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Update Your Shelf: BitLit Offers Access To Ebook Versions of Books You Own 82

First time accepted submitter Peter Hudson (3717535) writes Cory Doctorow writes on boingboing.net "BitLit works with publishers to get you free or discounted access to digital copies of books you own in print: you use the free app for Android and iOS to take a picture of the book's copyright page with your name printed in ink, and the publisher unlocks a free or discounted ebook version. None of the Big Five publishers participate as yet, but indies like O'Reilly, Berrett-Koehler, Red Wheel Weiser, Other Press, Greystone, Coach House, Triumph, Angry Robot, Chicago Review, Dundurn, and PM Press (publishers of my book The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow) are all in."
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Update Your Shelf: BitLit Offers Access To Ebook Versions of Books You Own

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  • by photonic ( 584757 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @05:40PM (#47342227)
    Great, one guy who actually owns the book takes a high resolution scan and puts it on the internet, everyone else prints it out and signs it ....
    • by mfh ( 56 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @06:33PM (#47342425) Homepage Journal

      People aren't evil. The simple fact is if a publisher sells a book at a fair price people would rather pay money than simply download the book.

      Case in point against DRM are the musicians and comedians who are offering a "pay what you want" model that is so successful these guys make MORE money than they would through a traditional publisher, with less advertising and less overall effort. Time is money.

      So yeah some guy will offer the book for free... and a few people will see the link and realize they can BUY the thing, and they'll do that instead. The people who download it wouldn't have bought it anyway. How many books do you read at Chapters? Do you buy EVERY BOOK?


      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by davester666 ( 731373 )

        Pretty much the only musicians/comedians who make money with "pay what you want" or even with their own web site selling their wares for similar or even lower than the 'regular' price of similar merchandise are the ones who don't need the money and who have already 'made it'. They already went through the process of going through labels or promoters, dingy nightclubs, and made it big, so that lots of lots of people already know about them and what to expect from the product they buy. And they also get a w

      • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

        People aren't evil.

        Sure they are. But this has nothing to with DRM or free books. its just nature, and we ARE evil to the core.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @08:15PM (#47342713) Homepage

          Not all books are the same. There are two major categories non-fiction versus fiction. I would have to be honest and say when it comes to say text books, I want to download them for free and never pay for them. I don't want a text book written by one author that only lasts a couple of years. I want one where hundreds even thousands of people expert in the field have collaborated on and update once a year. A government funded exercise, where it is not about generating a profit but saving money by reducing cost for education for every citizen. So open collaborative text books free of copyright hassles beyond keeping plagiarists under control.

      • People aren't evil.

        Welcome to the internet! You'll first want to take our new users orientation, where you study such schools of thought as this... [penny-arcade.com]

    • by 1u3hr ( 530656 )

      If anyone wants to download a bootleg Kindle edition, you can easily find them online very shortly after publication
      (And many books with no official ebook edition have homemade versions of varying quality as well.)

      Most Kindle books are 500kB or so, less than a hi res scan of a page.

      So this scan/print/sign/register/download method is much more work than what you can already do now.

  • by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @05:59PM (#47342311)
    but they take up a lot of room, and when traveling I find it much easier to bring my kindle fire. With as much as new books cost, especially hard covers, there is no real reason to not bundle an ebook with the physical copy. The last few years I've shelled out $15-$30 on brand new hardcovers (preorder to impulse buy). I enjoy reading them and then stick them in my bookcase. I don't really want to get them torn up while traveling and they are huge. That gives me three options: purchase another physical book in paper back, buy the ebook, or download an ebook. I've already spent upwards of $30 on the book, so giving more money isn't really an enticing option. The $30 is probably enough to buy the hard cover, paperback and ebook a year after it comes out.

    Just bundle them. Do it as a pre-order thing. People might even be enticed to pre-order something they wouldn't otherwise.
    • I used to buy many books second-hand. Then came the great bookshelf collapse. Nearly broke an arm when that thing fell on top of me.

      I donated them all to the school I was a student with at the time to start the sixth-form library. Over the next two years I saw them used as paper plane material, soaked and stuck to the ceiling as paper wads, thrown, used to prop furniture and stuffed in a toilet. I never actually saw a student read one of them, though the teachers did.

  • Not a chance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stevez67 ( 2374822 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @05:59PM (#47342315)
    "None of the Big Five publishers will EVER participate ..." FTFY
  • Well, it is still considered Beta, but it has a big failure. I get the message "X This app is incompatible with all of your devices" when i go to download it, even though I have several Android devices it should be compatible with. I expect this is the same problem as I have seen with a few other apps, they are using a specific list of compatible devices and my Lenvo tablet just isn't in there. When are developers going to learn to be more inclusive in their supported devices, or at least let users download the apk file and trying installing it at their own risk?
    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      you may be able to get the apk.. look for it on alternative stores like slideme.
    • by anubi ( 640541 )
      That one thing, Sir:

      I get the message "X This app is incompatible with all of your devices"

      is by far the PRIMARY motivator I have of pirating anything. Second is having to reveal my banking transaction codes in order to make a purchase, when I have no trust of either my own system, my connection, or my vendor, third, and LEAST, is the PRICE.

      It has been my experience that DRM'd stuff is so finicky and unreliable I might as well throw it away like an old screwdriver whose shaft slips in its handle. Its

  • So, i have to physically damage my book by writing in it, and it will prevent the next guy down the line from ever participating in such a scheme.

