D2D Universal Book Links — and why I won’t use them

In a previous article, I waxed lyrical about ‘going wide’ with Draft2Digital [D2D]. I still think it’s a good service, but there’s one feature I won’t be using, despite its convenience, and that feature is their Universal Book Link [UBL].

The UBL works like this: when you click on the link to a book, you’re taken to the D2D sister website, Books2Read. There, you’re presented with this screen:

Example of a Books2Read screen showing all the available retail links to Miira

Notice the Kindle icon on the far left? If you click on it, you’ll be taken to a second screen where you can choose to make Amazon your preferred e-tailer:

Uncheck the tick if you don’t want Amazon as your preferred e-tailer.

Clicking the ‘Continue’ button [with or without setting Amazon as your preferred e-tailer] takes you, finally, to the Amazon page for the book. Handy, right?

Except there’s one problem, when I click the Kindle icon, I’m taken to Amazon Australia, not Amazon.com:

Amazon.com.au is the Australian version of Amazon

Why is this a problem? It’s a problem because I set the booklink to the US website, not the Australian one.

At first I thought I’d made a mistake, so I create the booklink again. Same result. What the…? The following screenshot displays the response from D2D support:

A copy of an email from D2D

The important part is this:

“Hello —

Our UBLs geolocate….”

That means anyone who clicks on that UBL will be tracked, without their knowledge or consent by a company they have not chosen to share that information with…i.e. Draft2Digital via its sister company Books2Read.

Now, geolocation is not new. Every time I log into Amazon, it tries to get me to change my account to Amazon Australia because it knows that’s where I live. If you click on one of my book links, you’ll be taken to the appropriate Amazon store for your location. Again, because Amazon knows where you live…i.e. it’s tracking you too. But at least there’s an implicit choice there because you choose to visit the Amazon store, wherever it may be. However, when Books2Read tracks your geolocation, it oversteps a subtle line in the sand because it is simply an intermediary, and you did not choose to give it that information.

There’s nothing malicious about Books2Read tracking your geolocation when you use a feature on their website. But that’s not the point. Everyone should have the right to choose whether to hand over that kind of information or not. And that’s why, despite the convenience of using UBLs for my books, I can’t do it.

I know a lot of people reading this don’t see the issue of privacy as important. Others don’t like the lack of privacy but will live with it in exchange for some perceived benefit to themselves. Either way, it’s a choice. Their choice.

But I have a choice too, and it’s a moral one. I can’t talk the talk about privacy while allowing potential readers to be tracked via my books. I can’t make an exception for my case simply because it’s expedient.

This is a choice every company on the internet has to face. So while I’m just a lowly sole trader, the choice is still mine to make: there will be no UBLs associated with my books. Each link will lead exactly where it’s supposed to go.