download most books right after I buy them and do regular backups, so it’s all good. But it would have been really nice of Fictionwise to tell us about this.

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  7. Louise
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 16:31:14

    Thank you for posting this!

    I had no idea this was happening and I visit Fictionwise pretty much each day. It’s very lousy of them not to notify customers. Luckily, none of the ebooks I have purchased are affected

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  8. Angela James
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:19:39

    @Kris Kennedy stripping the DRM could be loosely equated to removing the password from something. Like music you buy from iTunes, which you can only play on authorized computers, DRM’d books can only be read on authorized devices. Strip the DRM and you can read it on any computer/device you want or even convert it to a different format, if you have more than one computer/device you want to read it on. Publishers think that DRM stops people from pirating/sharing/copyingg the book, but in most cases, it only ends up frustrating the casual buyer and making it harder for them to access the content they’ve purchased. But that’s my own personal publishing soapbox!

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  9. Kaz Augustin
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:42:04

    Aw damn! 18 books affected, and 8 without replacement, mostly non-fiction. It’s precious of Fictionwise to say in their FAQ that only 4% of books are affected (berks) and I agree with Louise that this is a lousy way to find out about it. (I mean, thanks to DA but why didn’t I get a notification from Fw?)

    Agree with Becca also. It’s things like this that keep readers away from ebooks. With the high startup cost, plus all the bewilderingly different formats available, now this, why would some readers bother? I’m tech-savvy (and an epub author) and even I’m going to think twice before buying another ebook. Not Good.

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  10. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 19:07:57

    Kaz, they are still working on this and the info only came out because the (unlinked) FAQ page was already archived by Google. I’m sure they were planning on telling us about it soonest.

    Although I agree, since the info is out there, it wouldn’t hurt if they put a notice on the front page now. Steve Prendergast commented in the original Teleread story.

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  11. BevQB
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:10:13

    HALP! I R confoozled!

    Every book I buy at Fictionwise is in LIT format; some of those say “Secure Microsoft Reader”, all of my books have been downloaded at least once. NONE of them show as expiring or replaced.

    Am I just lucky or would they only show as expiring if I had NOT downloaded them before? What are the rest of you seeing with your downloaded vs. not downloaded books– do both types say expiring?

    Because really, I’m wondering if I should take the time to download them a second time as a backup.

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  12. Barbara B.
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:14:27

    I’ve got 100 books in the Overdrive Expiring category and only 85 of them to be replaced. Unbelievable!

    Thanks for notifying us about this issue, Jane. Fictionwise sure as hell didn’t.

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  13. Kaz Augustin
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:17:24

    Thanks Growly. Still, as a Buywise member, I kinda woulda expected some advance notification, even before/as they crafted the FAQ. Doesn’t leave a good impression of Fw. And suddenly makes me wonder about the additional 5% Micropay rebate they were offering if I took an ebook as Secured eReader, instead of my usual favourite of Mobipocket. Remember that promotion? Were there rumblings with Overdrive months ago, while I was happily buying their stuff, without a word otherwise? The cynic wonders…

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  14. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:26:34

    BevQB, did you go to your bookshelf and select the ‘Overdrive Expiring’ option from the drop down menu (default says ‘all ebooks’)? I’m asking because I was too dumb (even after reading the FAQ page) to do it right the first time. :) I got lucky and I don’t have any expiring.

    You only don’t have any, if you did that and it showed an empty shelf.

    It probably wouldn’t hurt to download them all again and archive them on a removable drive (USB drive or CD-ROM or DVD-ROM) just in case. But naturally that will only work without hassle for the non-DRM ones…

    I refer you to ABCLitConverter and/or GUIConverter that Jane mentioned in one of her posts. I’ve had mixed success. Some files are more stubborn than others and I can’t figure out why.

