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Readers Need Help from Authors and Publishers to Retain Digital eBook...

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I am going to get back to Google Book Settlement, I promise, but this Sunday I really wanted to address the topic of ebook ownership given the Orwellian actions of Amazon. For those who are unaware, two weeks ago Amazon failed to notice that two Orwell titles (1984 and Animal Farm) were being illegally sold in the Kindle store. These books are in the public domain in other countries, but not the U.S and since the Kindle is available only to U.S. residents the sale of these Orwell titles was improper.

The U.S. Kindle owners had no idea, of course, that the books that were made available were illegal copies. It was for sale at Amazon, for goodness sakes. One might be excused for thinking that when one pressed “Buy It Now”, one was buying a legitimate copy.

Then one evening Amazon accessed all of the Kindles that had these illegal copies and removed them, reimbursed the consumer, and left without notice.   It’s the lack of notice and invasion of privacy that was shocking and frightening to users and observers and Amazon’s actions further served to emphasize that books in the cloud are only lent to an owner for a life term (and the “life” can be dependent on device rather than owner).   In Amazon’s case, it was perfectly within its legal right to take away any book to which it deems the owner should not have access.   The Kindle Terms of Service state this explicitly.

What then is the reader’s choice?   My personal choice is to strip the DRM, or remove the software that wraps around the digital book content.   I do this so that I can future proof my book collection, keep backups that are easily accessed and converted to new formats, and to prevent any bookstore from hobbling my access.   However, I have always operated under the theory that to strip the DRM is to violate the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, essentially a federal offense.   Under the DMCA, the law states:

(a) Violations regarding circumvention of technological measures.–(1)(A)No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title. The prohibition contained in the preceding sentence shall take effect at the end of the 2-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this chapter

17 U.S.C.A.  § 1201 (a).

U.S. v. Elcom Ltd. is a district court decision handed down in the Northern District of California.   203 F.Supp.2d 1111 (N.D. 2002).   The Elcom case involved the prosecution of Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian Ph.D. student who developed a program that stripped the DRM from an encrypted PDF.   The federal indictment accused Skyarov of writing software code that violated the DMCA.   Sklyarov was arrested, imprisoned, released on bail, and ultimately acquitted by a jury.   Prior to being acquitted, Sklyarov moved to dismiss the charges on various grounds.     The Elcom decision stated that   all tools that enable circumvention of use restrictions are banned. 203 F.Supp.2d  at  1124. In layman’s terms, the court said that the DMCA bans all software that helps a person get around DRM.

The court carefully noted that the DMCA did not restrict fair use provisions in Chapter 17 of the US Code aka Copyright Law.   The language of DMCA  § 1201(c)(1) states:

Nothing in this section shall affect rights, remedies, or defenses to copyright infringement, including fair use, under this title [17 U.S.C.A.  § 1 et seq.].

In fact, the decision implied that fair use can include stripping away the DRM (circumventing use restrictions) but that this might be made difficult because of the ban on DRM stripping software. Id. at 1125

Fair use of a copyrighted work continues to be permitted, as does circumventing use restrictions for the purpose of engaging in a fair use, even though engaging in certain fair uses of digital works may be made more difficult if tools to circumvent use restrictions cannot be readily obtained.

The Elcom decision went on to state:

Courts have been receptive to the making of an archival copy of electronic media in order to safeguard against mechanical or electronic failure. See Vault Corp. v. Quaid Software Ltd., 847 F.2d 255, 267 (5th Cir.1988). Making a back-up copy of an ebook, for personal noncommercial use would likely be upheld as a non-infringing fair use. But the right to make a back-up copy of "computer programs" is a statutory right, expressly enacted by Congress in Section 117(a), and there is as yet no generally recognized right to make a copy of a protected work, regardless of its format, for personal noncommercial use. There has certainly been no generally recognized First Amendment right to make back-up copies of electronic works. Thus, to the extent the DMCA impacts a lawful purchaser’s "right" to make a back-up copy, or to space-shift that copy to another computer, the limited impairment of that one right does not significantly compromise or impair of the First Amendment rights of users so as to render the DMCA unconstitutionally overbroad.

Id. at 1135.

The problem is, as the Elcom decision noted, that there is no specific law that permits the archiving of ebooks for personal use, with or without stripping the DRM. Some people argue that under the Sony Betamax case that determined time shifting was fair use (time shifting involved the recording of television shows to be watched at a later time), format shifting would be appropriate.   Format shifting being the stripping of DRM from one format (say MS Lit) and converting it to epub to be read on the iPhone or Sony Reader.

Notable others argue that the Sony case was pre DMCA and therefore no longer the litmus test for fair use.

Equipment manufacturers in the twenty-first century will need to vet their products for compliance with Section 1201 in order to avoid a circumvention claim, rather than under Sony to negate a copyright claim.

1 Nimmer on Copyright (1999 Supp.),  § 12A.18[B].

In  Lexmark Intern., Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 387 F.3d 522 (6th Cir. 2004). a concurrence to the majority decision argued that the DMCA should be read to require the Plaintiff (unhappy party like a publisher or author) to show a “purpose to pirate” on the part of the Defendant (the DRM stripper).   The  Lexmark case involved a company (SCC) who had developed a chip that supplanted the Lexmark chip and allowed non Lexmark cartridges to be used in the printer.   The majority decided in favor of SCC, determining that there was no infringement of the software code that Lexmark used in its chip.   Judge Merritt agreed with the result but argued that “purpose to pirate” had to be pled and proven by the unhappy people wanting to use DMCA as a sword.

