Diaspora with decentral e-book storages and shops

Problem description

Recently, there are several news about Amazon forcing publishers to agree on changes of terms (e.g. see http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/25/new-amazon-terms-book-industry-report-concessions). In addition to that, there is no free, decentralised app or tool yet, to store and backup one’s ebooks. If you use the Amazon infrastructure for it, you are in fact completely relying on Amazon’s goodwill as they can remove once bought ebooks (see e.g. http://www.theguardian.com/money/2012/oct/22/amazon-wipes-customers-kindle-deletes-account).


So, what about integrating an ebook storage, so users can access and handle their once purchased ebooks in a decentralised way while enjoying the benefits of an online application? A second step would be to use the same storage for publisher profiles and add a simple shop system to it, so even small publishers have a good, cost efficient, independent way to sell their ebooks? A third step would be to allow users to directly sync a copy of an ebook to their profile storage as soon as the payment got processed. There are already a couple of ebook readers offering a simple web browser (e.g. Sony Reader), with which it is an easy thing to download ebooks from a web page. I suppose there are a lot more features like rating, recommending, linking to books, authors and publishers. In fact, the concept could offer even authors who can not find any publisher a good platform to offer their work.

Effects of implementing the idea

Both the diaspora community and the publishers/authors would heavily benefit from this combination. Publishers/authors might be more motivated to setup and host diaspora instances and contribute to diaspora development. Thus, the diaspora network will grow and attract more users. Adding such a feature/feature set would also create an incredible special USP (beside the already existing ones such as freedom, independence, privacy). Publishers and authors (even single authors with no publisher) get access to a growing social network and users of diaspora would get a great infrastructure to handle all matters around their ebooks.

Resources to implement the idea

At the moment I am learning Ruby on Rails as a Student of the RailsGirls summer of code. I could spend some time on implementing such features as soon as we have created a well-defined concept through community discussion for it. I would love to find others through this discussion to contribute together with me in development as well as other, who have with relations to book stores, publishers, networks of book authors, etc. to get these parties into the discussion and find help to attract funding for a kickstarter-like project.

Questions to discuss

There are already a lot of thoughts about this idea in my head like:

  • “should/can every diaspora instance offer this feature in terms of limited system resources such as storage and traffic?”,
    -"how to limit storage and traffic of this feature best (per user, per instance, in MB/GB, in number of books per user, etc.)
  • “how to integrate different payment processes?”
  • "who decides on the payment processes?"
    and a lot more. I would love to hear about all your question, concerns and ideas on “Diaspora with decentral storages and e-book shops”. Let’s discuss if this is a great opportunity for diaspora or not :slight_smile:

Note: This discussion was imported from Loomio. Click here to view the original discussion.

Just two thoughts for the beginning:

Besides the decentral element there was an already well thought and working solution called Readmill — they are gonna close on july 1st (bought by Dropbox).

I’m very ambivalent w/ Diaspora; the idea of it sounded very promising in the beginning years ago. But the requirements are to high for the average hosting package.

I’m buying a lot of e-books and I was very impressed w/ some purchase solutions e.g. like the one from Five Simple Steps: If you buy a book there you’ll receive it in more or less every e-book format (epub, mobi and pdf) … and you had the possibility to load it directly into Readmill.

(That’s for now)

Hi @saheba, it’s great to see your enthusiasm for Diaspora.

I’m struggling to see how this idea fits in with what Diaspora does. The project really needs to focus on its core mission - to provide a distributed, privacy-aware social network - and there is still much work to be done on this.

Apart from this, the main problems I see with your idea are:

  1. The amount of work and resources needed to get anything like this off the ground. You mention building relationships with publishers and authors, and setting up a payment system. All of this would take an enormous amount of resources, when we are struggling to find enough developer resources to move the core software forward with any speed.
  2. Storage space. You’re proposing a storage system. This means every podmin would have to find extra server space, which costs money. I can’t see many if any podmins wanting to take part in this.
  3. Guarantee (and this is the real deal-breaker). If you’re storing your valuable ebooks - particularly if you’re paying for them - you’re going to need some guarantee that it’s always going to be available to you. Diaspora can offer no such guarantee. Each podmin has full control over whether they keep their pod running. From time to time, for various reasons, pods shut down, with a loss of the data contained on them. Sometimes some warning about this is given, but sometimes (for example in the case of a catastrophic server failure with inadequate back-ups), the data are lost with no warning. If this were to happen with data which people had paid for, it would look very bad for Diaspora.

Your idea seems to me to sit much more happily with distributed cloud storage system such as OwnCloud rather than Diaspora. I’d love to see a free software, distributed ebook purchase and storage system available - I just don’t think it’s right for Diaspora.

It’s great that you want to help improve Diaspora, and if you’d like to help develop the software, do have a look at the issues that need some work - here are those suitable for newcomers - after reading our guide on starting to contribute.

@blumenberg and @goob:
Thanks for your thoughts on this.

(1) Redmill closing is sad. It happens all the time to nice apps. They get bought by a big company and close their service.

(2) I agree, hosting a diaspora instance does require some admin knowledge and time and resources. That’s why I thought it might be a good idea to attract businesses such as book stores,publishers, authors to host diaspora instances with this feature. So, you could have your diaspora account on the instance of your local book store around the corner or on an instance of an author you personally know and trust.


