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eBook whinging: DRM - Ed's journal
eBook whinging: DRM
So, I have a Sony Reader. I've been lusting after a Kindle. My Reader has 'grown' a crack, making it unreadable.
In an idle moment or two, I've been looking at what would happen to my 'existing' library.

Adobe Digital Editions, is not supported on Kindle.
Or perhaps more correctly - the DRM used by Adobe, isn't supported. You can fairly easily convert PDF to a suitable format.

This notion offends me. I don't like the idea of DRM at the best of times - I'm more than happy to pay for a book (ebook or otherwise) but I find it offensive that as a paying customer, I'm restricted in my ability to lend or read something.

I've put up with it previously, because it was relatively painless to download and then copy to ebook reader - lack of lending annoyed me, but it was largely a moot point when most people weren't ebook enabled.

But now, it seems I have a choice. I can either go for a _different_ ebook reader, that is 'permitted' by Adobe.
Or I can go and re-buy the 80 or so ebooks I have purchased to date.

Neither of which is a particularly appealing option. Not when I've paid near the price I would have for a paperback, for an item which is CONSIDERABLY easier to reproduce for the publisher. I don't think ebooks should be free - I accept entirely that a reasonable proportion of the price of a book isn't for the physical item, but is for paying the author and support staff who edit, proofread and do all other things.
I find it somewhat odious that an ebook will often cost _more_ than a 'dead tree book', but at the same time - I don't mind paying the 'early release' price that hardbacks go for, and get an ebook instead, if it's something I really want to read now.

(I mean seriously - hardback release is usually earlier, and they usually cost more. I get that's a premium for wanting to read it right now. Hardbacks remain considerably less portable and convenient though. But that's a different rant. Suffice to say - it's worth paying hardback price and _not_ get a massive tome)

But now? Now I'm faced with some (digital) books, that I have entirely legitimately bought and paid for. Which I cannot use, because the DRM says no, we don't like that you're trying to read it with _that_ device.
This ladies and gentlemen, is where DRM goes wrong. It's why it is - and always has been - a stupid idea. Charge me for a product, then tell me I cannot use it unless I buy it _again_?

No, we're not going to play that game. I'll buy a replacement paperback when I drop it in the bath, and already own copies of some of the books I really like.
But if you're telling me that - in essence - I have to pay the full price AGAIN for a digital copy that the only difference is the artificial digital restriction code built into it?

But it remains a fundamental flaw of DRM - you can make very good encryption algorithms - of the kind that's impossible for an average home user to crack.
However DRM requires that you _also_ supply the key to that encryption, allow me to decrypt it, and have software to control how and when I do so.

In effect, it's not about trying to pick the lock, it's about trying to find the spare key, that you _know_ is hidden somewhere.
29 comments or Leave a comment
dr_ogma From: dr_ogma Date: June 7th, 2011 12:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think cthulahoops had a crack in his kindle, Amazon replaced it pretty fast according to him. Might be worth getting in touch with either him or Amazon.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 7th, 2011 12:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's my eReader that's broken. And I've had that problem before - repairs cost more than the original unit, and Sony aren't particularly friendly about accidental damage (which it almost certainly is).

(I'm not sure I had a previous rant on the subject, but basically I did take it for repair, and they tried to charge me more for the repair than a new one. For which I told them to sod off, because if it's BER, then I'll buy a new one instead)

Edited at 2011-06-07 12:24 pm (UTC)
dr_ogma From: dr_ogma Date: June 7th, 2011 12:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, sorry I misread the first line of your post. I read Kindle and broken and remembered I'd heard something similar before.
fishrgreat From: fishrgreat Date: June 7th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Amazon do seem to replace any damaged unit (even if accidental) with a new one for either free or a nominal fee. Another nice thing about their CS.
forest_rose From: forest_rose Date: June 7th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do believe Alan might be in posession of that spare key. He had a similar rant a few weeks ago, and I think he solved the problem. I'll ask him when he gets in, we may be able to help you. x
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 7th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh there's ways around it I know. It's not (nor has it ever been, frankly) particularly hard to skip past protection.
I've been doing a bit of homework on the subject, but would be interested in what other people's results have been. Purely for the sake of academic curiosity you understand.

I'm curious about the legality of the situation - is it actually illegal at the moment to break DRM on something you've legitimately bought and paid for, in order to use it yourself?
darkgodfred From: darkgodfred Date: June 7th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I believe any attempt to bypass Copy Protection, regardless of intent, is a breach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Not that I think you'll a problem - noone's going to press the point in court because otherwise they'll set the precedent of having the case thrown out as utterly stupid.
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: June 7th, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
DRM is arse. It does little to protect producers, and mostly just penalises legitimate customers.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 7th, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree entirely. I've been kind of going along with it, because I also think that part of the point of DRM is to piss off legitimate customers, so that production companies can go "Look, we tried eBooks, and it failed, because everyone is a crook".
dr_ogma From: dr_ogma Date: June 7th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
About DRM, I understand your problem, I almost feel I should be allowed to have ebook versions of books I have paper copies of, it's more convenient to read on my e-reader, but I feel loathed to pay for something twice. If I'd already bought an ebook I'd definitely not want to buy another ebook copy to change device. Though because of the nature of electronic media, and the fact that it's easily copied and can be simultaneously read on many devices means that I understand why they try to limit illegal distribution using DRM. If you have to make an effort to illegally get hold of ebooks, then more people will use the legal distribution channels. I'm not sure about solutions that would allow you to change readers easily that wouldn't make cracking the code too easy?