Nearly all the caselaw that exists involves the manufacturer of equipment (like SCC) or the creator of software and not the end user, the reader.   Most of the cases that have been decided have gone in favor of the copyright holder. [Fn1]

What readers really need and deserve is the right to own their digital books.   In owning them, readers deserve the right to be able to strip the DRM, backup the file, and convert to other formats.   Authors and publishers, the copyright holders, need to advocate for the reader.   Authors’ Guild, RWA, SFWA, NINC, AAP, and others need to draft legislation that allow readers to protect themselves from businesses ceasing to support ebooks, from computer malfunctions, from retailer mistakes, and lost hardware.

One reader noted to me privately that she had lost her Sony Reader on the plane.   She’s not able to move those Sony ebook files to a Kindle or an iPhone or any other reading device.   Those books should not be lost to her, but they are unless she buys another Sony. But what if Sony goes out of the book selling business.   What then? Readers should have the LEGAL right to protect themselves from digital mishaps that are not of their making.    If the current law makes us criminals for wanting to own books, then the copyright holders should advocate for changing that law for the following reasons:

1) DRM stripping tools can still be banned (meaning they will be developed underground and never be sold for profit).

2) Readers who lose legitimately purchased copies of their books won’t be tempted to seek replacements from a priated source. In other words, don’t give a reader a reason to seek out the pirate culture. Let her remain in blissful ignorance of that arena.

3)   Criminalizing an activity that enables the reader to read her own legimately purchased books engenders illwill toward the author and the publisher and in this market, ill will is something the publishing community can scarce afford.

Of course, eliminating DRM altogether, as the music industry has, would negate the need to enact legislative reform.

FN1: See e.g., Davidson & Associates v. Jung,   422 F.3d 630 (8th Cr. 2005) (shutting down an alternate computer gaming site that was based on a legitimate gaming network);    In re Aimster Copyright Litigation, 334 F.3d 643 (7th Cir. 2003) (shutting down a fileswapping service on the grounds it was used primarily for users to exchange copyrighted music); Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes, 111 F.Supp.2d 294 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (finding that the linking to and posting the software program DeCSS which stripped DVDs of their encryption violated the DMCA); 321 Studios v. Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Inc., 307 F.Supp.2d 1085 (N.D. Cal. 2004) (refusing to allow 321 to sell its DVD software program because part of it circumvented the DVDs encryption code); RealNetworks, Inc. v. Streambox, Inc. 2000 WL 127311, No. 2:99CV02070. (W.D. Wash 2000) (disallowing a software program to circumvent the wishes of the copyright owners to NOT have their works copied and saved).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

54 Comments

  1. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 05:12:47

    What readers really need and deserve is the right to own their digital books. In owning them, readers deserve the right to be able to strip the DRM, backup the file, and convert to other formats.

    This is the real problem, isn’t it? Currently, you can do less with ebooks than with print books because of the fear that copies will be distributed without royalties flowing back to the author and publisher. But if you allow people to keep backups forevermore, or convert to other formats without limit, you’re actually giving them more than they can have with print books now (except maybe for first sale). Add to that any other bonuses you get as part of the format (e.g. text search, translation/audio), and now you have not just a rights issue, but issues around business models, revenues and pricing.

    Readers who lose legitimately purchased copies of their books won't be tempted to seek replacements from a priated source.

    I don’t get this. I mean, I get that it will happen in practice. But it’s like saying if someone robbed my house and took my books, I’m entitled to get those books back? The other side of the rights argument is that consumers expect to buy an ebook and keep it forever, and I’m not sure that’s something that publishers and authors should wear. What consumers should be doing is insuring their ebook readers against damage or loss (or if there’s no such service, maybe the hardware retailers should think about offering it).

  2. Jane O
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 06:56:29

    One more reason not to buy an e-reader and e-books.

  3. ilona andrews
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 07:08:22

    Readers who lose legitimately purchased copies of their books won't be tempted to seek replacements from a pirated source.

    I don't get this. I mean, I get that it will happen in practice. But it's like saying if someone robbed my house and took my books, I'm entitled to get those books back?

    It’s more like saying, if I lose my books, I’m entitled to steal new copies.

    It comes down to an individual’s ethical choice. E-piracy is theft. No matter how many excuse ruffles one puts on it, it is still theft.

    It harms the author, especially during the release month, because the industry is extremely performance driven. It harms the booksellers. Ultimately, it reduces the number of available books, because the less sales are made for each individual title, the less profit is generated for bookseller>publisher>author and if sales are low enough, the author will be dropped from the publisher’s line-up.

    That said, once I buy a book, electronic or print, it’s my damn book. Paws off.

    I really don’t understand why there is not a service where you pay a flat fee, let’s say every month, and download all the e-books you want at a flat low price. Let’s say, you pay $10 a month, and get the book at $3 each. The service keeps a list of your titles. Lost one? Re-download it. Why in the world are there e-books priced at $18, $19, $20? I don’t understand it.

    E-piracy has its risks. When I was chasing pirated copies of my books in the release week, sometimes just going to a pirate website set off the sirens in my laptop. (Literally – I’m running avast and detection of a virus actually activates a siren.) These sites are virus-ridden. But until we have a simple, efficient way to purchase – and keep! – e-books, some people will continue to pirate. And some people will pirate anyway no matter what you do, because they’re assholes.

  4. Peggy P
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 07:32:09

    Well, Jane O., I can see why you might make this statement after reading this particular article…but there are so many “right” things about ereaders and ebooks that make it possible to overlook this issue. The majority of ebook readers are not going to come up against the loss of books, DRM snafus, etc. I’ve been a dedicated ebook reader for some time and these have not been problems for me but I’m interested in the issues and happy that Dear Author brings them to light and tries to advocate for better rights for all readers.

