TUEBL, or The Ultimate E-Book Library, is the place for books. DRM-free books. Users can download books that they want to be able to read freely on their choice of devices. And true to the symbiotic nature of user-driven sites, they can also upload their own DRM-free files for others to use.
So far, it is home to over 6000 titles, but if there’s something missing a person can submit a request for it. And the requests don’t just disappear into some black hole of a suggestion box. They’re posted on a page that users can check and fill the request if they have that book, which they often do-over 13 pages of book requests have already been filled.
“OMFG-WHAT?” or Please, nobody panic.
I can hear it now. Free books??? WTF-free?? But-but-wha… but you have to PAY for that!
TUEBL’s front page states:
This site is not intended for the pirating of books!!!! This site is here to help you find books you have already obtained legally, but are unable to get a digital copy, or a copy that will work on your device because of DRM.
Well, it’s not like they check for receipts.
Copying books online has been compared with standing outside a bookstore handing out photocopies of the books inside. The idea is that if people can get copies for free, they won’t buy the real thing. While this is generally not true, it’s also not the writer’s biggest concern. What usually happens online is that people, people not pirates, “walk into the store” look around and walk out empty handed.
Yes, people will buy from the big name authors, sight unseen. But small-time authors? Indie authors? First-time authors? Books that get attention sell. But how can you get attention in the flood of books online? This is a time of plenty when it comes to stories. But at this time when there are so many stories out there and so many budding authors, the world is moving so much faster and people won’t stop to take a chance very often.
This is a problem for writers. More than the music industry, more than the film industry. It takes a couple minutes to listen to a song. A person could have heard it hundreds of times–on the radio, in stores, in restaurants, on TV–before they decide to pay iTunes $0.99 for it. Movies take a little longer and they cost a bit more. But a movie doesn’t take days to watch. Books are different. Books take more of a commitment. And in the fast-paced internet culture with so many choices, people often just won’t make that commitment. People do not trust books enough to buy them without reading them first. And they shouldn’t. You know how they say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover? Well you can’t judge it by its Amazon sample either.
And that’s the problem for writers.
Readers have a problem too. Even when they do take a chance on a book, they are rewarded by a slew of restrictions–in their own, legally bought devices!
So what does TUEBL mean for readers and writers?
TUEBL takes care of both the readers and the writers. Like the traditional library, it gives writers a place for their book, a place where they can meet readers who couldn’t or wouldn’t otherwise have taken a chance in a bookstore. And like the traditional library, TUEBL doesn’t send it’s admins to readers’ homes to make sure they’re using their ebooks properly. It doesn’t hide inside its files and pop out to say “No-no, you can’t do that” if they try to copy a book from their work computer to their home computer. Or a friend’s computer. Problem solved for readers and writers.
And we cannot differentiate between the problems of writers and the problems of readers. Readers become writers, remember? If readers are not buying books, if readers cannot even read books without someone looking over their shoulder, then we should be very afraid for the next generation of writers.
So libraries will survive.
They have to. Physical libraries are suffering. With shrinking budgets, many districts are unable to buy as many books or hire as many staff members. While TUEBL has the same costs as any site, the books themselves are free. This library doesn’t buy books. What this means is that so long as its user’ donations support the technology, The Ultimate E-Book Library won’t be faced with the same limits on its collection as a traditional library.
We may not always be able to rely on faltering library systems AFK. But things are different online. Here, libraries have a fighting chance.
So hope TUEBL survives. Hope libraries and free books survive. Hope that librarians never leap out of your books or stare you down in your own home when you’re using a book “inappropriately.” ( 😉 ) For the future generation of writers, hope that today’s readers don’t ever stop themselves from reading a book because the price tag is too high or the restrictions are too intrusive.
Next … Oh, right, I almost forgot… TUEBL. Yes, that is a syllabic L at the end there. It is pronounced “TUBE-l” You can hear the pronunciation as well as a lovely explanation of TUEBL’s importance in under a minute here.
Really, Next: DRM-whatnow? Writers and technological blindspots.
Old Updates (New updates at the One TUEBL Thread TO RULE THEM ALL)
Update: (Aug. 6, 2012) Yes, TUEBL is down for the moment. Please don’t panic! We still haven’t seen an ICE notice on the site, which means TUEBL has NOT been seized – this is a technical problem and the admins are working hard to fix it.
Stick around for a little while! Our favorite online library will survive!
Update: Newest info on TUEBL – Ultimate E-Book Library to Get More Ultimate!