    • Re:Book Resale value (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @07:35PM (#47342619) Journal

      So, i have to physically damage my book by writing in it, and it will prevent the next guy down the line from ever participating in such a scheme.

      um, photoshop the writing in?

    • by murdocj ( 543661 )

      This is the dictionary definition of looking a gift horse in the mouth. Someone offers you another copy of your book for free, and your are pissed off. If it's really that onerous and awful, here's a thought: don't take that free thing you are being given.

      See, that was easy.

      • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

        1 - Most of what i saw was not free.
        2 - Why should my want of 'freeness' supersede the poor sap that buys my used books? Books that now have a reduced value. ( both due to it being tied to me, and that i have defaced a piece of literature )

    • Lots of people already write their names in books. I wasn't really one of them, but I'm becoming unenamoured with physical media lately. And the point is that you are indeed supposed to prevent someone else from using the same book for this purpose. That's not really unreasonable. If you give it away or resell it, they're not making any money off that, so why would they give you the ebook free or discounted?
  • Yes, there's an iOS version, but it's only for the iPhone. An app that displays books that doesn't work on an iPad whose larger screen size if so much better for reading books? Seriously?
  • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @08:26PM (#47342741) Journal

    Really? Some of us really enjoy our books -- as someone who has a personal library with ~4,000 books, I would be appalled if I had to write on any of their pages with a pen.

    Not because I am planning on selling any of them, but because to me, I just see it as damaging the book.

    A good many of them are autographed or antiquarian books, and the last thing I'd ever want to do is sign them with a *pen*.

    I find the whole deal oddly disturbing -- maybe it's just me as a bibliophile, but writing on a book sounds like a sacrilege.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Use a business card with the picture and tell them why you have an aversion to defacing a book - they should probally like that as much as the written in pen, since it gives them much more information than they requested and they should appreciate the 4000 book personal library enough to understand your principalled stance

      • by metlin ( 258108 )

        Indeed. That is a great idea. Thank you.

      • I'm dubious old editions will work in the first place. You need to take a picture of the copyright page, and it will likely want to match to the specific editions in question. Also when I emailed to make a suggestion about being able to re-take your copyright page signature picture, he commented on how I was naughty for using a pencil :P
    • I have only just heard of this app so I haven't actually tried it yet. With that in mind I bet you could figure out some hack to make it appear in the pic as if you had written your name when if fact it is just a bit of photography trickery. Something in the physical world to create the illusion in other words. Of course if that were the case I guess people would go to book stores and do this to get free/cheap ebooks. Nobody do that. It was just idea to avoid physically writing in beloved books.
    • If you don't want to participate in their program, you're welcome to format-shift the book yourself. They're giving you a free bonus here, not trying to make something that you're entitled to more difficult to get.
      • by metlin ( 258108 )

        Yes, clearly I was unaware of this fact when I made this comment. Because, you know, it's an all-or-nothing world where people offering product features tell their users to do it their way or stick it.

        If you cannot offer a helpful suggestion when someone questions something they aren't comfortable with, perhaps you should cut down the snark and just ignore the comment.

    • So print your signature on a piece of transparent plastic and lay it over the page before you photograph it...
    • I think that's the point.

      I suspect the reasoning is that one physical copy == one license. By having the physical copy tied to you, by putting your name in it, they ensure you can't pass it on to anyone else, which means the license becomes non-transferrable. That means it's safe for them to give you a digital copy of the book, covered by the same license, in the knowledge that nobody else can claim a digital copy from the same physical book, without buying a new copy.

      I would also be entirely unsurprise

    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      One of my small treasures is a copy of the Complete Works of Byron. One of the wonders it contains is the signature and dedication written in it by the original owner, who gifted it to a family member -- in 1847.

      Even so, the notion of writing my name in my own books (probably 5000 or so volumes) gives me the quivering shudders. Not to mention the most horrid case of writer's cramp.

      • I suspect, FWIW, the complete works of Byron are in the public domain and can be downloaded for free anyway...

        (That said I'm aware that it doesn't matter. If I had a complete copy of the works of Asimov, signed by the good Doctor himself, I wouldn't want to vandalize it either.)

      • If a publisher doesn't have a current edition of it, you can't get it. So there's no point in bemoaning your 1987 edition of anything let alone 1847.
        • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

          Eh? No, we were bewailing a requirement of defacing our books, but then it occurred to me that such signatures might be valued by future owners, as I value my antique the more because it has a history.

          (Just for S&G, I tracked down the original owner's descendants -- turns out they still live in Boston.)

  • That offer is only valid for those who have a USA address for either google play or itunes,
    Good concept, but useless for the vast majority of us who don't happen to have an address in the USA.

  • by chrism238 ( 657741 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @12:15AM (#47343297)
    I note that with BitLit the 'price' of an eBook from O'Reilly is $4,99.

    However, if you sign up with O'Reilly (free), determine the ISBN of any of their physical books (which is on the physical copy that you bought, and O'Reilly keep a 'backup' copy of the ISBN on their website), you can receive an eBook copy of that book for - wait for it - also for $4.99.

  • How does this compare to Amazon's Kindle MatchBook?
    • Matchbook only works for books you buy on Amazon.com and only works if you have a Kindle registered under the same account... For an average reader, the physical books they've purchased on Amazon is a relatively small percentage of the books on their shelf. BitLit works for all books regardless of where you acquired them. Excuse me while I don my fireproof suit and remind /. comment thread readers that they are not average.
  • by LSDelirious ( 1569065 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @06:30AM (#47343875)
    All I have to do is head to Barnes & Noble with a disappearing ink pen?

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