    There are so many reasons I love ebooks and ereaders (any brand) and I am a happy user of this technology – it has increased my reading choice and streamlined my reading time. This is the future of the hobby of reading for pleasure and it has some bumps that need smoothed out but is an improvement (for me) over traditional methods of obtaining books. It is a marvel (still) to me to download a book in the middle of the damn night, in a few seconds, in my pj’s and to read away until morning. Ahhh, the little things…

  5. CupK8
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 07:35:17

    Readers who lose legitimately purchased copies of their books won't be tempted to seek replacements from a priated source.

    I don't get this. I mean, I get that it will happen in practice. But it's like saying if someone robbed my house and took my books, I'm entitled to get those books back?

    I am much less concerned that someone will break into my house and steal all my books than I am that someone will mug me and steal my eReader, strip it, and re-sell it. Or if it breaks and I can’t afford to chuck out another $300 right away and therefore have no access to my library, and even then I have to buy the same brand. And if the company goes out of business or stops offering eReaders? Sorry, kiddo. Just bad luck that you’ve lost the, in some cases, hundreds of dollars you’ve spent on eBooks (my boy’s Kindle purchases sure add up close to that). If something horrid happens to my files, I’ve lost EVERYTHING. Not just losing one book, but an entire library. Like a digital fire erasing everything. Except that there’s insurance for fires that can help you replace what you’ve lost.

    I make back-ups of every CD I buy on iTunes. Is that theft? It used to be thought so. But the music industry realized a long time ago that consumers need to be able to protect their purchases. I choose to do that in hard copy format because I trust myself more with a book of CDs than with files on my computer. I still buy CDs on iTunes because it is easier than trying to find it at the store – especially in the case of the french rock I’m so fond of – and I hate having stacks of CD cases piled up in my room. It’s about consumer choice. Am I a thief for making backups of my legally purchased copies? Not according to law; or at least, not anymore.

    For those who choose to read digital, they should have the same rights. The rights to back up their copies of a legally purchased media, and even to transfer it to another device should they so choose. iTunes has started offering DRM-free music from more than just the EMI label – and the irony is that all of Amazon’s music has been DRM free.. because they didn’t have a device to guard jealously. It’s only a matter of time before the publishing industry follows suit.

  6. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 07:42:58

    It's more like saying, if I lose my books, I'm entitled to steal new copies.

    It comes down to an individual's ethical choice. E-piracy is theft. No matter how many excuse ruffles one puts on it, it is still theft.

    Ilona, putting aside the legal argument, I could restock my entire bookshelf with used books. No royalties to the author, either. I can’t debate the legal/illegal argument because there’s no first sale doctrine for ebooks. It’s not actually comparing like for like. I can’t cheaply buy or legally acquire a *used* ebook. I can’t even borrow it from the library at the moment. As for ethics, again that’s a broader discussion, because there are a lot of ethical issues in this debate and not all of them are favourable to the author, publisher or bookstore.

    Anyway, my original point wasn’t about the validity of piracy, but the assumption that readers should have access to their ebooks forever, in any format, and portable into any piece of hardware. (In response to #2 in Jane’s list above.) I’m saying that no, maybe this isn’t reasonable (but maybe it would be using the subscription model you suggested).

    It harms the author, especially during the release month, because the industry is extremely performance driven.

    In the example I was talking about, I’m not sure how much this would apply. If you lose an ebook reader or if Sony went out of business, presumably most of the ebooks you’d lose wouldn’t have been released within the month.

  7. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 07:49:48

    @CupK8: I’m saying insure your ebook reader and its contents. And if there’s no way to do that, then I’m suggesting it’s a gap in the market that would address some of your concerns. I do agree with you that legal back-ups should be allowed. That’s just basic data protection, and to disable it seems an overreach, to me. And I have some sympathy for the portability argument. I just don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect it to continue forever and ever.

  8. medumb
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 07:51:18

    I have an odd query.
    I am a bit lost with the difference between sharing an ebook and sharing a print book?

    The thing that gets me with DRM, is that I would argue that most pirates would be able to get around DRM relatively easily so therefore it is sharing that they are combating? Though I could be widely off base here? I normally am.

    I would think that you would lose more in the book market with used book sales than you could lose with shared ebooks.

    I am not for pirating ebooks, I like to buy mine all fair and square as I want my authors to keep publishing books, but in all the arguments around this issue, I have been puzzled by the above.

    mefeelingdumbernow since Kat did address the used book thing.
    *Note to self read all comments before hitting submit.

  9. DeeCee
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 08:17:57

    I'm saying insure your ebook reader and its contents. And if there's no way to do that, then I'm suggesting it's a gap in the market that would address some of your concerns.

    Umm…seriously? I already shelled out the $300 for the reader and I shell out the $7-20 for the ebooks, and now I should insure it? I think you have far more faith in the insurance sector than I do.

    But for the sake of argument, lets say you do insure it. Who is to say that the company would actually reimburse you for anything? They could argue that its a manufacturer’s problem therefore out of their hands, or simply that since it’s an electronic file that YOU are trying to access it could be riddled with viruses and trojans, therefore your fault.

    About the only way I can see the insurance company actually reimbursing you for anything would be if your house burnt down with your reader in it. And even then you would never get the money back for the hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of ebooks stored on it.

    As for me, there is nothing as frustrating to me as DRM. I bought a few ebooks through Harper’s website, and getting those suckers through Adobe Digital Editions and authorizing the purchase about drove me nuts. Please enter your code…please supply all of your personal info….argh! Whatever happened to just being able to click a damn button and having the ebook load? Good times those were…good times indeed. If I could figure out how to work Calibre and actually get it to work without frying my computer I would so be there.

