Smashwords opens B&N channel for self-publishers

Late Friday, Mark Coker of Smashwords sent the following via email:

Smashwords has signed an agreement with Barnes & Noble to distribute Smashwords
ebook titles, all of which are self-published or from small independent presses.
As you might imagine, we’re thrilled.  Until today, it was difficult if not impossible
for independent authors and publishers to gain such mainstream digital distibution.
Now with Smashwords, virtually any author, anywhere in the world, can receive
broad distribution for their ebook. Additional distribution relationships are
forthcoming.
The Smashwords service is completely free.  We pay the author 85% of the net
proceeds and we take 15%.
We originally hoped to do a formal press release on this news rather than release
it late on a Friday afternoon, but we needed to give our 1,200+ authors and publishers
advance notice so they can prepare their titles for distribution.  It’s tough
to ask 1,200 people to keep such an exciting secret a secret, thus the preempted
press release and my email to you.  We currently publish about 2,600 titles,
double the number from just four months ago.  The books should be listed at B&N
properties within the next 30 days or so.
We posted a link here to inform our authors about next steps:  http://www.smashwords.com/distribution

Smashwords has signed an agreement with Barnes & Noble to distribute Smashwords ebook titles, all of which are self-published or from small independent presses.

As you might imagine, we’re thrilled.  Until today, it was difficult if not impossible for independent authors and publishers to gain such mainstream digital distibution. Now with Smashwords, virtually any author, anywhere in the world, can receive broad distribution for their ebook. Additional distribution relationships are forthcoming.

The Smashwords service is completely free.  We pay the author 85% of the net proceeds and we take 15%.

We originally hoped to do a formal press release on this news rather than release it late on a Friday afternoon, but we needed to give our 1,200+ authors and publishers advance notice so they can prepare their titles for distribution.  It’s tough to ask 1,200 people to keep such an exciting secret a secret, thus the preempted press release and my email to you.  We currently publish about 2,600 titles, double the number from just four months ago.  The books should be listed at B&N properties within the next 30 days or so.

We posted a link here to inform our authors about next steps:  http://www.smashwords.com/distribution

This is a very significant turn, though one that I suspect will be followed by more Smashwords partnerships. The simple fact is that self-publishers are as much a part of the mainstream publishing market as any small house. The barriers have fallen and many authors will test the market without a deal with a publisher upfront. Smashwords makes the market entry very easy and preserves 85 percent of after-retail revenue for the author.

It’s another inventory that, at least now, BN.com and associated readers (Plastic Logic and iRex) can offer directly to readers. It seems certain that Smashwords titles will be available soon in other major online bookstores.

Priceline orders Smashwords to cease and desist

Apparently, Mark Coker, founder of e-book distributor Smashwords.com set up a site that caught the attention of Priceline, a Shatner-enabled vendor of travel services with which you may be familiar and less inclined to like after hearing the following. Priceline wants Coker to shut down his new site, called “name-your-own-price-ebooks.com,” because it violates the company’s trademarked slogan. Mark blogs extensively about the letter, including printing the letter’s text, at the Smashwords blog.

The greatest irony, I think, is that the law firm’s url is “DRM.com.” It is an acronym of partner names, but represents what the company and its clients spend their time doing. Alas, Mark should drop the url rather than get himself into a suit. What he should ask, however, is that Priceline agree never to enter the e-book market in return for the concession on his part. After all, he got the URL first, and if Priceline wants him to respect their trademarked slogan, which is only a fragment of the name of his site, he should expect something in return. I had an investment in a company with a name that was spelled similarly to a publicly traded company, both of which had been registered in different states within weeks of one another, that received a payment from the company asking them to stop using the homonymic URL after several years.

Mark just set up the site, having seen only nine visitors at the time he received the cease-and-desist letter. Nevertheless, he did invest in the design and functionality on the site and should use the occasion to ensure that Priceline stays out of e-books and will enter into no future litigation over similar concepts, such as “your price on e-books” or whatever. In the meantime, he should switch his new site to a variation on the phrase that will not raise the hackles of lawyers with nothing better to do that send letters like this over the weekend. And he should retain the existing site but place a redirect to the new URL on it for a period of one month.

If Mark wants a really cool tool for a patronage model in e-books, he should take a look at Songslide.com’s “pick your price” slider tool, which lets artists set a minimum price but be paid more by fans. I’m an investor there. Happy to make an introduction.

Sourcebooks tries DRM-free, multi-format romance

Sourcebooks, an independent publisher of trade print and e-books, has partnered with self-publishing services developer Smashwords.com to offer DRM-free editions of 14 romance titles, Publishers Weekly reports. The company’s Casablanca romance imprint will release the titles in nine formats priced at $6.99. Readers will be able to access purchased e-book files on any compatible reader or application, allowing them to move e-books from one compatible device to another.

Sourcebooks offers Adobe eBook versions of its titles through its own site and is also launching titles, though not necessarily DRM-free, on Scribd.com.

“There is discussion surrounding DRM, and while partnering with Smashwords does not mean we endorse DRM-free across the board, it does mean that we’re open to exploring different possibilities to better serve our customers,” said Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah in a statement.

In other words, this really is an experiment that will shape Sourcebooks’ strategy. It’s a chance to vote for DRM-free books with your hard-earned cash.