The comparison in price is currently somewhat skewed by the fact that you have to pay VAT on ebooks and not on paper copies. I think 1/6th of what the customer pays is probably quite similar to the cost of producing and distributing physical media, if not more.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 7th, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
But on the flip side, if you've got to work to use the stuff that you have legitimately bought and paid for, then surely that balances out somewhat?
I mean, lets face it - getting hold of pirate copies of something hasn't been particularly difficult... well, forever, really.

I think the major thing has always been the trade off of effort - how difficult is it to buy (and use!) legitimately, vs. doing so illegally.

And the moral notion, of course - I feel that an author deserves to be paid for something I like, and I'll make best efforts to ensure that they do. If only because that means they'll do more.

That's countered - in my mind - by the morality of a company trying to treat their paying customers as potential thieves. I think that's just fundamentally counterproductive.

I don't actually think that there's a massive price argument on piracy vs. legitimate copies - for all there's people who'll never pay for things they can pirate, I think there's plenty who'd never have bought it anyway.
And there's also those who've pirated, and then gone and bought it after.

Personally, what I'd _love_ to see is a ... I don't know what to call it. A 'title fee' if you like, that's paid to cover cost of the 'creativity bit'.
And options to select format(s) I wish to read it in, for near production cost. So if I do go and buy the hardback of something, I can then get the eBook at (near) free, and the paperback for a nominal extra cost once it becomes available.

Maybe even extra/replacement costs.

Because I really do believe in rewarding people for what they do, if I enjoy the fruits of their labour. I just don't want to get shafted by a publishing company trying to extort money from me.
dr_ogma From: dr_ogma Date: June 7th, 2011 03:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
While I agree with all of this, I can't help but think that if ebooks were sold with no DRM then I'd accept and offer pirate copies from my friends almost without thinking.

The same as handing on a book you like to someone who you think will enjoy it, only with electronic media I can hand it on easily to anyone who I think would enjoy it at the same time, even before I've finished reading it. Because it isn't absolutely straightforward to do this, I don't.

I think DRM is probably a necessary evil. I know that isn't a popular opinion, but I think it's what I think.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 7th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
You may be right in a sense - I've certainly chafed at not being able to lend on my (usually more expensive) ebook to friends.
And I'd probably do so, if I could - in exactly the same way as I would with my DVD and book collection.
I don't think I've particularly circulated my mp3 collection though, despite it being 'DRM free'. But then, I guess I'm also not a music fanatic.

*shrug*. I'm not honestly sure how it would go - there's a lot of really dubious arguments about the subject. I mean, not every 'pirate' edition of something reflects a lost sale.
cthulahoops From: cthulahoops Date: June 8th, 2011 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have a fair number of DRM-free ebooks that I've paid for at this stage. Mostly RPGs (niche can't afford DRM) and tech (too smart for DRM) books, and I amn't rushing to e-mail copies of them to all my friends.

Personally I appreciate these publisher's trust. If people want to pay for a copy I hope they support these good publishers. If not, I'm sure they can get it from the internet more quickly than from me anyway.

As I've started to buy content in electronic form (kindle books, computer games, mp3s), I've started to question my assumptions about the right to lend and resell. Are these rights I really need to purchase every time I buy access to content? The nature of a physical book makes it something to be lent and sold. But I don't really want to buy a book, I just want access to the words.

The counter argument is that there a cultural value in lending and sharing. I've discovered many authors by having books passed to me, and while publishers can replicate some of this with offers and trial chapters, culture should pass from peer to peer without a company regulating it. The existence of libraries and second hand books also provides natural access for those without disposable income, while allowing those with the cash to fund the industry buying shiny new hardbacks. This is a niche "piracy" fills nicely.

My ideas on this are evolving.

Oh, and yes, DRM is unspeakably evil.

I am very fond of my Kindle. (And yes, Amazon's replacement policy for when someone stands on the thing in the pub is fantastic.)
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 9th, 2011 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes. I've been hoping that publishers would realize that a lot of advertising is word of mouth - I've lent people books of mine, to find they've become fans of particular authors, and buy their stuff in the future.
Sometimes they'll borrow all the books in a series, quite enjoy them, but not really have bought it themselves. No sale is lost.

I accept that there's technically speaking, no difference between 'copy this book once for a friend' and 'copy this book 5000 times for everyone'.