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  15. Peggy P
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:33:22

    Thanks to DA for the heads-up, I have 156 ebooks but only 4 expiring…so not too bad of a hit. I agree this is a PITA, this whole format issue is a bother but I am also a Kindle user so alot of these books were in Kindle format for me anyway. I have been a big fan of FW but after this snafu I will think twice about my purchases. Why is great technology never easy?!

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  16. BevQB
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:45:36

    @GrowlyCub: Yep, it shows none expiring and none replaced. So that’s why I was wondering if it was only the ones people had NOT downloaded yet that actually SHOWED they were expiring. Whereas, if they HAVE been downloaded, maybe Fw figures you’ve got a copy so why bother telling you about the expiration.

    I HAVE used ConvertLitGUI and think its creator should be knighted or given living saint status or something. Actually, since you brought it up, I have a question that I’m hoping someone around here has an answer to: I know that LIT files can’t be converted to other formats using Stanza, ABCLITConverter, Calibre or whatever if the DRM is still in place. But is there an easy-peasy way to tell if a LIT file is DRM’d BEFORE I try to convert it? In other words, is there an easy way to tell if that interim ConvertLitGUI step is needed just by looking at something in the file attributes (or whatever)?

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  17. Barbara B.
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:55:19

    by BevQB January 8th, 2009 at 8:45 pm
    “@GrowlyCub: Yep, it shows none expiring and none replaced. So that's why I was wondering if it was only the ones people had NOT downloaded yet that actually SHOWED they were expiring. Whereas, if they HAVE been downloaded, maybe Fw figures you've got a copy so why bother telling you about the expiration.”

    Quite a few of my downloaded books are expiring.

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  18. Kris Kennedy
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:58:57

    Angela ~ Thanks for the decoding. :-)

    ReplyReply

  19. Angie
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 00:52:59

    This is the main reason why I don’t buy digital media which require online activation. Even Fictionwise isn’t safe. If you want to keep your books for five or ten or twenty or more years, there’s an excellent chance that Fictionwise itself will have vanished by then. What happens then to your Secure eReader and Multiformat DRMed e-books? It’s great that Fictionwise is working with publishers to get replacements for the books which are expiring — seriously, it’s cool that they’re making the effort — but unless the replacements don’t require any kind of online activation or validation, they’re just swapping a bomb with a very short fuse for a bomb with a longer one. They’re still going to blow some day.

    Forget it. I only buy e-books without online activation. At least that way I know they belong to me, and that I can read them whenever I want, not just when some company feels like letting me by maintaining its activation server.

    Angie

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  20. Ann Somerville
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 01:02:56

    @Angie:

    What you said.

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  21. Barbara B.
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 07:00:07

    Angie said-
    “Forget it. I only buy e-books without online activation. At least that way I know they belong to me, and that I can read them whenever I want, not just when some company feels like letting me by maintaining its activation server.”

    What does online activation mean and where do you buy ebooks that don’t require it?

    ReplyReply

  22. Anika
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 07:16:20

    After getting burned when adobe upgraded their software to Digital Editions and losing some books, I don’t by secure pdf’s any more. Adobe’s response was to go an download the books again, fine if the store is still in existance. I have three books on my hard drive that I can’t read. I’m keeping them in case someone finds a way to crack adobe’s secure pdf’s and makes the software readily available. Since then I’ve only bought Microsoft Reader .Lit files because you can convert those to html. At least I know if Microsoft ever stop making the software or upgrade I’ll still be able to read my books.

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  23. Angie
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 07:27:20

    @21 Barbara — Online activation means that when you install something, or sometimes even just open the file or application, the DRM “phones home” to check in with the activation server to make sure you’re a legitimate user. You need to be connected to the internet for this.

    The idea is that someone who’s got an illegitimate copy won’t be able to get in. I’ve never used a secure DRM e-book, so I don’t know first hand exactly what that’s like, but with a game, your software will usually check in with the publisher’s server when you first install the game on your computer. It might require a code from the disk, or it might want you to create an account on the server, or it might note your IP address, or something else, or some combination of things. It’ll often take a snapshot of your system configuration and make a record of that on the server.

