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Nice To Be Back

motherboard1397Digital technology is fabulous, but is also incredibly fragile.  We had a catastrophic system breakdown a while back, and it’s taken until now to get this site restored and up and running.

Although fiction will always be the raison d’être for Libreleft Books, at this point we are considering a foray into political nonfiction.

Libreleft’s most important task is getting “The Girl In the Blue Flame Cafe” back on track.

 

 

 

Publishing DRM-Free

copyright symbol
Although I’ve always understood censorship to be a bad thing, like everyone else — particularly other creators — I grew up believing copyright was beneficial for authors and culture.   It is only in recent years, as copyright maximalists have successfully lobbied for copyright terms extending into the realm of the ridiculous  that that I’ve come to understand just how harmful copyright law actually is, both for people and our culture.

Free thought and free speech are incredibly important for human beings. When writers dare not reference our own culture for fear of legal copyright repercussions, “copyright chill” leads to self censorship, which serves only to stunt our culture.

So much of our culture is shared in digital formats these days that the mainstream media industry developed and embraced “digital locks” in order to “protect” its investment in the media content it distributes.  Copyright law calls them “”Technological Protection Measures” (TPMs), but these measures used to control how we humans use our media an devices are commonly known as “DRM.”

To those employing digital locks, DRM means “Digital Rights Management,” because these producers, publishers, manufacturers and distributors are managing their intellectual property rights on the property they continue to control, even after we have purchased it.

To the rest of us, DRM is effectively “Digital Restrictions Management,”and what is being managed is us.

What is Digital Restrictions Management?

Digital Restrictions Management is technology that controls what you can do with the digital media and devices you own. When a program doesn’t let you share a song, read an ebook on another device, or play a single-player game without an internet connection, you are being restricted by DRM. In other words, DRM creates a damaged good. It prevents you from doing what would normally be possible if it wasn’t there, and this is creating a dangerous situation for freedom, privacy and censorship…

DRM gives media and technology companies the ultimate control over every aspect of what people can do with their media: where they can use it, on what devices, using what apps, for how long, and any other conditions the retailer wants to set. Digital media has many advantages over traditional analog media, but DRM attempts to make every possible use of digital goods something that must be granted permission for. This concentrates all power over the distribution of media into the hands of a few companies. For example, DRM gives ebook sellers the power to remotely delete all copies of a book, to keep track of what books readers are interested in and, with some software, even what notes they take in their books.

Defective By Design: What is DRM

So it is no surprise that many mainstream publishing houses have embraced DRM, and early digital self publishing platforms required DRM. But authors and readers pushed back, and so today many independent authors and self publishers can choose to say “No” to DRM, when publishing.

In common with the rest of the mainstream media, traditional publishing houses are eager to reap the benefits of the new digital technology, while employing DRM in an attempt to turn back the hands of time and deny the benefits of digital innovation to every one else. Clinging to their outmoded business model, and worse, attempting to impose it on today’s digital world, is very likely not going to end well for these corporate entities, as suggested by the npr article, E-Books Strain Relations Beween Libraries, Publishing Houses

Libreleft Books are published DRM free

eBook cover art picturing a gibbous moon against a deep blue field

Like most self publishers, Libreleft publishes in as many formats and markets as possible, so it is possible that DRM may be applied without my my knowledge. In the event you purchase Inconstant Moon or any future Libreleft publication and find it is encumbered with DRM, Libreleft Books guarantees to replace it with DRM free copy.

One of the things I’ve been learning about in my self publishing adventure is DRM. We all encounter DRM every day in our digital world, but most of us don’t recognize it. There are no warning labels, so even if we know what DRM is, we have no way of knowing if it is even present. When our digital media or devices don’t work, it doesn’t occur to us that the manufacturer or publisher deliberately degraded their products with DRM.

