Wed
Mar 4 2009 3:14pm
Suvudu Opens Free First (e)Book Library

Our colleagues over at Suvudu.com, Random House’s SF/F portal, have jumped into the eBook ring with the Suvudu Free First Book Library! From their post:

NEW YORK, NY - March 4, 2009 - Random House, Inc. today unveiled the first five titles in its new Suvudu Free First Book Library. Designed to introduce new readers to popular and acclaimed science fiction and fantasy series, the Suvudu Free First Book Library allows readers to access free digital copies of the first book in each series.

The program launches with access to the following novels:
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Settling Accounts: Return Engagement by Harry Turtledove
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt

The books will be made available through Random House’s science fiction/fantasy portal, Suvudu.com (http://www.suvudu.com), as well as on other content services, including Scribd.com and the Stanza ebook reader application for the iPhone.

Says Christine Cabello, Random House Publishing Group Deputy Director of Marketing: “The Suvudu Free First Book promotion provides us with a new digital vehicle to build an author’s fan base and is an ideal way to bring new readers to these series.”

New titles are scheduled to be added to the Suvudu Free First Book Library on a regular basis. Coming soon are Terry Brooks’s Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!, Elizabeth Moon’s Trading in Danger, and many more.

This is fantastic news for SF/F fandom in general, and for eBook aficionadoes (like me!) in particular. As of right now, they’re only offering the books as PDFs, but according to the above statement, they will be coming to Scribd and Stanza, which can only mean that at the very least ePub verisons are in the works. Happy reading!

18 comments
Luke M
1. lmelior
Great stuff! There are already a couple authors I've heard of but haven't gotten around to checking out at the library yet. It looks like Tor was on to something with the free ebook idea. Wish there were HTML versions though.
Edward Bear
2. sehlat
Good:

Downloads of samples. A chance to test-read stuff never seen/checked before.

Bad:

1. PDF-only, which can't be tucked into my Palm and which forces a hard-to-read page size on 60-year-old eyes.

2. Other books in a given series not necessarily available as eBooks, have to jump through hoops to find the links to ebook vendors.

Ugly:

eBooks available are all DRM-infested.

The Baen Free Library is a much better implementation. DRM-free. Choice of format, including HTML and RTF. And you can pay for the free book if you want, on the spot, which is the way I deal with thanking the author for writing it.

Bottom line: Random House didn't think it through.
Arachne Jericho
3. arachnejericho
On the DRM:

If PDF, then they're relying on Adobe's DRM, which is notorious for not rendering on the hardware readers that *can* read them, e.g., the Sony Reader. (That Sony's partner in the ebook biz created a DRM scheme that locks out Sony's hardware is... full of irony.)

Adobe's DRM can also be applied to ePub books, which, well, still locks out the Sony Reader. So even if they're thinking along ePub lines, it still screws over *both* the leading e-ink readers out there. (Go you, Adobe! What did Sony ever do to you?)

Stanza supposedly will be able to deal with Adobe DRM soon, so iPhone users aren't left out. Well, they're left out right now, but in the future they won't be left out.

But everybody else? Pfah.

You can indeed break the Adobe DRM. But at that point you're committing a crime.

I actually would mind the DRM less if it at least locked into the Sony Reader, but it doesn't even do that. (Even though I don't own a Reader, to boot.)
Dave Parker
4. parkdr
The PDFs don't have DRM but text, html or rtf is better as they're easier to reformat for a smaller screen.

For my GP2X, I'll just convert them to text, which is always a bit of a pain.

The real only problem with all these give aways for publishers is that I now have so many free ebooks that it'll be a long time before I buy any more.

That said, I recommend Robin Hobb's assassin books, I've already got the physical versions.
Arachne Jericho
5. arachnejericho
@parkdr,

The PDFs look to already be formatted for smaller screens, which is pleasant for readers that support PDF. The free samples have no DRM.
Arachne Jericho
6. arachnejericho
By the by, good news for Kindle and iPhone folk!

The Suvudu free library books are also available for the price of $0.00 in the Kindle store.

Example here.

And yeah. DRM. But on the other hand, reflowable text and available for Kindlers and iPhoners.

The Sony Reader screens seem to have been fitted for by the PDFs.

So that covers the three audiences I have a kinship for. :)
Rich Rennicks
7. RichR
@ArachneJericho

Thanks for the tip. I just downloaded the Kindle app for iPhone and Blood Engines (T.A. Pratt's Marla Mason books are fab). Glad to have a cool book to road test the Kindle app with.

Cheers,

Rich
Blue Tyson
8. BlueTyson
The downloads from the website have no DRM. Basic PDF to text, import into mobipocket desktop reader etc. all worked fine.
Blue Tyson
10. BlueTyson
9

Yeah, absolutely they do. Was just pointing out that I looked at it, and found 'em DRM free. The to text thing just quick and easy check.

Also an be fun for Wordles and stuff like that, too.
Arachne Jericho
11. arachnejericho
@BlueTyson #10 -

Ah, gotcha. Wordles on eBooks - now that's something you can't do (easily) on a dead tree version. :)
Jon Severinsson
12. jonno
I just downloaded all of them from the links above and went on to start reading Assassin’s Apprentice. Guess my surprise when I found that it was a low-resolution scan, probably of a paperback, complete with smudges.

Not exactly what I want from an official ebook. Random House just got a big, fat, red warning label in my head saying: Do not pay for anything without inspecting the product first!

Looking through the rest of the books, Red Mars seams to be the same poor deal, but the rest are better, though not quite as well done as the free Tor books was...
Pablo Defendini
13. pablodefendini
@jonno,

In all fairness, we've had our share of scanned PDFs put up for download, especially at the beginning. Sometimes that's all that's available, and the conversion into a "real" PDF is just too costly, since it would basically entail re-composing the entire book. It sounds ridiculous, since I'm sure any one of the people commenting in this thread (myself included) could do a completely competent conversion to ePub or Mobi from scanned, OCR'ed PDF in a handful of hours, but you're talking about a large publisher that deals in economies of scale. Taking each book on a case-by-case basis—or developing a workflow based on possibly out-of-print backlist titles that are only available as scanned PDFs instead of new, frontlist titles where they do have digital assets—simply isn't the most financially tenable tack.

Obviously I'm speculating here, since I'm not privvy to the goings-on at Random House, but that's been our experience here at Tor and Macmillan. Does it suck? Hell yes. But there's very little that can be done about it in the short run, in many cases.
Jon Severinsson
14. jonno
@pablodefendini

Well, I'm not saying they don't have a good excuse, only that their books is way worse than the Watch-the-Sky books from Tor, which is the quality I have come to expect and love.
Eugene Myers
15. ecmyers
Fortunately, these PDFs look fine on my Eee-reader (the Asus Eee 701, which cost about the same as the Kindle and Sony reader, but does a lot more).
Blue Tyson
16. BlueTyson
These aren't old and unavailable though, as you can buy Red Mars, Blood Engines, His Majesty's Dragon etc. in multiple formats already.

So for those, conversion that is needed is basically nil, apart from doing a basic html variety.

e.g.

http://www.fictionwise.com/eBooks/eBook37713.htm?cache
Arachne Jericho
17. arachnejericho
Just popping on by to say that the Harry Turtledove book has joined the rest on the $0.00 rack at the Kindle store.

Here he is.


Belay that, it's the last book in the series, not the first. Methinks it a mistake.
Arachne Jericho
18. arachnejericho
Okay, now the right first book in the series is up in the Kindle store for free too.

Here it be.

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