    Some publishers only have the software phone home on installation, although if your computer crashes, or you upgrade to a new system, or you want to install on your laptop, you’ll need to activate it again. (If it’ll let you.) Sometimes even a hardware upgrade can trigger a new activation — remember that configuration snapshot? Upgrading your graphics card, for example, can make the server think you’re using the software on a new system. This is significant because some publishers only give you a certain number of installs — Spore, a much-anticipated game released recently — came with three. Figure, one to install on your system, one to re-install when your hard drive crashes, and a third to install when you upgrade to a new computer. If your system crashes multiple times, if you upgrade a couple of pieces of hardware one at a time, if you want to install on your laptop and then you upgrade that, you might run out of installs along the way. If that happens, a typical response from the publisher is, “Sorry, buy another copy.”

    Some software will phone home at intervals whenever you’re using it. So if you open it up, it’ll check to see how long since it’s tagged the activation server, and if it’s been more than it’s set interval, it’ll go online and re-validate your usage. If you’re not connected to the internet, it won’t let you use the software until you connect and it can do its thing.

    And as I said above, if the activation server is ever taken down for whatever reason, you’re out of luck.

    Some of these “features” might not have been adopted by the e-publishing industry yet, but they seem to be headed in that direction. Computer games didn’t suddenly pop up with all this stuff either. It’s like the e-publishing industry is heading down the exact same road the computer games industry has already travelled, despite ample and clear evidence that there’s nothing of value down that road, neither for publishers nor customers.

    It’s a sickening feeling when you first realize that you have several hundred dollars (or more) worth of software effectively held hostage to the whims of a set of corporations, many of whom are trimming budgets these days. If they decide that this old server from ten years ago isn’t getting pinged often enough to make it worthwhile to maintain, they might well axe it. If it’s only getting validation attempts (meaning customers are only using a piece of software validated by that server) a few times a year, heck, that’s a minor customer service issue, while maintaining the server is much more expensive. And this “hostage” situation is forever, so long as you want to keep using your software, including reading your online activated e-books.

    About what I do buy, I get e-books in plain PDF format. They’re basic Acrobat files, readable on pretty much anything, and freely usable and copyable. I’m not a thief, I’m not a pirate, and I don’t need someone smacking my hand when I go to copy my e-books. I have copies of my library on my desktop system, on my laptop, and on a flash drive. The only way I’m going to lose my e-books is if my house burns down with my computer, my laptop and that flashdrive in it. [wry smile]

    If there are other formats which don’t have secure DRM on them, hopefully other folks will pop up and say what they are. I like PDF because of its portability, and I’ve never looked into anything else.

    Angie

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  24. Barbara B.
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 08:45:36

    Thanks Angie!

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  25. Angie
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 08:52:03

    @24 Barbara — you’re welcome. :)

    Note that Mr. Steve Pendergrast, one of the owners of Fictionwise, visited my blog overnight and says that Fictionwise’s Secure eReader DRM never has to contact a validation server after the initial download. You can make copies and back up your file wherever you like, and if Fictionwise goes belly-up at any time, your files are safe. I still avoid DRMed e-books on principle, but if a title you really want isn’t available in the completely unsecured format, but is available in Secure eReader format, it sounds like a good least-obnoxious option. :)

    Angie

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  26. Claudia
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:01:52

    It sucks there isn’t some kind of notice about this on the FW main page & the only FW mail I got this week was about a “complete your series” promotion mailed on th 8th.

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  27. Azure
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:48:58

    I’m trying to calm myself down about this problem by reminding myself that:

    a) I’ve got all of the books I’ve bought from FW downloaded;
    b) stripped the DRM from the books;
    c) converted them to RTF files; and
    d) backed the files up to three external hard drives and an online file storing place.

