I've used this blog to explore and expose the incompetence and sleaziness of self-publishing services, particularly Outskirts Press, PublishAmerica and Author Solutions.
I recently discovered what seems to be blatant crime: unauthorized distribution of copyrighted books and failure to pay publishers and authors for their work. The alleged perpetrator is Playster.
I operate a tiny publishing company, Silver Sands Books. I formed it in in 2008 with the intention to publish exactly one book, but the total is now over 40.
Playster (with a name that seems deliberately chosen to invoke the spirit of notorious music pirate Napster) says: "Playster is the world's first all-inclusive online entertainment service, bringing together music, movies, books and games into a single subscription. The service boasts millions of titles in all genres across every media platform, from timeless classics to the newest blockbusters. Playster's extensive media library gives users instant, unrestricted access to a wide variety of relevant and exciting titles from anywhere in the world."
- The company is proud to tell prospective customers that it has deals to distribute books from such companies as Harper Collins, Simon & Shuster and Harlequin.
- It has not made a deal with my company, but that has not stopped it from trying to make money from my books.
The following recently arrived in my email inbox:
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This was surprising and confusing. Why would a company try to sell PDF files of the hardcover edition of my memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)?
The book is readily available in multiple "flowable" ebook formats, so why would Playster try to sell the less-desirable PDF?
The PDF was produced in our own office and then sent to printer/distributor Lightning Source. If Playster is selling a PDF ebook, that implies either a theft of the PDF file we produced, or unauthorized scanning of a hardcover.
I clicked on both email links and was taken to the following web page:
I clicked "Yes, continue" and reached Playster.
I signed up for a trial membership. After the one-month trial, the fee is $9.95 per month for "unlimited books." After providing my credit card info I was asked to make a contribution to UNICEF. That's nice, but I'd be more impressed if Playster made the donation, not its customers.
Next came this sales pitch: "Congratulations, you've got 100,000+ books! Why not add games, music, movies for just $24.95/mth? By upgrading you'll get the full Playster experience." I deleted the provided check mark and moved on.
Next came another upgrade opportunity, and finally the chance to buy books. Playster was pushing NY Times bestsellers, with nice cover illustrations. Some of the books were decades old and some may never have made it onto the Times list.
I added Sh*t My Dad Says to my library but saw no need to get another copy of my own book.
UPDATE: 10 August 2015
(1) Still no response from Playster.
(2) I got an email promoting another book I published, with a link to Playster:
I finally got a response and apology from Playster.
Businesses -- especially new businesses -- make mistakes. That's natural and normal. One mistake that's made by too many businesses of all ages and sizes is to ignore or to delay responses to problems.
If I had gotten a quick response from Playster, I might never have published this blog post.