I’ve written a fair bit about the dangers of DRM, and much of my opposition to Canada’s new copyright law was because it made DRM supreme. Following the lead (and substantial pressure from) the American Government, Canada and the UK have passed copyright legislation making it illegal to circumvent DRM — even to access material to which we are legally entitled. Such legislation makes it illegal to play a legally purchased DVD on a computer with a free software operating system, or to listen to, watch or read freely licensed or public domain books, music or movies on devices and platforms that employ DRM to prevent it.

Although Kindle reading devices are themselves encumbered with DRM, I decided that my debut novel, “Inconstant Moon” is not. My self-publishing imprint, Libreleft Books, will continue to publish this and all future offerings DRM-free. Readers are free to safely back-up their Libreleft books elsewhere. As well, you are free to use Calibre to convert your Libreleft Kindle eBook file to any other format.

In Amazon’s product details section, DRM-Free eBooks are identified by: “Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited” so you can check to see if the e-book you are buying is DRMed.
[Caution: Since Amazon retains the legal right to access your Kindle, for your own protection, all your ebooks should be backed up elsewhere, just as all digital files you have an interest in keeping should always be backed up on different media or devices.]

Libreleft Books does not and will never digitally lock up any books with DRM (or TPMs).

Which is why I am proud to have Libreleft Books listed in “The Guide to DRM-Free Living” in the Literature: Individual Authors and Books section. The Guide is published by Defective by Design, a campaign of the Free Software Foundation

Self Publishers can choose to publish DRM-Free because it gives us the freedom to choose.

More on DRMNinaPaley's Authors Against DRM

For more information about DRM and how to avoid it, read the Guide to DRM-Free Living.

TechDirt: Nina Paley “Librarians And Readers Against DRM [Updated]”

From Publisher’s Weekly, “A Whip to Beat Us With” by Cory Doctorow on the perils of DRM (also known as TPMs)

Author Culture “Authors Against DRM” by Tommie Lyn

Disruptive Conversations: As An Author, Why I Truly Hate Ebook DRM

Teleread: It is Now Illegal to Break DRM on E-Books in Canada!

EFF: DRM

DRM.info

interweb freedom: DRM is Bad

Digital Copyright Canada: Russell McOrmond on DRM

interweb freedom: DAY against DRM: Video

Laurel L. Russwurm: These Boots Aren’t Made for Walkin’Defective By Design: #cancelnetflix

Laurel L. Russwurm: C-11 ~ Criminalizes TPM circumvention without Warning Canadians

Defective By Design: #CancelNetflix: Arrested Development isn’t the only thing they screwed up

EFF’s Formal Objection to the HTML WG Draft Charter

laurel L. Russwurm: Tell the W3C “No DRM”

Cory Doctorow: What I wish Tim Berners-Lee understood about DRM

NaNoWriMo Success

2012 NaNoWriMo Winner Badge

I’ve just successfully validated my third NaNoWriMo novel “win”, with my draft of “Incoherent” which has been written during the 30 days of NaNoWriMo 2012.

At the moment, this first draft is sitting at 50983 words so far. This is, however, perhaps only as much as half way through the novel.

At some point, probably at the stroke of midnight, local time, the wordcount that will forever after be shown for “Incoherent” on the NaNoWriMo site will be frozen, even though there will be many more words written before this novel’s first draft will be finished. What I plan to do for most of the rest of today, November 30th, 2012, is to write more words, in an effort to boost the number immortalized on the NaNoWriMo site.

NaNoWriMo “winner” goodies

The first thing is a cute little “congratulations” video. It did its job and put a smile on my face. 🙂

There is the winner’s badge that we get to post on our blogs and websites. I’ll do all that blog maintenance in December

There is also a framable “winner” certificate, but it’s locked in PDF format. I’ve been unable to print previous versions in colour because NaNoWriMo employs the proprietary Adobe pdfs, which would not print in colour in the free software pdf reader I was using. Of course, that may have changed; I’ll let you know later.

There is also a big list of sponsors who offer gifts. The winner giftie that made my eyes light up was the 5 free Create Space volumes. That will probably take care of the hard copies I’ll need for my The Girl In The Blue Flame Cafe Beta Readers. Other than the requirement to use Flash fior uploading novel drafts, I have been very pleased with Create Space.

Later down the list is an offer from 48HourBooks.com to Print 100 books and receive 25 free. I’ve not dealt with them, yet, but it certainly sounds like something to check out.

Most of the prizes look to be discounts on software for writers. This does not particularly interest me because in the past most, if not all of these software deals were for software that was only good for MAC and Windows, making it totally useless for gnu/linux free software users like me. I don’t yet know if this is still the case, the jury is still out on this at the moment.

Anyway, I’m patting myself on the back for having made it through another NaNoWriMo. One of the things I like about NaNoWrimo is that it provides the framework of community.

Special Mentions

My brother Larry Russwurm gave it his first shot this year. He wasn’t confident about being able to write so much every day. Yet he got off to a great start and persisted all month long, handily crossing the finish line a few days ago, far and away ahead of me. Good job! 🙂

Another first timer friend of mine, who made good on his debut commitment to NaNoWriMo, is my friend Gordon Sinclair, Across the pond in Scotland, Gordon embarked on an ambitious joint project and made it through with time to spare. Excellent showing! 😉

I’d also like to say “great job!” to all of my community of writing buddies, both virtual and otherwise. Everyone has lives and commitments, which can make the daily commitment necessary to complete something like NaNoWriMo impracticable. And of course, the unexpected can always throw a monkey wrench in the best laid plans. 😮

Whether you managed to “win” this year or not, just by virtue of participating — even if all you managed was a single sentence — you’re still a winner in my books! 😀

Meantime, I’m off to see if I can wring out a few more words during November…

Libreleft Books on Kobo

Very sharp photo of a gibbous Moon on a deep blue background

Up until now, the only available eBook version of Inconstant Moon” was for the Amazon Kindle.

My intent was always to make my work available here, but I have not yet evaluated alternatives to PayPal, which I will not use. [Admittedly, reading legalese makes my brain glaze over…]

This state of affairs has now changed, as Libreleft Books will now be adding Kobo to our list of publishing outlets.

So I am pleased to announce that Inconstant Moon is now available in ePub format through Kobo!

Woo Hoo!

I am an independent author.

black and white snap

Laurel L. Russwurm, self publishing author

I don’t have an editor, I have beta readers.

I make the ultimate decisions.

Although I can seek out assistance from others, what ends up on the page is entirely up to me.

It is totally my responsibility.  If I get something wrong it is my mistake.

I cannot be overruled by an editor.   Or worse, a marketer.

Which is not to say I don’t listen.  Because I am independent, feedback is especially important to me.

I am not simply free-lance, but independent.  I’ve chosen to self-publish my debut novel through digital book distribution and Print On Demand publishing, using services like Ma href=”http://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/books/inconstant-moon/5NM8W4-o50SGwiSP6kY_Ow?MixID=5NM8W4-o50SGwiSP6kY_Ow&PageNumber=1″>Kobo, Amazon and CreateSpace.

Even worse, the impetus for writing my debut novel was NaNoWriMo.

Some will take these things as signs of amateurism. They still think it takes a mainstream publishing house to produce a good book.

They used to call self publishing the “vanity press.”

Back in the day, rich people could commission books about themselves, or publish their own novels.  They didn’t have to be good, they just had to be paid for.  Enough money meant you didn’t need to convince a publisher to publish your book or biography. It was possible to publish purely to satisfy your own vanity.  So naturally the perception was that self published works had to be awful.

Edgar Allan Poe: “Tamerlane and Other Poems” (1827)”

“Accepted wisdom” was that only writers who couldn’t get real publishers to publish their work would ever consider self publishing.

Terrible writers

The thinking is that only terrible writers would self publish.

Writers like Edgar Allan Poe, whose anonymous self published first book Tamerlane and Other Poems, is one of the “one of the rarest first editions in American literature.”

