(Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. While I try to check legal matters with attorneys and legal websites, I’m not offering legal advice. If you have further legal questions contact a literary attorney.)
When I was a novice writer I was unduly concerned about my work being “stolen.” It was silly for me to think that anyone would want to take credit for my early writing. This concern comes up more often with e-publications. To most people, it seems easier to share, print, or otherwise acquire the product without a purchase.
Sharing an e-book is different than a print book. While it’s not possible to keep a print book while loaning it or giving it to a friend, it is with an e-book.
Amazon does offer an option to loan an e-book with limitations. By default, all Kindle books are enrolled in the lending program. Books in the 35% royalty option can be removed from the program. iBooks has no lending feature.
Digital Rights Managements (DRM) and other security schemes can be added to an e-book that limits reproduction of an e-book. Most of these schemes limit lending and sharing, and some can even prevent printing.
Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, says this, “DRM is counterproductive. If you don’t trust your readers to honor your copyright, you’ll reach fewer paid readers.”
Thomas Umstattd, CEO of Castle Media Group, started quite a discussion on his blog, Author Media, with this post “Authors: Piracy is Not Your Enemy.”
Before we end this section, I want to mention the Creative Common License. If you don’t know what that is, Umstattd has a clear explanation on his blog
I use Creative Common License for much of my material so it’s easy for others to use. I believe it not only benefits others, but it also benefits me. As Thomas Umstattd said at a seminar one time—the Bible was never copyrighted. Shouldn’t we share what God has given us as well? (Yes, I know various companies have now copyrighted modern translations of the Bible.)
Apple and Amazon have products that can make them the exclusive distributor. As I read the distribution statements with these products, it means you can’t sell your book on your own website.
Apple now has iBooks Author, a free app to build interactive books. (This app requires a Mac computer using OS 10.7 or later.) If you create a book using this app and sell it in iBook format, it must be sold in the iBookstore. Apple does allow provisions for free distribution and distribution in other formats, such as EPUB.
Amazon offers KDP Select. This option makes your book available for the Kindle Lending Library offered to Amazon Prime Members, and it allows you to offer your book free for five days during the ninety-day contract period. Your book may not be offered in any other format anywhere during the contract period.
There may be other distribution systems that have exclusivity clauses in their contracts. Please read your contract or terms of service carefully, and seek appropriate legal advice if you don’t understand something.