    So really, I don’t know why I’m so worried. Maybe it’s just the whole idea of not having those files available in the format I want? Because as great as FW has been in trying to get all the files restored, they’re only going to be available in eReader format if I’m reading the situation right. I don’t have an ebook reader that can read those files, nor a computer program to strip the DRM from them. And if some disaster befalls my three hard drives and the online files, then I’m screwed.

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  28. Linda
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 16:57:33

    @Azure:
    How do you strip the DRM? I have some DRM books I would like to be able to read on my handheld, which reads pdfs, but I can’t read the DRM files on there, they are blank.

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  29. Azure
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 17:23:21

    Linda–

    It depends on what kind of DRM-d books you have. Are they MS Lit ebooks? Mobipocket ebooks? MS Lit files are easy to decrypt–there’s a program called ConvertLIT that will do it. Mobipocket files are tougher. I required an entire Sunday with the wonderful people at the MobileRead forums helping me to figure out how to strip the DRM from the Mobipocket books.

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  30. Vanessa
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 21:23:21

    Ok, so maybe someone can clarify this for me: I’m an amateur e-book buyer, and bought the ones I have in Adobe format, the Digital Editions thingy, only because that’s the only format I recognized lol I’m on a mac so I’m hesitant to dl anything that says Microsoft in it (idk, I feel like it’ll never work?).

    So, if i wanted to copy my books onto a disc or a portable drive guy, is it possible? I figured I would just copy the thing into wherever I wanted it to go but it seems like my understanding of the entire download situation is flawed. :/

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  31. Miki
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 21:35:56

    @Azure:

    You might be interested in this site.

    ReplyReply

  32. Angie
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 21:44:37

    @30 Vanessa — I don’t know what Digital Editions is, but if it’s just a basic PDF file then it should be fully copyable. The easiest way to check is to try it. Make a copy of one of your Digital Editions e-books, onto a flash drive or something, and then try to read it. If it works, make back-up copies of all your books; that’s always a good idea. [nod]

    Angie

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  33. Azure
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 05:36:34

    Thanks Miki! :) I searched for that the other day, but I must’ve been looking in the wrong place!

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  34. Linda
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 21:24:03

    I have ebooks in the Adobe Digital Editions format. It is through adobe. When you upgrade your adobe acrobat reader to version 8, you also have to down load adobe digital editions in order to read adobe ebooks. You can register up to five (I think) computers on which to read these drm books. However, I cannot afford a sony reader (don’t even know if they work on it) and I would like to read them on my iphone. So if I could strip the drm I can put them on my phone a as a regular pdf or an ereader format.

    So if that makes any sense, is there a way to strip the drm from adobe drm (digital editions) ebooks? :-)

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  35. Linda
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 21:25:36

    You can copy the digital editions books, i Have mine backed up, but you cannot read them on another computer until you make it an authorized computer.

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  36. Melodie
    May 03, 2010 @ 06:57:42

    Just another note on Fictionwise.com. I read a lot of Romance books, and it seems that some of the favourite authors are not available anymore. Even if you have books in your bookshelf, you cannot download previous purchases to a new device, since the store does not own the books rights anymore. Bad loss of business.

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  37. LL
    May 03, 2010 @ 07:34:38

    @Melodie: I also noticed that some of my favorite authors were gone…AGAIN. It’s nice of them to send me the twenty percent off weekend coupons, but I won’t be using them. I moved onto other bookstores and using the library months ago.

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  38. Jane
    May 03, 2010 @ 07:41:38

    @Melodie: and @LL: What happened was on April 1, four of the major publishers (Avon, Pocket, Penguin, Forever) decided that they wanted to control pricing. Ingram, who supplies Fictionwise with books, hasn’t made a deal with the publishers yet so all those books were pulled from distribution.

    In the past, publishers would sell the books to a distributor (Ingram) and then Ingram would sell access to retailers like Fictionwise. Fictionwise could then provide discounts.

    Publishers don’t want retailers to discount ebooks anymore and instituted these new policies which prevents those retailers from giving readers discount and access.

    It is very frustrating.

    ReplyReply

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