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HarperCollins Announces a New Program to Throw Sand in the Gears of the Author/Reviewer Relationship

harper-collins-logo-rm-eng[1]It has long been the norm that authors help promote their work, whether by social media, cons, or what have you, and today HarperCollins announced a new way to make sure those promotional efforts get off on the wrong foot.

HC is debuting an in-house digital galley program today called e-Insider. This program is going to distribute QR codes to authors that can be shared with reviewers, bloggers, and readers.  When the blogger activates the QR code, they’ll be offered a chance to download a DRMed copy of an author’s work.

Yes, DRMed.

Apparently HarperCollins thinks that making things easy for reviewers is less important than attempting to control how an ebook is used. The ebooks in question are going to be encumbered by Adobe DE DRM, which as you may know is relatively easy to bypass. And oh, yeah, it won’t work on the Kindle.

Seriously, did HarperCollins decide to intentionally make the process pointlessly difficult for bloggers and reviewers?

I ask because I don’t see any upside here. Not only is the DRM easy to bypass, it’s also a hassle. Reviewers should be coddled and sweet-talked, not annoyed. I would think that HC’s first priority is to make sure that a review starts off on the right foot, and forcing the reviewer to deal with DRM is not the way to do that.

As much as I might like this program, I have to wonder why HarperCollins didn’t come up with a better method; I can think of at least one just off the top of my head.

Digital watermarks (like the tech available from Booxtream), for example, would not hassle the reviewer at all and could be used to identify which reviewer got which copy should an ebook be pirated. And what’s even better is that HC could even offer digital watermarks in the Kindle ebooks sent out to reviewers.

Or HC could go the route of NetGalley, which offers DRMed Epub as well as DRM-free Kindle ebooks to reviewers. Back when I used Netgalley to get early review copies, that latter option was a pleasant way to avoid the hassle of DRM.

But I guess HarperCollins values control over convenience. And if that’s not a damning indictment of the legacy publisher, I don’t know what is.

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Robert Nagle May 29, 2013 um 2:46 pm

I hear what you are saying, but there’s a real need for a mechanism to deliver digital review copies to reviewers. Currently an author can only send review copies to the reviewer’s Kindle, but only if the author buys his own ebook in the first place to gift to the reviewer. Lunacy! Even if we agree that DRM is bad, it is incredibly difficult to persuade ANY reviewers to read and review digital copies. A sizable majority of them still prefer print copies through Vine or other promotions. This problem could be easily solved if Amazon gave out promotional codes for authors to send to people. In this respect, Smashwords is way ahead of everyone else.

Thomas May 29, 2013 um 5:19 pm

I don’t think there’s a real need for a new mechanism. You could just e-mail an EPUB without DRM. If the reviewer is too dumb to be able to read an unlocked EPUB, you probably don’t want him reviewing your book anyway.

Robert Nagle May 30, 2013 um 11:14 am

I personally would have no problem with that, and most readers of this blog would have no problem.

But many reviewers are older, and even if they owned an ebook reader and even if they expressed interest in reviewing an ebook title, their definition of what an ebook is something which is downloaded from an ebook store like Amazon. Using Calibre just doesn’t seem realistic.

The bigger problem is that many of the best reviewers never review ebooks at all.

I spent 3 separate emails to a reviewer trying to explain how to save a downloaded file onto her PC.

Virginia Llorca May 29, 2013 um 5:11 pm

If only the copy they give the reviewer is DRM-ed it is to keep the reviewer from passing on copies of someone else’s work.

But you are correct. DRM as a concept is ridiculous. A digital file is an endless resource.

Virginia Llorca May 29, 2013 um 5:13 pm

I sent a beta reader my word doc cuz he doesn’t have an ereader. PDF conversion software, etc. Seriously. You are talking about a snip of code. (Which I cannot write, but millions can.)

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