I’m a content creator and as such I really do wish my copyright to be honored. Living by any sort of “harm none, do what you will” credo (or “treat others as you would have yourself treated”) means that I don’t want to be an intellectual property pirate. I prefer to pay for my TV shows, films, books, comic books, audiobooks, role-playing games, etc.
But it galls me, sometimes, to pay for a work I’ve already purchased. And yet, I frequently find myself having to re-buy a property just because it’s in a format that suits me better – such as an e-book or audiobook. That’s why, when I heard about the BitLit App for my Android phone I knew that I had to give it a shot.
It’s not what you’d call the easiest of customer experiences. I had to try 10 times or so to get the app to recognize Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. You have to take a picture of the cover, the app has to scan it, and then tell you whether it was recognized or not. Finally after the 10th try, it told me that I indeed had scanned the cover of Cryptonomicon. Next step was to write my name in block letters on the copyright page.
This is very hard for me to do. I’ve been taught all my life never to write in a book. I feel odd doing it, but some sacrifices must be made for progress I suppose. I snapped the picture and it scanned and….thankfully got it right on the first try. Whew.
The app then said that I had a discount coming for re-buying Cryptonomicon: I could purchase it for a mere $1.99. Seeing as how the Kindle edition on Amazon is $4.99, I thought it was a pretty good deal, so I went for it.
This sent me to Harper Collins’ Digital River fulfillment house to actually complete the transaction, which went well enough, then had me download (!) another e-book reader (!) purpose-built for the publisher. Great. Now I have three e-readers on the device. But fine, whatever, I love Neal Stephenson, I love Cryptonomicon, let’s go for it. I log into the e-reader using the same credentials as I did for the Digital River fulfillment, and see the cover of Cryptonomicon as if it were one of my books. Good show! However, when I click on it, nothing happens and then I get a “File cannot be completed” error.
So, OK, my frustration level is pretty high at this point. I know, I know. First world problem. But still. I’m starting to tally up time spent versus cost saved and it does not look like a good equation. I hop on Twitter, let @BitLit and @HarperCollins hear my tale of woe.
Lo and behold, this morning, it worked. This e-reader of HarperCollins is completely clunky, but eventually I get it to where I can actually read on it, and all is well.
So, in summary:
My pain point in this process was nearly over the line for me. This needs to be a much, much easier process. Perhaps the scan recognition could be more accurate. Perhaps there could be an alternate proof-of-purchase process?
A “regular folk” trying this out wouldn’t have spent more than 2 minutes on it, then may have turned to piracy to get the eBook anyway. Money lost.
Ultimately, there is obviously money to be made here. I’m happy that the $1.99 that I spent will, theoretically at least, go back to Mr. Stephenson eventually. I’m just not happy about how difficult it is. But, I suppose, comparing difficult with impossible, I’d rather have difficult. I just don’t think this project will truly soar until it becomes a whole lot easier to handle.
Try it for yourself and let me know, will you?