January 27, 2012
I’ve been writing and selling ebooks online since 2004. Since then, it’s become a lot more popular, especially since Amazon makes self-publishing so easy now. Of course, any time an industry matures, the bad apples come out and start lying, stealing and cheating to get their slice of the pie. Here, I’m talking about ebook theft.
What prompted this post was an email I received from a fellow ebook writer. He wrote:
I am done writing my first ebook. I was trying to decide whether to keep it as an EBook or a hard copy printed on demand? Is there any way to avoid people duplicating your downloadable book? Thanks.
Ebook Security: How to Stop Someone from Stealing Your Ebook and Selling It As Their Own
Unfortunately, the short answer is, no, there’s no 100% fool-proof way to prevent someone from duplicating your downloadable ebook. Ebook piracy, copyright infringement, content theft, etc. is alive and well – and it’s never going to disappear.
So my overall advice is to just accept that ebook theft is going to happen. Now, I’m not saying be complacent about it. To that end, following are some ebook security measures you can take to protect your works.
1. Secure Your File: As in, when you turn your Word file into a pdf file, before uploading, make it a secured file. I use this free pdf software for my ebooks. It gives you several options when you secure a file. For example, you can restrict printing, copying, screen readers, modifications, etc.
When I secure my ebook pdf files, I always select Restrict Copying and Restrict Modification, as indicated in the graphic below. This simple form of ebook protection can really stop a lot of theft.
2. Name Your File Correctly: This advice is for those who don’t use a digital download provider like e-Junkie.com.
To prevent those who haven’t purchased your ebook from stealing it is to give your file a weird name. For example, take my ebook, “How to Write an Ebook in 3 Days, Market It & Start Getting Sales within a Week.” I wouldn’t name this file something like www.inkwelleditorial.com/write-ebook-in-3-days and upload it to my site to sell because that’s just too easy for someone to guess. If they guessed correctly, they could find the file by doing a simple Google search.
So, make the file name hard to guess. Use the same guidelines you’d use when creating a password for your online banking, for example (make it long, use letters and numbers, use uppercase and lower-case letters, use typographical symbols, etc.).
3. Use a Digital Service Provider: The easiest way to prevent theft from those who don’t want to buy your ebook is to use a digital service provider like e-Junkie. Not only does it increase ebook sales by offering instant delivery, it cuts down on piracy because it’s hosted in a secure environment.
4. Change Download Link Regularly: Again, this advice is for those who don’t use a service like e-Junkie. If you sell directly from your site, change the download link to your ebook file regularly, just as you would your banking or any other password.
This doesn’t prevent theft, but it certainly makes it harder. And, as thieves are just lazy slime anyway, most of them will slither on to the next victim.
5. Prevent File Sharing: I don’t advise this because it can hurt ebook sales, but you can prevent file sharing. For example, when you sell ebooks on Amazon, they offer you the option to prevent file sharing. I never select this – as I want users to share my ebooks. Why?
Because I publish a lot of them, so the more readers are introduced to my works, the better, in my opinion. That person who read the first one “for free” may double back and buy the next two or three.
6. Use Anti-Theft Ebook Software: There is some ebook encryption software out there. I haven’t used any of it yet, so can’t recommend any. But, if piracy becomes a real problem, I might do so in the future. So far, to my knowledge, I haven’t had anyone outright steal an entire ebook of mine, but I do know a couple of people it’s happened to.
FYI, in case you don’t know, following is an explanation of what ebook encryption software is:
eBook encryption involves information being converted into an algorithm so that it becomes unreadable unless the reader has the ability (software) to decrypt back into plain text which can be read by humans
7. Password Protect Your Ebook Files: This is so easy, and there’s software out there that will that helps you do it. These applications allow you to create a password for your download page. When a customer makes a purchase, you can either email them the password, or set it up so that they receive the password as an automatic part of the download process.
8. Do Periodic Checks: As in, troll the internet once a month or so to see if anyone has stolen and is selling your ebook(s).
I do this on a regular basis. It sickens me every time though because while I haven’t had an entire ebook stolen, I have had portions of one of my ebooks stolen (scroll down in this post to the heading, “Ebook Theft: How Someone Stole Not Only Portions of My Ebook, but My Professional Credentials as Well”).
The feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that someone has swiped your hard work is hard to explain. You feel confusion, pity and rage all at once. This is why I hate trolling the web looking for my stuff; but, it’s a must.
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9. Sue: The above led me to put an attorney on retainer to sue anyone I discover stealing my ebooks. See this monster post on copyright infringement, which covers your legal rights as a content producer, as well as the penalties thieves receive if successfully prosecuted.
10. Contact Web Hosting Provider and Domain Name Registration Company: When I had all my troubles with someone accusing me of copyright infringement back in October of 2010, I found out just how easy it is to have a website shut down. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side that time, but I used the experience and have had several sites shut down for stealing my content since then.
11. Contact Payment Provider: If you found that someone has stolen your ebook and is selling it, you should also contact their payment processor. Many use the biggies like PayPal and AlertPay. Contact these companies and explain why you’re requesting that that they stop processing payments for that account holder.
I haven’t had to do this yet, but you can see how effective it can be if you have to.
12. Market Your Products: How can this stop ebook theft? It’s explained brilliantly why by internet entrepreneur Milana Leshinsky in the article, What to Do About Ebook Theft. She writes:
1) Promote yourself, other e-books, your services, your newsletter, and your web sites throughout the e-book. If you’re giving examples, try to use your own web sites and your own experiences to illustrate.
2) Always have at least one more product for sale as your back-end product. Mention it throughout your e-book and link to it where needed.
3) Be sure to offer an incentive to your readers (whether they come from you or your thieves) to join your mailing list. Give away a free report, a free e-book, a free newsletter, a free pen, etc. just to capture their e-mails. You will then be able to send them follow-up messages and special promotions.
4) Create more and more e-books of interest to the same audience. Since they can’t get more from the thief, they will get it from you!
5) Put a lot of personality in your e-book. It will make it harder for somebody else to steal and claim as their own creation. It will make you develop close relationships with your customers, and will make your e-book more interesting to the reader.
In my own e-book development, I try to combine all of the above factors – prevention, pursuing, and promotion.
This article offers a lot of good info on how to stop ebook theft by the way. Even though it was written a decade ago as of this writing, it just goes to show how new self-publishing as an industry is, and how ebook authors have to be vigilant to protect their works.
Why Isn’t Copyrighting on This List?
If you’re wondering why I didn’t talk about copyrighting your ebook, it’s because once you create the work, you own it; in essence, it is already copyrighted, as explained in the article, How to Copyright Your eBook or Self Published Book, which states:
. . . you do not have to even register your work with the US copyright office to have copyright protection. The law clearly indicates that as soon as the work is finished, you own the copyright, and therefore, have copyright protection. So as soon as you are done with your self published book or eBook, you automatically have copyright protection.
This article also explains how to copyright an ebook “officially” if you’re interested in doing so.
Self-Publishing Success: The Bottom Line on Protecting Ebooks from Thieves
Even if you only use a few of these tips, you will significantly decrease the chance of your ebook being stolen.
The reason is simple – thieves are lazy. Many won’t put any more effort into stealing your content than they have to. For example, most aren’t going to duplicate your ebook by typing it if that’s the only way they can get it. That’s why it’s prudent to do simple things like restrict modification of your ebook files.
I hope this info helps and that you never have your ebook stolen, cuz boy, that just ain’t no fun!
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P.S.: Take Action If Someone Steals Your Ebook: This ebook explains exactly what a copyright violation notice is and what you can do if this happens to you (here’s hoping that it never does).
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