  10. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 08:31:49

    @DeeCee: Ah, I hadn’t thought of how insurance works in different countries (I’m assuming you’re from the US, so please correct me if I’m wrong). In Australia, mobile phones can be insured for loss or theft or damage, so why can’t ebook readers? I agree with you about the difficulty of getting your actual ebooks back (i.e. insuring content), and that’s why I think backups should be allowed.

  11. Ella Drake
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 08:32:46

    I do believe ebook DRM will go the way of music DRM.

    I tried to write what I’m thinking here, but I’ve started over several times because I have so many thoughts in this space, I have a difficult time putting in a cohesive statement.

    But basically: Microsoft hasn’t updated ereader in the last five years (that’s old for software). With open source software being the direction of development, with so many varied devices coming into the marketplace with that many more developers able to touch DRM software, with the frustration level of users wanting to backup and move their content, it’s a nearly impossible idea to keep that technology from being broken. .Lit has been hacked for many years. The current DRM model has proven to fail in other industries, so I don’t see how it wouldn’t fail in the publishing industry.

    The focus should be the content, not the wrapper/device/technology.

    Still, I do wonder … would the people who download pirated copies of books have bought that book otherwise? In the end, perhaps DRM isn’t really protecting the interests of the publisher/author, but only really frustrating the end user.

  12. Ellie
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 08:35:16

    In Amazon's case, it was perfectly within its legal right to take away any book to which it deems the owner should not have access. The Kindle Terms of Service state this explicitly.

    Actually, I’m not sure that Amazon was within its legal rights. From the Kindle terms of service, emphasis mine:

    Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, . . .

  13. Cindy
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 08:41:51

    I don’t have a reader, but I do buy ebooks. Since I don’t have a reader, I buy through the individual companies. Ellora’s Cave tells you to make back up copies. Samhain leaves them on your bookshelf for redownloading as does…well…I can’t remember who it was but when I lost my external hard drive, I was able to go re-download titles I had bought through them. They are also redownloadable through Fictionwise (or they were when I went through this). Sounds to me like all of the e-pubs are the way to go rather than one central seller.

  14. ilona andrews
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 08:52:44

    @Kat

    Ilona, putting aside the legal argument, I could restock my entire bookshelf with used books. No royalties to the author, either. I can't debate the legal/illegal argument because there's no first sale doctrine for ebooks.

    I love this argument because it’s often made in favor of piracy and it is so very wrong. The key here is that used dead tree books are NOT reproduced through resale. Meaning, you buy a copy of a DT book and no matter how many times it is resold, it is still the same book.

    If you pirate an e-book, through the act of piracy you are creating a new copy of the book. The equivalent would be me setting up a print-on-demand machine and making copies of the DT books free. There is no argument in favor of this. When an author signs a contract, what he or she sells is the right to reproduce the books to the publisher. E-pirates are reproducing the books, therefore violating that right.

    Don’t get me wrong, again, if the bookseller steals the books from your house, that bookseller better replace them. But suppose I lose all of my books due to cat having a pee spree in my book case. That doesn’t entitle me to go and steal new copies. :D

    It harms the author, especially during the release month, because the industry is extremely performance driven.

    In the example I was talking about, I'm not sure how much this would apply.

    I wasn’t talking about your example here in particular. I just used you comment as a spring-point for my rant about e-piracy being bad. :)

  15. CupK8
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 09:22:25

    @Kat:

    That would take care of the eReader itself, as @DeeCee mentioned, but it wouldn’t replace the amount of money spent on the books.

    Then comes the matter of consumer choice – if I want to choose to no longer do business with an eReader company (i.e. I’m pissed off at Kindle and no longer want to use mine), I have to give up the files I downloaded. All those books either have to be repurchased or let go. With hard copies of books, I can read them as many times as I want; even if I end up deciding never to buy x book by y publisher from z store, I’ve already shelled my money out for it and they will never get another dime. DRM locks me into an obligation to only purchase books in that format only when I’m using that device. Capitalism only works when there is consumer choice involved; when that disappears, the consumer is powerless. Unless, of course, I am rich enough to afford another eReader and to replace all of my books through a different company.

    One time I tried to take an album I bought – legally – off of iTunes and put it on another mp3 player. It didn’t work thanks to the iTunes DRM. So I burned a copy of the CD, deleted the files, and imported the CD in regular mp3 format – voila! I could now listen to those files on whatever device I want! Was that illegal? Did I violate the rights of the artist? No; I legally paid for that music. I believe I had every right to use it on another device if I so chose. The same choice should be offered to people who use eReaders.

    I agree with Jane that the industry needs to speak up. A lot of the music industry changes happened after artists started speaking out against DRM, saying their labels were not speaking for them, and that they personally opposed DRM for their music.

    What makes me sad is when I hear people a blanket statement that everyone who wants to get rid of DRM wants to illegally distribute those materials. I’m an honest consumer. I pay for all of my books. I just want to have my choice.

  16. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 09:25:19

    @ilona andrews: I love this argument because it's often made in favor of piracy and it is so very wrong. The key here is that used dead tree books are NOT reproduced through resale. Meaning, you buy a copy of a DT book and no matter how many times it is resold, it is still the same book.

    Apologies, I didn’t intend for my comment to sound like a defence of piracy. It’s not. I can’t restock ebooks the same way because there’s no legal way for an ebook owner to buy or sell *used* ebooks. You may argue that there’s no such thing as a *used* ebook, of course. A reader can also argue that the book industry doesn’t trust us to buy and sell pre-owned ebooks ethically (i.e. destroy the copy we own). And, anyway, there’s also no practical mechanism for this to happen.

