Saturday, December 19, 2009

Huge changes at Fictionwise.com

I've long been a customer of Fictionwise.com, which was recently purchased by Barnes & Noble. But there's been a huge change in Fictionwise policy, and the only announcement I've seen is a notice at the very end of the pro forma receipt email you're sent after making a purchase there:
NOTICE: You should download your purchases as soon as possible. Fictionwise will maintain your purchases on your bookshelf for at least three months, and longer if we can, but that is not guaranteed. Make sure you back up your files.
This goes to the heart of two basic parts of Fictionwise's appeal.

First, many Fictionwise books, including the electronic versions of Analog, Asimov's, F&SF, and Interzone, are offered in what Fictionwise calls "Multiformat" -- you pay one price, and you get the books in all the formats Fictionwise offers, whenver you wish to download them: Mobipocket/Kindle, Sony Reader, eReader, PDF, iSilo, Rocket, ePub, and more.

The beauty of buying Multiformat was that you could go back and get the same book or magazine later in a different format without paying for it again. Except now apparently you either download ALL the formats (14 for each book) within three months of purchase, or you risk losing the very flexibility you paid for.

And there's a hint that Fictionwise is going to phase out those formats. Fictionwise has changed, again without any fanfare, the description of Multiformat books. Although all the formats are currently available, Multiformat is now described as:
Fictionwise MultiFormat titles are unencrypted eBooks that can be read with the FREE eReader application that you can download by clicking here. The eReader software is compatible with the following devices: Palm OS, Windows Mobile Pocket PC (Professional), Windows Mobile Smartphone (Standard), Symbian Series 60 or Symbian UIQ. You can also read eBooks on a Windows PC/Notebook, Apple Macintosh or an OQO Ultra Portable Computer.
And what about eReader, Fictionwise's DRM format? It's tied into your credit-card number -- and it used to be that you could go back at any time and update that number, and get a new version of the book that would be unlocked by the new number. But if the book disappears from your bookshelf after 90 days, you won't be able to do that; you'll be stuck with unlocking books with various numbers -- and I believe eReader software has a limit on how many different credit-card numbers it will accept.
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13 Comments:

At December 19, 2009 10:32 PM , Blogger johnd said...

Fictionwise is my main source for ebooks as well. I hadn't noticed the change in policy: scary.

Regarding the various credit card numbers: I've found that you don't have to use the same credit card number for purchasing the book and for the licence number. I've changed the credit card I use for purchasing the books a number of times but am still using the original number for ereader licencing.

 
At December 19, 2009 11:07 PM , Blogger greytfriend said...

Good info, thanks! I keep hoping for more multiformat book offerings from them. Or at least their main books with Adobe DRM instead of just secure eReader or Mobi, now that B&N owns them. They never respond to questions though. I've asked for clarification about multiple-year memberships and micropay rebates regarding the B&N purchase several times with no response. Kind of scary with how much money I have invested there. Perhaps dumb on my part, I hope not.

 
At December 20, 2009 12:22 AM , Blogger Us in SA said...

I've been a Fictionwise customer since I first found out about them from you - in fact I went to them at first to find more of your short stories. I was worried about changes like this when I saw that B&N had purchase them. *sigh* I'm off to download my bookshelf...

 
At December 20, 2009 12:45 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

It's been pointed out to me that this language has been on Fictionwise receipts for over a year now. Interesting. It's certainly not a widely publicized policy, though, and I don't see anywhere EXCEPT at the very end of the receipt where it's articulated.

 
At December 20, 2009 1:22 AM , Blogger Blue Tyson said...

Thanks. Hadn't bought much from them recently except occasional multiformat stuff from wildside etc. because publishers have no interest in selling to Australians anymore.

Was going to buy one SS with current sale though. :)

But FW continues to deteriorate with stuff like that it appears.

 
At December 20, 2009 5:37 PM , Blogger brian_l_raney said...

I am of a mind to believe it is just a legal disclaimer should Fictionwise loose the rights to sell any of their ebooks. Despite seeing that disclaimer for a few years now, I still have easy access to all the ebooks I bought through my online bookshelves at both Fictionwise and eReader. I don’t think removing access for certain titles is something they ever want to face, but, through no fault of their own, may be required to do so in future.

 
At December 20, 2009 9:02 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Brian wrote, "I am of a mind to believe it is just a legal disclaimer should Fictionwise loose the rights to sell any of their ebooks."

A disclaimer has to be presented BEFORE a transaction is completed; you can't take someone's money, then start issuing disclaimers after the fact. I can find nowhere on the Fictionwise website where they warn you that your books might disappear.

 
At December 21, 2009 1:04 AM , Blogger brian_l_raney said...

Agreed! A disclaimer should be presented *before* a transaction is completed, but how many times does that really happen in life. I cannot tell you the number of times I am faced with a disagreeable return policy written on the back, bottom, or (my favourite) hand stamped on the face of my receipt, usually covered with the words ‘NO RETURNS’ in bold red letters. And don’t get me started on the ever so abusive EULA we all come across after, but before we are allowed to install, the software we purchased. As anyone who has been suckered by a disreputable merchant will tell you, it’s a buyer beware world out there.

As for fictionwise, like many other web sites, they spell out their policies in their ‘Terms of Use’ link at the bottom of the page. Pay special attention to section 9, which spells out their current policy regarding eBook purchases and the limits to their member’s “BookShelf” use. Of course, they also include a section 11, which they assert allows them to change any policy put forth in the previous 10 sections after due notice, such as the new terms written at the bottom of any email receipt we receive, and our continued use of their service shall be deemed to constitute acceptance of such changes, modifications, additions or deletions.

 
At December 21, 2009 8:26 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Holy crap, Brian! That's amazing. On the receipt, they give you THREE MONTHS to download your ebook, but on the Terms of Use page you referred to they give you ONE HOUR -- and if you don't get it by then, well, boohoo if it disappears: "After purchasing any downloadable eBook or product from Fictionwise.com, it is the Fictionwise Member's responsibility to download the eBook or product within 1 hour of purchase."

Of course, Fictionwise allows you to pre-order not-yet-published eBooks (I have three on pre-order right now). Obviously, you can't download them within an hour of purchasing them (on your own schedule), so does this mean that you've got only a guaranteed window of sixty minutes from whenever they DO show up in your bookshelf (an event that occurs on Fictionwises's schedule) to grab them?

 
At December 21, 2009 9:21 PM , Blogger brian_l_raney said...

Rob, it possible the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing at Fictionwise. I came across this FAQ on "Expiring Download and eReader Replacement" that explains their policy towards their customers better than their 'Terms of Use' did. You can find it here:

http://www.fictionwise.com/help/Expiring-Download-Replacement-FAQ.htm

 
At December 21, 2009 9:29 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Well, Brian, that FAQ refers to a single specific problem, namely, "One of these aggregators recently gave Fictionwise notice that they would cease serving files to Fictionwise customers as of January 31, 2009." I agree that Fictionwise has acquitted itself well to date, but the "download within an hour or it's not our problem" policy is simply indefensible, so let's hope that whichever hand was responsible corrects it.

 
At December 21, 2009 10:22 PM , Blogger Heather said...

I tried buying my books at Fictionwise, but they don't seem to have a decent enough selection in multiformat...unless you happen to like soft-core porn. A lot.

 
At January 16, 2010 2:29 PM , Blogger BiniBeans said...

Wow, thanks for posting. I hdn't seen the announcement before. I guess I will start stopping by more ebook stores in the future instead of sticking so much with fictionswise. Anyway, I'll better start downloading all my stores ebooks now. With 500 plus books this might take a while.

 

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