Your ebooks can track you

As you may know, I’m sometimes a web developer as well as being a writer/swordfighter. Being a dev means knowing all kinds of random stuff about what makes the Internet tick, and incidentally, it also lets me understand a few things about ebooks.

Ebooks can track the stuff you do when you read them.

No, really!

Okay, so there’s this format called ePub, right? Most of the big retailers either use this format or a variant of it, with the exception of Amazon (the Kindle format is based on Mobipocket). ePub is a free, open standard that uses XHTML and a subset of the most common CSS rules that web developers and designers know inside out.

On the Subject of Kindle Unlimited

So… I’ve been debating Kindle Unlimited, and my biggest concern is whether it’s useful to readers. There’s already been a million words spilled on whether it’s good for authors, which is… neither here nor there, as my mother would say. The strength of it really depends on whether readers use it.

Trying to actually get info on the opinions of readers, though, is far more tricky than I thought it would be. My Google-fu is pretty strong, and I still struggled to get some basic articles written by readers or bloggers – not authors – on how much they got out of KU for the prince of $10 a month. So for what it’s worth, this is what I found – what readers think about KU.

“Not taking sides”

I’ve been following the Amazon vs. Hachette dispute with interest, mostly for the entertainment value. I don’t have much time to write on it myself, unfortunately, but one thing has finally prompted me to say something: the fact that Doug Preston, Authors United, and David Streitfeld, for example, are supposedly impartial, and not taking sides, when it’s clearly – CLEARLY – not the case. They are the old guard, on the side of Hachette and against Amazon.

The nice thing about the Internet is that you can basically try to prove it, and, well, I just feel the need to call out this silliness.

Buy This Book WordPress Plugin

It’s been quite a while since I got started on the concept of this, but the WordPress plugin I’ve posted about before is now ready and available for download.

I created this to combat three problems:

  • Many authors use things like the Amazon Affiliate widget to display their books, which is stripped out of webpages by adblockers. This results in their books never being seen by a significant chunk of users, as adblockers are the most popular plugins for Chrome and Firefox.
  • If authors want to just add their books and a link to Amazon, etc, they’re obliged to know some HTML and it’s something of a pain in the ass.
  • Neither option is ideal when books can be available on multiple websites.

Clearly, there’s a technical solution to this, and I put it together in a WordPress plugin called Buy This Book.

On the Amazon display problem…

I’ve written before on the problem of adblockers taking out Amazon listings. In a nutshell, Firefox and Chrome’s most popular addons are adblockers, which strip annoying ads out of webpages as they load up. They unfortunately take out Amazon’s book affiliate widget too, and this is a big problem if an author is using it to display their books on their website.

Well, I’ve been just a little bit out of touch lately because I’m building a simplified WordPress plugin that can replace the Amazon widget as well as display links to other buying options for each book. It’s a little difficult because I essentially have to pick up WP plugin development as I go along, and that’s not so easy even when you already know PHP and Javascript.

Ideally this will be submitted to WordPress as well, and released for free under the GPL license. I’ll also try to offer a little support for anyone who has trouble with it.