Piracy sucks and authors are constantly seeking ways to cut down on the piracy of ebooks. For as long as I’ve been published (since 2002), we’ve fought pirates and hardly make a dent. It’s disgusting. When you see a book has gotten thousands, or tens of thousands of downloads, on a pirate site and you start to calculate lost revenue–well, it makes you want to puke. So back in May, I signed up for a free trial of Blasty.
My personal view of pirates is that most of them wouldn’t buy your books anyway, so while you can think of the lost income, that’s not totally accurate. I worked with a guy probably close to ten years ago now, who downloaded and pirated every movie that came out. Why? Because he could. He didn’t care about the movie, didn’t even watch all of them. He just wanted to “collect” them. While I feel his view is a little extreme, it also speaks to the entitlement that most pirates feel they deserve. “Information needs to be free”, which sounds lovely in principle, but well, as we say in the artistic world, people die of exposure. You can’t pay your bills with exposure.
So I went into my trial of Blasty somewhat jaded, because I used to fuss, search, and send out tons of DMCA take-down requests every week, and I’m just not sure the return on investment is there for time and/or money in fighting piracy. I think I’m better off writing books, promoting my books, and doing things to help grow my platform and my sales.
I also immediately realized Blasty wasn’t going to work for me. Why? Because as a technical person, I don’t like it when developers force me into their environment rather than developing for the way I use a computer. It’s bad UI (user interface), bad design principles, and frankly, smacks as a little elitist. (I’m also aware the average computer user isn’t going to have these concerns.)
My biggest issue with Blasty is that you have to use Google Chrome and a Chrome Extension. As a technical person, there are many reasons why Google Chrome is not an ideal browser. If you have privacy concerns, the fact that when you sign into Google, Chrome provides yet more ways for the company to track and act upon your data is concerning, if you are about such things. In addition, while no web browser handles multiple tabs and memory usage well, Chrome is known to be artificially bloated in the memory it uses. (Check out this LifeHacker article.)
While I understand Google’s environment for Chrome makes it easier to develop for Chrome, the truth is that while 68% of web users surfed on Chrome in August 2018, 11% used Firefox (that’s me!), and then the rest used other browsers including Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Edge. So Blasty, by not even replying to questions about Firefox development, is telling a good 22% of its potential client base to pound sand. Other Chrome only programs I’m aware of have Firefox development on their roadmap, so they aren’t actively trying to leave out customers.
But I had to download Chrome to test some things for work, and I could use it. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal. No, what the dealbreaker was for me was the lack of responsiveness at all to any replies or concerns. If your company asks for a survey or a feedback and you don’t follow up, you’re telling customers you don’t care.
A few days after starting my trial, I got an email. “Reply and tell us on a scale from 1-5 what you think.” I did. I heard nothing. A few days later. “Fill out this survey and tell us what you think.” I did… I heard nothing. My trial ended. I never sent any blasts, because I didn’t switch to Chrome. I got an email “Why didn’t you send any blasts?”. This time, I gave the email all the consideration Blasty apparently gave mine. I deleted it.
The bottom line is that now that Blasty is charging for pen names, it would cost me close to $300 a year for a service that I’m not sure would pay for itself and pay a company that doesn’t reply to customer’s concerns and has said with its action that it has no interest in my business. I know many authors use Blasty and report good results. I’m also aware I’m more technical than most and my cares don’t mesh with the majority of users. It’s a good idea, but these days when authors’ incomes are stretched, I encourage you to spend money on a company that actually cares about customer service.