    @ilona andrews: But suppose I lose all of my books due to cat having a pee spree in my book case. That doesn't entitle me to go and steal new copies.

    No, I agree. And that’s why I question the assumption that ebook readers are entitled to keep their ebooks in perpetuity even if, say, their devices become obsolete, or formats change, or hard drives are corrupted (the futureproofing that Jane mentions in her post).

    As a consumer, however, I’d then say, well, for print books I can try to rebuild my collection by buying secondhand for about half the price of a new book. For ebooks, there’s no equivalent way to rebuild my collection. And so there’s quite a lot of value involved in perpetual online libraries or subscription services or content/device insurance, and there’s also a genuine need for readers to backup their data.

    I think I’m arguing both sides of the issue and confusing everyone in the process.

  17. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 09:30:41

    @CupK8: Then comes the matter of consumer choice – if I want to choose to no longer do business with an eReader company (i.e. I'm pissed off at Kindle and no longer want to use mine), I have to give up the files I downloaded. All those books either have to be repurchased or let go.

    Isn’t this a format choice, though, that you made when you bought the ebooks through Amazon?

    A print book example: If I buy a mass market paperback because it’s cheaper and it’s the only thing that fits into my bookshelf, and then later my favourite authors start releasing books in hardcover first and I buy a new bookshelf that will fit the books, and now I want to collect all those authors’ books in hardback…I’m not entitled to swap my mass market paperback for the hardback.

    An even better example: I bought a US edition of a book because at the time there was no Aussie edition. The Aussie edition just came out this month. I’m not entitled to the Aussie edition just because I bought the US version, nor can I swap my US book for the Aussie book.

    Again, I’m trying to think of the issue from both sides. One one hand, ebook consumers WANT interoperability and portability. On the other hand, is this a reasonable expectation? (And, of course, you can argue that it IS for the price you’re paying for ebooks.)

  18. CupK8
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 09:49:20

    @Kat:

    When you purchase a second copy of a novel because it is a different edition, you are getting something more than just another format. You are getting a different cover, nicer copy, something tangible where you can see the difference. The only difference between different eBook formats is which reader you can use and those pesky letters at the end of the file. The competition should not come with the eBook format, but with the devices themselves, just like with MP3 players.

    Just to clarify, I don’t own an eReader. My boy does, and he loves his Kindle. He has not yet run into any issues with his files failing. He has an online backup. I read on my laptop occasionally. I purposefully have not chosen an eReader because of DRM. I feel like once I choose a team, I have to stick with them for all time. And I’m not ready for that limitation. I’m too much a capitalist.

    ETA: I feel like I’m straying off topic a wee bit and arguing in general for the removal of DRM. I wanted to add that I would feel more like I was checking a book out from Amazon if I knew that they could, at any time, go in and delete my book. That would also imply that my online backup would be gone too, since they would control my backup as well as my copy on my Kindle. Oh yeah, and any notes I had on the material, like that poor kid trying to write his school report.

    I think of my online LiveJournal material. It is stored on LJ servers. If their servers go down or they decide to close up shop, or they want to delete my journal, they can. At any time. So I make a backup on my own hard drive because I can’t 100% someone else’s servers with my material, nor should I. The argument can be made that I own my LJ material because I wrote it, but then what about the kid who made notes in his copy of 1984?

    That also doesn’t bring up the fact that Kindle customers weren’t warned that it was going to happen. One minute they’re “enjoying” the Orwellian society of 1984 and the next it’s like they’re actually living it! Maybe Amazon should have charged them for the sense of realism instead of refunding their $.99.. hmm…

  19. Likari (LindaR)
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 10:28:08

    The competition should not come with the eBook format, but with the devices themselves, just like with MP3 players.

    The problem is we keep thinking that a file is like a book. We’ve lived with books for so long, that we think the book is the novel. If we own a book, we think we own the novel. But we own the book, not the novel.

    The book is not the story.

    Now, it is creepy that Amazon did what it did. And perfect that Orwell provided the Orwellian experience.

    But a file is not a book. For ebooks to be viable, some kind of controls are necessary. People steal without thinking. It has to be difficult/impossible to make copies of electronic works, or no one will be able to make a living writing novels.

    I read an article a few days ago that suggested writers should just let everyone have their work for free and earn their living giving speeches. How insane is that?

    Of course people should be allowed to back up the files they buy. But do I have the right to demand that all my DVDs be replaced with BlueRay discs?

    We’re in the shake-down cruise of e, and these discussions are part of it. I think the main task at hand is to define the expectations in e-world.

    For instance, why do e publishers think they should get print rights thrown in with their no-advance contracts? Why do print publishers think e-rights should automatically be part of their print contracts? Aren’t they two different things publishing-wise?

    Why do readers think an e-file should come with the benefits of a print book? Aren’t they two different things? And on that note, the price of e should be low, reflecting the limits of e — and readers need to acknowledge those limits as they enjoy the low price.

    If piracy weren’t an issue, then making copies wouldn’t be an issue. But piracy doesn’t go away just because it’s inconvenient to acknowledge its existence.

  20. CupK8
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 11:29:44

    Of course people should be allowed to back up the files they buy. But do I have the right to demand that all my DVDs be replaced with BlueRay discs?

    I think this is different – just like with different editions of novels, you are getting something extra besides the movie. It is a sharper picture, better quality. There is also very little competition in the HD format field. Everyone knew that HDDVD and BlueRay couldn’t both stick around. It was a (not-so-fierce) battle and BlueRay won. Now there is a new Chinese HD DVD format that is starting to compete with BlueRay, but it’s always spoken of as a competition with an eventual victor.

