Friday, November 16, 2012

FictionWise: End Of A Era

Those of us that have been on the ebook 'scene' for a long time know of Fictionwise.  It was the true first pioneer ebook retailer and the largest until a few years after Amazon came along with its Kindle system.  From the beginning Fictionwise was designed for readers of all types.  They carried both encrypted and unencrypted books (which they called multiformat) available in several formats upon purchase.  Their was never any 'sync' or wireless ability with the various 3rd party readers they supported, therefore everything was side loaded.  Of course back at the dawn of ebook publishing, everything was side loaded.  Another aspect unique to the system was the ability to sort your books into different user customizable bookshelves or categories.  And on top of all that, you could easily download your whole library or different sections of it in one easy step.  They would actually pack up all of your books and send them to you as a zip file.  How I wish that other systems allowed for this.  Another nice aspect was the site itself.  Easy to use without all of the bloat many sites have these days.

Now why am I mentioning all of this?  Simple.  Fictionwise anounced today it is closing.  Or in their words 'winding down operations'.  They are ending sales on December 4th and will allow people to download purchased books until December 21st.  Although they are allowing people to migrate their libraries over to Barnes & Noble's Nook system if they wish (with exceptions).

What?  What does Barnes & Noble have to do with Fictionwise?  Well very simple, B&N bought them back in 2009, mainly for the eReader format (including its DRM method) which Fictionwise had purchased a few years previously.  At the time I wondered if Fictionwise would be allowed to continue given that B&N was starting their large push into the ebook market.  And for a while they were left alone (I think as long as they made money B&N was happy to let them be) and did well.  Then Agency 5 pricing model came out and they were forced to change their selling methods.

Fictionwise was made and continued to be popular by the discounts and deals they offered.  They also had a members club that would give you one free book a month along with other discounts.  But with the rise of Agency 5 pricing, they were no longer allowed to do this.  Thus removing their advantage in the marketplace.  Sales have likely been erroding ever since, and now it is to the point that their parent company told them it is time to close the doors.

I have been a Fictionwise customer since they opened their doors in 2000 and will miss them.  If nothing else than the wonderful way they did business putting their customers first and designing the website for what the customers wanted with features that I have yet to see on other retail sites.  Sure you can put books into categories on your device, but the websites still lack any sorting ability.  I remember people asking for features and the developers eagerly adding them, such as bulk downloading.

So what do you do if you were a Fictionwise customer?  Well first off, download your library using the bulk feature.  This is really a painless procedure.  You simply log into your bookshelf as normal on Fictionwise then on the left just under bookshelf setup there is a link called bulk download. Then you will get the bulk download screen giving you many options and allow you to pick all or just some of your books.  In this case have all selected in the quick picks then set your default reader format, then click the download button below it.

If you have over 100 books you may need to do it in a few batches by selecting several at time, set the format, and click the add selected titles button at the top, then the download button on the right.  This will give you a zip file in under a minute.  Also included in the ZIP is a csv file with metadata on the books and the dates you purchased them.  Another nice feature I haven't seen duplicated on other sites.

If you wish to move your library over to Nook, you can but there are limiations.  Some books may not transfer, and audio books certainly won't.  In short download it all and if you have a Nook account you use, try the migration out.  Another aspect is if you use a ebook reader that does not use epub, once migrated to Nook, all books will be epub.  Therefore now is the time download in your choice of format as later that will not be possible.

Fictionwise has a FAQ page with further details about this and other information regarding refunds due for items that won't transfer over such as magazine subscriptions.

In summary the clock is ticking, make sure you download your Fictionwise ebooks before they close their doors forever.  It is a sad day for us fans, and while we knew it was coming, it doesn't make it any easier.  Fictionwise, you will be missed.

UPDATE:  The last day of sales has been extended to midnight Eastern Standard Time on December 9, 2012. After December 9th, Fictionwise/eReader will no longer sell digital content.

Don DeBon is the author of Italian Fever.  Currently available in Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBook, and Kobo.