Smashwords: Publishing’s Rented Mule

GreenPorch Winter of eReadingNot that I would ever beat a mule of any sort, but you know how the saying goes. If the eVerse has a rented mule, it is Smashwords.

This fact is partly due to the fact Smashwords is practically a grey-haired veteran of the electric publishing world. Started in May 2008, it’s ancient in the eBook world. But the reasons for maligning the eBook publishing and distribution platform are as diverse as the books Smashwords spits out through its “meat grinder” software.

Some fart in Smashwords’ general direction due to its complete lack of quality control. (They will publish anyone willing to format their content to meet their meat grinder requirements.) Some thumb their noses due to the fact that Smashwords is anti-DRM (Digital Rights Management, or Drunken Rowdy Monkeys).

But whether you love them or hate them, Smashwords (and it’s founder Mark Coker) slammed into the forming eVerse vortex before most even knew it existed. For better or worse, they helped form it. Thus, even as larger entities (such as Kindle Direct Publishing) overshadow it, many will continue to prefer loving and/or hating Smashwords.

For those looking for a DRM-free way to publish their magnum opus, Smashwords is still a great option. They not only publish, but distribute to most eBook retailers. For those looking for tons of free or cheap original fiction (some of which isn’t porn), Smashwords also serves as a massive eBook retailer itself. They actually have a pretty nice search engine too, along with a “prude” filter (that has recently been changed to “adult” filter. How lame is that?).[divider]

So whether selling or buying, Smashwords has something to offer. And thus they will maintain a seat at the gathering of confederates in the eVerse.

6 thoughts on “Smashwords: Publishing’s Rented Mule”

  1. I never sell anything of consequence via the main Smashwords site, possibly b/c I get drowned out by prurient literature, but their distribution brings home the bacon. Love it. (I’ll love it more when they let me just upload a pretty EPUB.)

    • Indeed, David. I find it funny (sad?) that when the prude filter is engaged one finds an entirely different top 20 books to browse. If only I could convince myself to write erotica… but I just can’t relent.

      I here you with the .epub. I’m hesitant to refer people there when I know I could send them a file that would read so much nicer. And I hate updating my books there when I find a type-o (God forbid) because I have to find my .doc file buried somewhere on my hard drive and fix it up and re-grind it. The horrors!

  2. Smashwords occupies an unique niche in the epubbing jungle (and it is a jungle). As an author, I love the flexibility, control, and information they give me, and I admire Mark Coker’s dedication to the indie. Coker supports the indie like nobody’s business, even if he’s not always gone about it with the elan one would hope.

    Now that he’s at Player level, I just hope he doesn’t don blinders as so many industry pros have. Publishing tends to silo itself, as do the people attracted to the business. Coker and Smashwords will better serve both the content creators and the content consumers by continuously looking for ways to make themselves different and better than the heavy hitters. Smashwords will never be Amazon, so it shouldn’t try–instead, it’s got to do different.

    I already love the fact that as a reader, I can download books I’ve purchased in whatever format I want to read ’em in. I like the fact that SW emails me a reminder to review what I’ve purchased. Smashwords can go further through conscientious curation–as much as I like Amazon’s algorithms, they’re still machine generated. A smaller site like SW could easily partner with curation-oriented sites and offer a richer avenue of discovery.

    I hope Coker has the vision to step ahead of where the heavy hitters are now and be there. Where’s reading going? Where are the habits of people who read ebooks headed, and how can Smashwords be there waiting to help?

  3. Athena, so sorry! Your comment got caught in my junk filter (right between “justin bieber dolls” and “viagra”).

    I love what you are thinking for Smashwords and curation. That would be interesting indeed. But do you think it goes against the very nature of the company and Coker to curate?
    I definitely think they have a nice combination of size, flexibility and loyal users to keep influencing the industry through pushing new boundaries. Let’s hope, as you say, they don’t put on the blinders!

  4. I miss the prude filter. It made me smile every time I went on the site.

    I do like Smashwords for many reasons (though less so for some of the more dubious ‘erotica’ published on there these days!). It’s a shame it doesn’t have a better storefront because I think most authors benefit most from SW as a distributor and it would be great to see it take off more with readers.

    Thanks for a great read – and, as always, a good dollop of humour!

    • Hey, Donna! I know. I really like the search function on the smashwords store. But I’m not sure what they would have to do to appeal to more readers.


Leave a Comment