  1. I agree that this implies a lot of work and requires quite some resources. The point is to write a good concept for this idea and then get publishers, authors, book stores, etc. to back this project e.g. by spending some money on a kickstarter project to pay the living costs for some developers. That way you get a whole industry on board being interested in helping diaspora grow and sustain its network. Right now, small stores, publishers and single authors are getting way to dependent on amazon. So, they already feel kind of a pain in the neck and I suppose they are not happy about Amazon manifesting its monopoly. So, this is a group of people with long-term interests, which might also fuel other improvements like getting issues and bugs fixed and improving installation and maintenance procedures once they are on board of the diaspora train.

2.+3. You are right, storage still costs some money - especially if your pod hosts a couple of thousands user profiles. So, why not encourage people to become a diaspora host in adding another business model here? If a pod offers ebook storage, users can choose if they want it or not and podmins can define a price model for their pod. Users might also choose a backup pod, if they like. And finally, book stores and publishers can offer a certain amount of free storage on their diaspora pods to attract customers and maintain a long-term relationship with them. Of course, it should be possible then, to transfer ones ebook storage from one pod to another in case you get a better option on another pod. That means, your ebook storage and your user profile do not have to be hosted on the same pod necessarily. This also keeps the user account information itself in control of the user. If they trust their local book store or an author hosting a pod, they can also have their user profile there. If not, they can keep profile and storage separate. By the way, is there any way so far to transfer and/or backup user profiles to/on another pod of the user’s choice? That would increase reliability of diaspora because that way you offer the user a way to ensure his profile is still usable even if the user’s chosen home pod suddenly disappears.

While OwnCloud already offers storages, you would still need to integrate an option to transfer your ebooks directly from a shop to your OwnCloud into any shop system. From a user’s perspective you would need to configure syncing to your OwnCloud in every ebook online-shop you use. That is rather annoying, especially if you shop in several different shops. With diaspora a user does not have to configure anything, if he wants to shop in another shop (represented by another diaspora user). It just is a transfer of data between one account storage to another. Also, OwnCloud is not really an alternative for people who have absolutely no clue about hosting anything at all (which is in fact the majority of human beings :wink: So, with attracting small publishers and stores to offer trustable pods you solve two problems in one go.

In total, I still prefer integrating such a concept in an already existing social network already offering a certain infrastructure and helping this decentral social network to grow by attracting small pod hosts like the book store just around the corner.

PS: Thanks, @goob for pointing out the newcomer filter options on issues. I haven’t noticed it so far. As soon as my skills have improved enough, I will probably take a look at some issues and help develop the system.

While OwnCloud already offers storages, you would still need to integrate an option to transfer your ebooks directly from a shop to your OwnCloud into any shop system. From a user’s perspective you would need to configure syncing to your OwnCloud in every ebook online-shop you use.

Indeed it would as things stand. However, you’re talking about building a synching storage service for Diaspora to enable you to buy and store ebooks from different suppliers. I’m saying that it would seem to make more sense to me to build such a service within a distributed storage service such as OwnCloud rather than a distributed social service such as Diaspora.

You mention that each user would have to set up an OwnCloud instance; but I imagine it would be possible to build a system of accounts within an OwnCloud instance so that a bookshop or other organisation could set up an OwnCloud facility in which other users could open accounts and store ebooks, just as it would be possible to do with within a Diaspora instance. OK, Diaspora already has the accounts facility, but there’s much which would need to be created for such a service to work within Diaspora, probably no more than would be required for such a service to run within OwnCloud.

podmins can define a price model for their pod.

From my point of view, it would be a great shame if podmins were placed in a position of having to ‘define a price point’ - i.e. charge people to use their pod. There is of course no reason why individual podmins can’t do that if they want to, but if adding something like this were to turn Diaspora into a commercial interaction by default, it would be damaging to the network, I think. Of course, in my opinion it would be ideal to move towards a position (the original Diaspora concept) in which the default situation was for each new user (or at least the majority of them) to set up their own instance rather than looking to register with a pod run by someone else, but we’re a long way from that aim being realistic.

Still, there are some thoughts from me, and I look forward to reading other people’s viewpoints.

The base idea from my point of view seems to be a way to store ones e-books on a diaspora server in a similar way that one stores images on it - files is files. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong)

To me, diaspora is a social network, a tool for communicating. I find it hard to see why other services such as file hosting, payment services should be a part of diaspora as I think of the web as decentralized. Sure, you could have functionality for selling and storing e-books, but I think it would be better to provide the tools for communicating about the e-books and leave the storing to storing services like ownCloud and payment to payment services like bitcoin, paypal, banks etc.

I have the same opinions on image handling. The best would be to let diaspora communicate the images, with albums, markdown in posts and so on, and offer syncing services with file storage instances like ownCloud, dropbox or whatever. Then each pod could choose whether to offer image storage too or not. Very off topic though, sorry for that. :wink:

Sum: I don’t think this has a place within diaspora as I think of diaspora as a tool for communication. I’d however love to see better ways to communicate your books, art, tutorials, music through groups, more complex sharing/following system, pages and so on!

I am really interested in this discussion. We can schedule an Internet call and get something going. Google Search will take you immediately to my Google profile, so it takes seconds to start communicating with me.

Honestly, this would probably work better as a third-party app to Diaspora rather than a feature of Diaspora itself. (API needed)

I like it, it all sounds great to me… :slight_smile: