July 28th, 2012


A Letter From Smashwords And Request for Advice From Other Writers

In light of the recent incident, I did get a response from a Smashwords representative after three emails keeping them abreast of the developments with my work with Amazon.com to remove my pirated short story off the international Amazon affiliates. Her response was:

Thanks for your emails. Glad to hear Amazon removed them. We've seen this before, as noted in the April 20, 2011 Site Update at https://www.smashwords.com/about/beta

Luckily, it's an extremely rare problem (with over 140,000 books published at Smashwords in four years, we're aware of only about 10 or 12 instances of Smashwords books - free or otherwise - being stolen and resold at Amazon). Luckily, Amazon is great about removing them, and in most instances these scumbags are discovered before they earn a cent.

Now here is where I need advice. In my last email to Smashwords, I wrote the following:

I do not believe it is ethical to place an ISBN on my free work as it costs Smashwords to purchase ISBN's and if the work remains free Smashwords cannot make its money back. Deep down inside, I am a capitalist. Please be aware I have told my customers that I will remove all my free content on Smashwords on Tuesday, July 31st. This is NOT because I am dissatisfied with Smashwords, but the only ethical way I can protect my intellectual rights.

In her response, the representative responded to this paragraph:

We'd strongly encourage you *not* to remove your free books, because free books are powerful platform builders, and a great way to drive readers to priced books. Also, we do want you do use our free ISBNs, because without the ISBN your free book can't be distributed to Apple, Kobo and Sony. We're capitalists too, and we believe that if we can help Smashwords authors build their platforms, then we all benefit in the end. This is why we offer free ISBNs. We realize some authors take advantage, but the vast majority don't. Please use them at Smashwords!

What would YOU do in my shoes? I see these options:

  • Leave the short stories on Smashwords, but protect them all with ISBN's.
  • Remove the short stories from Smashwords, period.
  • Remove the short stories from Smashwords, put them in a collection and release the collection on Smashwords for free with an ISBN.
  • Remove the short stories from Smashwords, put them in a collection and release the collection on Smashwords for $.99 with an ISBN.
Maybe there are other options I am not aware of? Your input with reasoning would be most helpful and gratefully received.

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