    I do agree that authors should be paid for their work – but is it fair for us to be forced to choose one distributor of materials? To me it is like being told I can only shop at one bookstore, unless I decide to pay a fee to shop at another one and get rid of all my books from the other store. It would make so much more sense to have one format that could be used over all eReaders, much like with the HDDVD/BlueRay thing. Maybe with an option to let a friend borrow the book for a week even, like one can do with DVDs? But that gets into the whole other issue I have with eBooks versus hard copies.

    But a file is not a book. For ebooks to be viable, some kind of controls are necessary. People steal without thinking. It has to be difficult/impossible to make copies of electronic works, or no one will be able to make a living writing novels.

    It is possible to photocopy a book. I can scan the whole thing and print it out from a paperback. There is no way for the publisher to control that, and I’m sure many of us have photocopied snippets of books before without a second thought for the fact that we weren’t paying the author for the material.

    All the evidence I’ve seen says that DRM does not protect digital media from piracy. Once I see evidence showing it does, I will be happy to reconsider my position.

    My Google-Fu pointed me to this article in the NYTimes regarding Audiobooks and DRM. A snippet:

    Random House tested the justification for this fear when it introduced the D.R.M.-less concept with eMusic last fall. It encoded those audio books with a digital watermark and monitored online file sharing networks, only to find that pirated copies of its audio books had been made from physical CDs or D.R.M.-encoded digital downloads whose anticopying protections were overridden.

    “Our feeling is that D.R.M. is not actually doing anything to prevent piracy,” said Ms. McIntosh of Random House Audio.

  21. Jane
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 11:32:32

    I guess my next post will be about how readers can make their own ebooks from paper books bought at the used book store. Completely legitimate and unencumbered by the DMCA as that law only affects purchased digital media and not paper. Clearly we readers need to utilize the second hand stores, flea markets, garage sales, etc. After all why support authors’ need to make money off new sales?

  22. SonomaLass
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 11:43:56

    On formatting, wasn’t there a court case back in the day that determined consumers had a right to copy their recorded music onto another medium as part of fair use? Or am I hallucinating/misremembering again? I seem to remember being told by a lawyer friend that making a cassette tape of a vinyl album (so that I could listen to it in my car) was legal, and ditto for recording songs from different albums onto a mix tape. But I was on shaky legal ground if I gave the tape to someone else who hadn’t paid for the music.

    I know I did a lot of copying of albums to tape for convenience, but then broke down and bought additional copies of albums in CD format, b/c I lacked the technology to make copies in that format. With the shift to DVD, I had to make similar choices — I bought new copies of some movies that I already owned in VHS, but not others, and I went to some trouble to be sure there was a working VHS player in the house for the rest. Now I’m in the process of copying my video cassettes of my children to DVD, in anticipation of VHS technology someday being unavailable. Also my grandfather’s home movies, because my Super 8 projector is a dinosaur! That’s a time consuming and expensive process, but it’s the price of keeping up with technology. The same software that lets me copy the home video would let me copy commercial video, but I assume I’d be violating copyright if I did so.

    It’s a tangled set of issues, with technology really challenging our traditional notions of rights and ownership as consumers. Through all of it, I can still read books that I’ve had since childhood (carefully, in the case of cheaper editions — must remember to thank Mom & Dad for the deluxe editions of all those Oz books). I guess that’s why, having dabbled in e-books a bit, I’m spending my money and energy looking for new bookshelves and a space to put them, at least for now.

  23. Likari (LindaR)
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 12:02:48

    Through all of it, I can still read books that I've had since childhood (carefully, in the case of cheaper editions

    I can see a system where most books are available in cheap e format, and at the end of the book, along with links to more of the author’s work, etc., there is a link to indicate interest in a paper book edition. Then when there’s enough interest to justify printing that title, the publisher can send out an email to people who’ve indicated their interest to collect pre-print orders and then print the book.

    Returns will be a thing of the past, and the throw-the-pasta-and-see-what-sticks aspect of print will also go away to a great extent.

  24. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 12:09:47

    @Jane: Really? You don’t think it’s valid that we’re questioning the expectations on what consumers do or don’t get with ebooks? (Also, format-shifting is legal in Australia under certain circumstances.)

    @CupK8: Aren’t owners of ebook readers aware that they’re early adopters and there’s a good chance their devices will become obsolete when the market matures and consolidates?

  25. ReacherFan
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 12:19:01

    It is precisely these issues that have kept me from investing in an e-reader. I despise DRM. I have yet another electronic device and constantly changing technology that will render my books unreadable. I back-up everything on my computer. When I but a new computer I migrate my files. I buy pdf e-books because Adobe will still be here years from now and I’ll still be able to read my files.

    As for losing print books, yes it happens. That said, I’ve never lost more than 1 or 2 books in a year. I loan my books out. Three, four or five of my friends read a single copy of a book. Nothing illegal in that. I trade books on Paperback Swap. That’s not illegal either. I give them to charities for sale and take a tax deduction and that’s perfectly legal. I put books on my ‘keeper shelf’ and 10 years later they’re still there. And if I want to, I can re-sell them on eBay or Alibris or any other venue and it is my RIGHT to do so. Every one of these instances is a lost sale. As book prices increase, the more sales will be lost and the more attractive swapping becomes. Guess what, I have never sold or shared an ebook. I own hundreds in pdf that have no protection, some of the sites I buy from even permit additional downloads. I don’t give my friends access to the shelves so they can get a copy. I do give them print books.

    I think authors and publishers are worried about a very small minority of users who would risk mal-ware and virus downloads from pirate sites. The core group of people who are ROMANCE readers are ordinary, law-abiding people like me. I have no interest in pirated books, films or anything else. I’ll go buy used. I’ll swap for a replacement copy. I will on occasion buy a new copy of a worn out book. But I deeply resent being treated like a potential criminal when I buy an e-book and that is EXACTLY what DRM is to me. It assumes I will commit an illegal act. You know what, that’s just plain insulting and I deeply resent it. I’m sick if authors and publishers painting themselves victims of technology when the reader is being treated with suspicion of committing a crime when all they did was buy a damn ebook!

    I have had every electronic device known to man die, but if I drop a book into a pool or bath tub, I lose that one book, not a library. I’ve lost individual books, I’ve never lost my library. As long as e-books and e-book readers treat me like a thief, I will stay with print for 95% of my books and buy e-books only for throw-aways unlikely to ever see print. It is a boost to book swapping!

  26. Srsly...
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 12:30:05

    Good post. But with less than one per cent of the market reading e-books right now, I’m sure they’ll work these things out eventually.

    But in the meantime, while e-book readership continues to grow, we need more voices, and loud ones. I have a feeling there’s a great career future for someone who really knows how to deal with these things.

  27. CupK8
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 12:49:46

    @Kat: This is a good argument against DRM; with DRM, if a format becomes obsolete, one must resort to breaking the DRM in order to ensure they will have access to their files. If we didn’t have DRM, it would be much easier to switch over to another eReader if one became obsolete. Although, with the way technology moves, I’m not sure this generation of eReaders is really considered the “early adopter” generation. I’d look to 2003 for Sony’s reveal of a revolutionary technology called “E Ink”. There are some ancient eReaders out there that I found while looking for an eReader comparison, which I can’t find now, of course. But they were big. And old. And heavy.

    @ReacherFan:

    But I deeply resent being treated like a potential criminal when I buy an e-book and that is EXACTLY what DRM is to me. It assumes I will commit an illegal act.

    I know how you feel. Those of us who are consumers tend to be honest people who want to pay for the work. Pirates will always be around, but they will be pirates with or without DRM.

  28. Likari
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 13:10:17

    I’m totally anti-pirate, anti-giving away other people’s work, BUT I also think DRM is crazy.

    If you think about it, DRM is an anti-theft device attached to a product bought by somebody. In other words, the very person who — by virtue of the fact that they bought the damn thing — has demonstrated that they are not a crook!

    Stupit.

    I think the way to get rid of pirates is to get rid of pirates. Go after the pirate sites and figure out a way to put consequences on piracy that outweigh the risk.

    And make it easy for honest readers to buy and read their books. If they’ve bought the file electronically, there is a connection, a history there. They should be able to come back and download the file again in any format they like.

    Or publishers could have two-tier pricing: one cut rate rock-bottom price for a one-format download and add a dollar or two for the right to so many downloads of every format the publisher ever makes available of that title.

  29. (Jān)
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 13:20:41

    Doesn’t anyone get that DRM only hurts the people buying the books legitimately? No one who pirates books is stopped by it. Even if DRM were unbreakable, and it never is, there was e-piracy long before e-versions of most books were available because the pirates scan and OCR print copies. DRM is completely ineffective against piracy and only serves to insult and hurt those who want to give their money to authors and publishers for legitimate copies. And that’s just stupid business.

  30. reader
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 13:45:10

    I think this comic accurately reflects the situation with drm
    http://xkcd.com/488/

  31. SonomaLass
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 14:20:15

    @ reader: One more reason that I ♥ xkcd!

  32. TerryS
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 15:04:19

    #25 hit the nail on the head from a readers perspective. I am tired of being an honest consumer who paid for every ebook in my library and at the same time constantly being maligned as a pirate for simply not wanting drm.

  33. Angie
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 17:37:44

    I agree that DRM is a pointless detriment to the industry, and have been saying so for years. DRM has never prevented piracy, in any industry or with any product. The only people who have to suffer with DRM problems are the honest customers who’ve handed the vendor money for the product. The pirates are happily using their DRM-free copies and don’t really care what newer and more restrictive and annoying DRM schemes the misguided publishers come up with.

    All my books so far have been electronic format only. My publisher doesn’t use DRM and I’d strongly consider leaving them if they started. I hate pirates and would like to smack everyone who’s stolen a free copy of one of my books, but at the same time I value my honest fans and don’t want them hassled or treated like criminals.

    At the same time, I personally have no problem with purchased copies of my e-books being treated like individual books. If someone buys a copy of one of my stories, reads it and decides they won’t want to read it again, e-mails a copy to one (1) friend and then erases the original off their computer/reader/laptop/whatever, I personally don’t care and won’t raise a fuss, assuming I ever find out. One copy was sold, one copy still exists, so fine. Of course, if that friend then mails copies to twelve of their friends, or uploads it to a pirate torrent site, then they’re a dirty pirate and are due for a good smacking. I still won’t want to personally prosecute the person who gave them the copy, though. (Although if I ever meet them I might have a word or two to say about character judgement.)

    To me, copyright is the right to copy, the right to take one copy of a thing a make many copies from it. No one who buys one of my books has the right to make many copies from it; that’s a right I licensed to my publisher and still own myself. If the process of transferring an e-book from one person to another means that there are two copies in existence when only one was paid for, but only for a very brief time before the first is deleted, then fine; it’s just part of the process and I get that.

    As soon as you start talking about “sharing” e-books, though, you’re in the realm of making many copies. If there were some way of guaranteeing that a single purchased copy of an e-book could be “shared” with only one person at a time, so the purchaser could “share” with ten friends but only serially, such that only one of those eleven people had access to the book at any given time, I don’t think many writers would complain. That’s exactly how paper books work, and only a few writers gripe about it. (And most of us think they’re jerks for complaining about libraries and used bookstores and such.)