*shrug*. I think there's a lot of shooting-in-foot going on by trying to control honest eBook readers - making them pay 'full price' but then supplying a book that they can no longer share with their friends.

I really would get on the bandwagon of a book subscription based model, provided a sensibly sized catalogue and reasonable access to new releases.
queex From: queex Date: June 7th, 2011 01:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't permit DRM in my house.

All my DVD players are regionless, I get hold of cracks for any commercial software I run. I will never buy a Blu-Ray player unless hell freezes over and DRMless ones become available. If I got an ereader, I would never get ebooks with DRM on them at any price.

Any data-based product encumbered by DRM is not fit for purpose, and that's all there is to it.

I feel I have spent rather too long having to put up with shit from DRM systems making things more awkward than they ought to be and never working as they are claimed to. I refuse to spend another second of my life arsing about with them.
fishrgreat From: fishrgreat Date: June 7th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
umm - our blu ray player is region free, as are all of the blu rays we own so far.... afaik a lot of the blu ray releases are, much more so than with DVD
queex From: queex Date: June 7th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Blu-ray standard includes encryption keys, with potential for revocation- it was designed to be impregnable DRM and has lasted longer than most without being cracked. It might not be regioned, but the DRM is even more aggressive than DVDs.
ammos From: ammos Date: June 7th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
OK Iadmit I'm a filistine I know I have aregion free dvd player and blu ray discs having looked at other halfs shelf don't mention regions. I just live in a world of hope that things I buy work where I am with the tech I have.

On a different note I find the cost of ebooks no matter what reader they're for fustrating at the cost. I have a kindle and am nearly converted from paper to eformat but not quiet all the way yet. I'm sad that there is no way to transfer things you've legitamatly bought already.
erjholton From: erjholton Date: June 7th, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
The era of buy once / consume many times content is coming to an end. The content houses want to be able to charge you for each time you read a book / listen to music / watch a film, and I expect that in the next few years we'll see technological and legislative frameworks emerging that will force that upon us.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 7th, 2011 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thing is, if we're talking lovefilm or spotify style sub for content, I wouldn't mind so much.
It's just a question of distribution model vs. pricing. _most_ books I read once or twice anyway - there's just a select few that I want to re-read a lot.
erjholton From: erjholton Date: June 7th, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Personally, I think that subscriptions are an intermediate step, getting us used to the idea of paying without gaining.

Paranoid? Perhaps. However, politicians are owned by corporate interests these days, so I feel my pessimism is warranted.
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sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 9th, 2011 09:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Pretty much the case. Streaming does have the fringe advantage though, that you're probably streaming slower than your max throughput.
But it's very much the case that if you can view it locally... fundamentally the same process is occurring as a copy.

I think subscriptions are probably going to be the way of future digital media. I think I'm largely happy with that - I _would_ pay for access to a digital library of books. (I'd do the same with dvd and mp3 from the services that already exist, but I spend far less time watching DVDs or listening to music).
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fishrgreat From: fishrgreat Date: June 8th, 2011 09:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't I'd ever stop buying tree books. There are some that I just want the series to read... but I love having 200 books at my fingertips, so I can just swap to something else!
Plus, the number of free/cheap good books on Kindle currently is astounding.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 9th, 2011 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Similarly - there's some books I want to own and treasure. And be able to read in the bath :).
But being able to have a large library in my pocket is really very useful - it's why I did just 'suck it up' and buy a new Sony Reader last time I broke it.

But yes - I approve of companies that give an eBook right with a dead tree one.
mrbear From: mrbear Date: June 8th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
DRM is a big pile of fail, there's no doubt.

I'm more curious though as to why you'd want to downgrade to a Kindle? The Sony readers are *much* nicer.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 9th, 2011 08:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Kindle 3 is a nice (and heavily subsidized) bit of kit. I like the openness of the Reader, but you get a lot more for your money on Kindle. (And frankly, better eBook availability)
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 9th, 2011 09:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Kindle 3G + WiFi clocks in at £152


Drop the 3G (which is doesn't require a sub, but does sometimes incur charges for data transfer for e.g. personal data) and it's £111.

Compare that to the Reader PRS-650, and you get a very similar quality of screen - same res, same size. Similar memory space.
You trade off the wi-fi/3g for a touch screen and SD card slot. (Which frankly, I think irrelevant for 1Mb ebooks, when you've 2-3Gb of internal storage - although I accept if you want to play MP3s, then you might want it)

But the PRS-650 clocks in at £199.
That's quite a price gap - especially if you skip the 3G wossit.

Cases are broadly similar, but I find the fact that one of the Kindle cases available comes with a built in reading light, that runs off the Kindle battery, to be really cool.



I think £200, that gives a Kindle with 3G, and a case with a built in light to be really quite a compelling comparison.
At least, barring technical issues with DRM on eBooks already bought.
29 comments or Leave a comment