My core mission with Libreture is to support readers to discover, buy, and read independent ebooks. The language and messaging around this can sometimes get a little... awkward. (if you could hear my potty mouth when I receive a 'certain kind of tweet', you would be very ashamed of me - very!)
Let's look at an example, the difference between 'Store' and 'Upload'. Over the years I've used both to explain how Libreture builds your personal online library using your own ebooks, digital comics and magazine collection. But, boy, do they have different connotations.
(I should probably say at this stage: the misunderstandings have actually helped me improve some of the terms I use across Libreture)
Store is a nice word. It describes keeping your ebooks safe, in one place, to help you organise, and get hold of whenever you like. It says what it does. It's safe, if a little passive.
And that passivity is what I was trying to fix by making things a little more exciting, joojing it up a bit, givin' it some oomff! (I can actually hear my girlfriend's eyebrow rising right now. Seriously! I can hear it!)
I thought to myself (a dangerous prospect). Kevin, I said (you know it's going to be bad when I do that). We should use a more ACTIVE verb!
Store is so 'meh'. It's doesn't have energy! When you store things, they just sit there. Not doing anything. You don't actually DO anything when you store something. It sounds boring. It's not cool!
(at that point alarm bells should have been going off. Nothing good happens when I try being cool. I have evidence, from primary school, secondary school, art college, university, jobs, personal life. 45 years of evidence!)
So I thought to myself (oh shit). I thought, I should use the word that reflects what people actually do when they put one of their DRM-free ebooks into their Libreture library. I should do what all the cool kids do with their fancy websites that have like $20k MRR. The ones who say you should help users understand what to do by using the appropriate verb for the action you're asking them to take.
I know! I'll use... UPLOAD!
I know what you're thinking. I really do. You think that's fine, don't you? It's a good strategy, using active verbs that describe what people should do, the action they should take. It "helps", right?
(no it does not)
(not when we're talking about ebooks and ebook readers - oh no)
When you work with ebooks, either making them, selling them, founding services that help readers store them, you find a lot (LOT) of piracy sites. Or, more appropriately, 'book theft sites'.
I completely appreciate the arguments around ebook pricing, access to retail sites, internet connectivity, price parity discrepancy, exchange rates, country-specific releases. I really do. Working on my own ebookshop over at Scarlet Ferret means I look at these issues every day. Currently, I'm looking at introducing 'Purchasing Power Parity' pricing to Scarlet Ferret, to help balance out the cost to readers across countries. And I'm planning out a 'Community Copy' process, so readers with the means can buy an ebook copy for those who can't afford to buy right now.
But there are many who have different reasons for not paying for ebooks. They just don't want to, or don't see why they should.
Despite most successful independent authors not being able to live off book sales alone, some individuals just want books for free. And I've seen so many of these visitors arrive at Libreture.
If you make your library public on Libreture, it doesn't mean anyone can download your ebooks. They can just see which ebooks you have in your library, which you've read or plan to read, and if you've recorded it, where you bought them. Those shop links are the big idea behind Libreture.
It's full of indies...
The shop links readers can choose to apply to their books come from this main DRM-free Bookshop list. It includes almost 300 bookshops that sell DRM-free ebooks, digital comics, magazines, and RPGs. It gets hundreds of hits a month and helps readers find so many more independent ebooks to read than the 'big guys'.
Libreture is a cyclical ecosystem!
Readers add their ebooks, display where they bought it, make their libraries public, other readers find interesting books, and follow the shop links to visit indie ebookshops and buy them!
But when you just know that your most popular book pages are because someone is looking for a free download, you also know you have a 'language problem' (that's what I'm calling it anyway).
Using the word 'upload' instead of 'store' opened my eyes to the scale and scope of the ebook theft issue. Simply changing the phrase I used from:
'Store your ebooks...'
'Upload your ebooks...'
really attracted an interesting crowd (and not the usual youngsters outside a nightclub in Swansea on a school night begging to be let in just before throwing up all over the bouncer's shoes).
Shit got real (apparently)
You wouldn't believe the stuff I've seen since I launched Libreture in 2017!
I've seen visitors arrive at a book page, realise they couldn't download the book for free, register an account, login, and return to the page to see if they could download it then!
(no! no you can't! go away! shoo!)
Ebook theft has become so prevalent that the default assumption is now that any ebook-related service that pops up online is a repository of stolen books.
Visitors have outright asked why they couldn't find the free download link for a book on the page! Authors questioned my motivation when I retweeted that an ebook was available to buy somewhere in a DRM-free format (that was the day I learned what to 'dog whistle' meant).
My point is, ebook theft has become so prevalent that the default assumption is now that any ebook-related service that pops up online is a repository of stolen books.
As I said earlier, I appreciate the valid arguments against high prices and lack of international availability. Those problems are caused by a mix of monopoly publishers, retailers, and dated distribution models and practices... as well as a hefty dose of greed.
And those are the issues that need to be fixed.
The final word
(TL:DR: yes, I've changed it back to 'Store' now...)
A choice of words are what authors specialise in. Experts in weaving words into worlds, and describing stories, emotions, and senses. They deserve much more than to see their work - sometimes life's work - stolen and shared without payment.
Changing the words that describe Libreture hit me with a tiny fraction of what authors see every day. Indie ebook authors market their books full in the knowledge that many people read them after downloading from illegal sites.
When you STORE your ebooks in your very own Libreture library (one that is only yours to access, nobody else, no. one), remember to mark where you bought it from. Help others find ebooks to buy.