App of the Month

In this new age of Social Media, one of the most important things you can do is manage your time well. That’s where TweetDeck comes in. With its ability to synch multiple accounts in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media services, TweetDeck is a powerful social media dashboard. The columns you view everything in allow for the ability to, at a glance, see what’s happening at any given time across all sorts of social media fields.

Tweetdeck can be used to monitor mentions of your company, keep abreast of interesting links, and even see what your readers are saying about new books or authors. Perhaps the best part about the tool, beyond the columns that allow you to see things at a glance, is that you get a little pop-up update whenever something new happens. This means you don’t have to click through to everything in order to see what’s going on.

TweetDeck is a powerful social media dashboard, and it can easily fit into your overall social media marketing strategy. It’s for these reasons that TweetDeck is December’s App of the Month.


A premier publishing services firm

Tech Desk

From the Tech Desk

Penguin Group and the latest digital distribution silliness

Just before Thanksgiving in the U.S., Penguin Group made the “bold” move of removing all its eBooks from the OverDrive library lending system. The publishing house cited amorphous “security concerns” as their reasoning, and the removal of their eBooks happened quickly and quietly. Just as quickly, however, the entire backlist of eBooks was back available in the lending system and would remain so, according to Penguin, until the end of the year. No new eBooks will get added to the system though, and what happens after January 1 is anyone’s guess.

These “security concerns may have been an attempt to prevent unauthorized copying of the eBooks, which would undercut sales for Penguin Group,” according to a Nashua Telegraph story. The way the OverDrive system works is that the eBook you’re borrowing exists behind a firewall designed to prevent unauthorized copying. Recently, decided to participate in the lending program and a “Send to Kindle” button appeared that allowed Kindle users to point their browser to Amazon as part of the lending system.

According to Penguin, this meant Amazon was circumventing the OverDrive firewall that prevented unauthorized copying. Whether it does or not is anyone’s guess, but that’s immaterial to how Penguin acted in this whole situation, seeing as they have a rather acrimonious history with Amazon in the first place. Recall the story of Kiana Davenport, who had her novel The Chinese Soldier’s Daughter canceled by Penguin after she self-published a collection of her short stories, Cannibal Nights,” as an eBook. Penguin called foul — yes, I resisted the urge to write “foul”— and claimed breach of contract because Davenport had self-published stories that were never under contract with Penguin in the first place. A former employee of a Big 6 publisher told me that Davenport may have indeed violated her contract by self-publishing those stories. According to that former employee, the situation came under a common “right of refusal” clause; Davenport should have mentioned her plans to Penguin. This would have allowed them to then decide whether they wanted to publish the story collection or whether she could go ahead and self-publish it.

It’s safe to say that Penguin and Amazon don’t have anything approaching an equitable business arrangement. If anything, Penguin would logically take steps to try and prevent Amazon from gaining even more market share over the publishing industry. Seen through this light, the idea of pulling eBooks from the OverDrive system makes a teensy bit of sense. From a public relations and consumer standpoint however, Penguin Group looks like little more than a child throwing a temper tantrum, taking their toys, and going home.

But, I’ve accused Amazon of similar behavior in its dealings with the publishing industry. You’ll recall my July column on the eBook agency pricing model, where I took Amazon to task for yanking Macmillan eBooks from the Kindle store. This move by Penguin is only slightly different, and can’t be spun as “protecting consumers.”

Penguin yanking their eBooks was profit motivated, pure and simple. The impetus for the OverDrive system and its disappearing eBooks after 2 weeks is the assumption that someone will then purchase the eBook if they like it enough. However, if a Kindle user is able to circumvent the OverDrive system, then they might be able to keep an eBook longer than the two weeks without paying Penguin any money. From the corporate viewpoint this is a very bad thing. It leads back to the reason why big corporations love things like copyright protection and digital rights management: they want to keep their profit margins intact.

While this is an understandable motivation, it’s clear that not a single person at Penguin thought of the possible consumer impression yanking their eBooks gives. If they did, the actions probably would have been negotiations with OverDrive and Amazon first while the eBooks were still in the system. After all, why would any sane company want to punish its consumers for enjoying its product?

* * * * *

Matthew Delman spent his formative years making up science fiction stories using Hot Wheels cars as stand-ins. In addition to writing on such varied topics as education and business, Matthew is also the founder of independent publishing company Doctor Fantastique Books and its flagship magazine Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders. His writing has appeared in The Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.), The Salem News (Salem, Mass.), and on among other media outlets.


* * * * *

Previous From the Tech Desk articles:

The Idiocy of Digital Rights Management

BiblioCrunch makes eBooks easy for independent publishers

Is Booktrack’s idea of putting soundtracks on novels a good one?

Is the Vook the future of reading?

The Worrisome Nature of Spam in the Kindle Store

Is Print-on-Demand really a game changer?

Has the eBook Agency Model Harmed Sales?