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Wednesday News: Indies relationship with ebooks still tenuous; Google says no...

“So far, e-readers and e-books haven’t added up into a cash cow. Mulvihill describes the store’s profit on each Kobo device sold as “truly negligible” and says it might make $1 on a $10 e-book. “We’re used to selling a $10 book and making $4 or $4.50,” he says. And it’s not making up for the tight margin in volume: Since November 2012, the store has sold around 110 e-readers and collected commissions on 700 e-books.”Time

In other news, June bookstore numbers fell 9.5%

“Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use Web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient’s [email provider] in the course of delivery,” the motion reads in part. “Indeed, ‘a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.’” 

That, of course, is an inaccurate analogy. The correct analogy is don’t be surprised if the postal service or delivery service opens your mail and reads it.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Darlynne
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 12:25:52

    Any visit to Portland, OR, requires a stop at Powell’s Books. I asked a clerk about digital books because of a Kobo display at the front of the store. As far as I could determine, although they sell the readers, all further transactions for content go solely through Kobo. The store receives nothing, except for whatever portion of the device sales come to them.

    As I browsed through Powell’s endless stacks, being visually reminded of so many books I’d love to own, I wished for the ability to download a book on the spot, a win for consumer and retailer. The burden of DRM makes offering digital content impossible for such stores, but it still seems highly inefficient and exclusionary, not to mention a loss of opportunity/sales for everyone.

  2. Laura Kinsale
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 13:25:20

    That, of course, is an inaccurate analogy. The correct analogy is don’t be surprised if the postal service or delivery service opens your mail and reads it.

    The nail. The head. Good aim. ;)

    You get what you pay for.

  3. library addict
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 13:27:22

    @Darlynne: It was my impression that Kobo had some sort of affiliate link system. So people who bought books from Kobo (via web or app in the reader) could support independent bookstores with a percentage of sales.

  4. Sunita
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 13:42:04

    Looking at the filing, Google is relying on both the third-party doctrine (i.e., no expectation of privacy for information revealed to a third party) and the provider exemption for normal business practices. Given that Google is more than a conduit of communication, as it explicitly states in its TOS and operationalizes as its business model, I’m not sure the Post Office analogy holds. In order for Google to continue its current practices in targeted advertising, spam control, and mailbox behavior options, it pretty much has to search content, not just envelope information.

    Or am I missing something?

  5. Darlynne
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 14:01:46

    @library addict: Your comment led me to check at and, yes, there is a link to set up a Kobo account and Powell’s does benefit. Whew.

  6. NomDeGuerre
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 16:41:15

    @Laura Kinsale:

    No. That’s just another poor analogy. It’s silly to complain that your email service provider can (and does) scan / view your email as it passes through and is stored on their systems. Email is very different from regular postal mail. While the USPS may not scan all mail, you are mistaken if you think it’s never opened and / or scanned ( Most email is sent “in the clear” meaning anyone along the path of the email can intercept and scan / view it. That’s overly simplistic, of course. For example, Google MTAs (mail servers) are configured to offer TLS/SSL encryption to peers (e.g. Yahoo MTAs). Assuming encryption is negotiated, email is then transferred over an encrypted connection. Once arrived on Google’s systems, email is then processed to check for SPAM, malware, and depending on your Google account (free Gmail vs Google Apps for Business / Education) and settings, your email may be scanned for advertising purposes (Google offers targeted / unobtrusive / relevant [disputable] ads; this is how it can offer its services for “free”). Depending on your “priority inbox” settings, your email may also be scanned to determine its importance. Your email is also scanned for “indexing” purposes. This is what allows you to quickly search your mailbox. This scanning is automated–it’s done “programmatically”, or by software. Google doesn’t have a perfect record on honoring its privacy agreements, but employees are fired for inappropriate access of user/”customer” data, so it takes the agreements seriously.
    Part of the irony in all of this is that other free email providers have very similar business models (scanning e-mail for purposes of targeted advertising) and no one makes a stink about it. I believe the reason there is a class-action lawsuit is because Gmail (and Google) are stinking popular and huge, and some lawyer sharks smelled money.
    If privacy is really the issue at stake, a) its ignorant to send unencrypted e-mail and b) learn to use PGP/GPG and/or S/MIME for end-to-end message-based encryption. To do message-based encryption well, you will need a mail user agent like Thunderbird or Outlook with your Gmail account (at least for encrypted emails). Sure, you lose the benefits of the web-based Gmail interface and there is a learning curve behind message-based encryption. And anyone with whom you need to exchange encrypted e-mail also needs to be set up for it.

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