The assumption that only bad writers would self publish is probably why Poe’s venture into self publishing doesn’t have his name on it. Had it been common knowledge, he might never have gotten a “real” book deal. Edgar Allan Poe was a breakout writer because he self published. Suffice it to say, if you manage to find a copy of the first edition of this little gem on your attic, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank since its most recent auction price was $662,500.00

Or terrible writers like J.K.Rowling.

Over the course of the 20th Century, the power balance between publishers and writers widened dramatically, with the power consolidated firmly in the hands of the publisher, except in the rare case of the very successful superstar writers.  It doesn’t get more “superstar” than J.K.Rowling.   Although the Harry Potter books and movies have made J.K.Rowling richer than the Queen of England, isn’t it interesting she launched her Pottermore website, which is careful to exclude both the movie and publishing corporations?

To foster a “reading” environment.

Of course, J.K.Rowling is also taking on the new role of self publisher, as this will be the exclusive digital book outlet for Harry Potter eBooks and audio books. Certainly she has a bit of an edge over most of us, but J.K.Rowling has opted for self publishing.  After all, if Ms. Rowling can’t get a good enough deal from a mainstream publisher, what chance do the rest of us have?

my choice

Even before Pottermore, it never crossed my mind to even query a publisher.

When I was young, the only choice for creators was jumping on the appropriate industry treadmills. I wanted to write episodic television, and the only way to do that was to work for hire, effectively giving up my rights. I was willing to do that ~ then ~ because I was young, and because I was learning. Lessons learned as a working story editor were invaluable, and I don’t regret that at all.

But today the world is a very different place.

When it was time for me to write a novel, rather than jumping through hoops to acquire an inequitable publishing deal by giving up control or sharing title to my work, I chose instead to ‘self publish’. Regardless of what the publishing industry would have us believe, ‘self publish’ is no more an oxymoron than ‘self portrait’.

I am not willing to rely on the lowliest member of the editorial team to convince her superiors to do their best for my book.  Even with my professional writing background, that is what a first time writer is likely to get from any mainstream publisher these days. Judging from the lack of quality in the two mainstream books I’ve just read — books that should have been really good based on the writer’s track record, but were mediocre or embarrassing — I have to wonder whether even established name writers are being well served by their mainstream publishing houses.

The mainstream publishing houses are themselves moving into Print on Demand (POD) and eBooks. But they are not passing their savings along to their writers by offering anything like a reasonable division of spoils.

Of course, main stream publishers still don’t get it. They want total control. After a century of insisting writers should tighten their belts, these publishers are curiously resistant to tightening their own. After all, they can’t pay authors a reasonable split: their overheads are enormous.

I find it terribly ironic that even Amazon doesn’t get it.   I thought it would be good to enter their “Breakthrough Novel” promotion until I looked at it and saw that the “prize” is a publishing contract.

But I don’t *want* a publishing contract.

If I wanted a publishing contract, I wouldn’t be self publishing.

eBook cover art picturing a gibbous moon against a deep blue field

My debut novel, “Inconstant Moon”

Self Publishing is real publishing.

Just like books from the mainstream houses, self published books are not equal. Some are good and some are not. A powerful reason for my online serialization of Inconstant Moon is because I believe it is good.

But I’d rather publish my books myself and trust to readers to decide. And yes, I know it is brutally hard work, work that is taking me away from writing. But once I’ve got the self publishing aspects learned, the next one will be easier.  If people like my work, perhaps they will choose to buy copies from Libreleft Books, or any of the distribution channels available through my eStore.

I don’t need to be as rich as J.K. Rowling, I just need to write, and to be able to make my work available. Perhaps I’ll be able to make a living at this. If not, I will do it anyway, just less of it.

Because I’m a writer.

The one thing that I know, is that today’s technology means that I can.



Edgar Allan Poe portrait, a daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe by W.S. Hartshorn in 1848, was shared by The Dark Clown

“Laurel L. Russwurm, self publishing author” by Lothlaurien