    But “sharing” is such a positive, friendly word. We’re taught as very small children that “sharing” is good. We’re praised for it, urged to do it, forced to share our toys over tearful objections, and basically have it impressed into us that “sharing” is something good people do. So along come e-books (and music, and computer games, and movies) and people are all, “What do you mean I can’t SHARE?!?!” It sounds outrageous that you’re not supposed to share with your friends. Sharing is a good thing! Anyone who’s against sharing must be a horrible, greedy, selfish person.

    You can’t share electronic media the same way you share a toy, though. Only one person can cuddle a baby doll at the same time. Sharing is considered virtuous for the very reason that letting a friend cuddle your doll means giving up the ability to do so yourself just then. You’re depriving yourself of the fun of playing with the toy, in order to let your friend have that fun for a while. Of course that’s a good thing.

    “Sharing” e-books (etc.) doesn’t mean giving anything up, though. You’re literally having your electronic cake and eating it too, and letting all your friends eat it plus give cakes to all their friends. There’s nothing virtuous about that when the virtual baker is left with bills to pay and only one cake’s worth of payment in hand, while a hundred people eat the single-serving cake they made.

    The fact is that “sharing” is a loaded word here, and within the context of electronic media it’s a horribly misleading word. This isn’t sharing. It’s illegal copying, period.

    Angie

  34. Jane
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 17:56:37

    @Kat: I disagree that digital books give you “more” than what you get in print books. The right of first sale that you casually reference is fundamental balance in the copyright law and one that recognizes that consumers, too, have rights as it relates to intellectual property. The focus is almost always on the creator and not the consumer but under the copyright construct both entities have rights. Currently, the consumer has far fewer rights in a digital book world – there is no right of resale, the ability to actually “own” content if the DMCA is to be observed unless granted the right to own DRM free works as some publishers do, the inability to format shift as you would w/ a print book, the right to share the book, and so on.

    You state that insurance is the way to cover the gap between ebook loss and reimbursement. However insurance is there to cover losses that can’t be recovered. So if a bookstore stops maintaining the copies of the books that you have legitimately purchased, under your “theft” assertion, consumers should have the right to pursue those bookstores for failing to continue to provide copies to them (such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon have done in the past – start ebook programs and then stop them, deleting all consumer content from their servers).

  35. Jane
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 18:00:05

    @ilona andrews: Again, that is not what I am saying but please feel free to infer that. As a content creator, you want to get paid for your work, but what I am hearing from your post is that you want to get paid repetitively by the same person for the same copy because she chooses to buy in digital format. Under the current regimen, should a consumer choose to upgrade their electronics, that digital book must be repurchased.

    You state that epiracy hurts you yet there have been no studies that have born that out. It’s an assertion that many content creators have made but none of those have actually provided proof of that.

  36. Jane
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 18:00:52

    @medumb: no DRM is effective against pirates. The only thing that DRM does is frustrate the legitimate user.

  37. Marsha
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 18:02:51

    When we are dealing with hard-copies, a book is a book. I can walk into several different bookstores and usually buy the exact same format of the story I want to read, with no restrictions. The only difference is usually the price. In the ebook world, the different companies (with different DRM) treat their books like they are private diaries. They have locks on the covers, and only their particular key – purchased with the books – will open them. If you lose the key that came with a book, and jimmy the lock to keep reading it, you are a criminal. :p

    I think most of the problems with ebooks right now exist because everything is in a state of flux. The format wars for ebooks is just really getting started for the general public. (Yes, we’ve had different ebook formats for years, but I believe that ebook readers were considered a niche group – until the Kindle exploded in the media…)

    As it is right now, some people don’t want to make a choice on a dedicated ereader or format, only to find that their choice “loses” in the format war (i.e. BlueRay vs HDDVD) and they are stuck with hardware that they may not be able to replace and/or ebook files they can no longer unlock to use. (Something many early ebooks readers have already experienced.)

    I’ve been a ebook reader for years – since the PeanutPress days on a Palm handheld. That format is still around via eReader and Fictionwise (both now under the Barnes & Noble umbrella) so I continue to purchase and read books in that format. I am already locked-in, but my preference is to buy books in the HTML format and create my own ebooks for my favorite reader – without the DRM.

    I have no desire to break the DRM on the locked books in my massive library. I have never even tried, but if my favorite ebook format is ever fazed out, you bet I will. Not to share the books with the entire world, but simply for my own continued use.

  38. Jane
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 18:05:00

    @Kat: Why would you want an Aussie copy? Does the content entitle you to something different than the US copy? The fact is that the marketplace is designed to balance rights of buyers and sellers. The lack of balance can create a marketplace inequity that eventually dooms the market.

    Right now, the digital ebook side is weighted so clearly toward the content producer. The reason that is harmful is because authors and publishers will lose ground to other forms of entertainment that are more immediate, cheaper, easier to use. The competition isn’t so much between author and author but between books and other forms of entertainment. If other forms of entertainment are made easier because of more advanced technological and business systems, then those forms of entertainment will win out against books.

  39. Jane
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 18:08:01

    @Likari (LindaR): Why shouldn’t consumers of digital books be entitled to the same rights as consumers of print books (the entities have no rights)? I have paid the same money (sometimes more) for the digital book as I have the print book. I should not be punished by having my rights limited simply because of my format choice.

    As I stated up thread, I would be perfectly within my rights to make a digital book of my print copy so long as I didn’t share that copy with anyone else. I firmly believe that would fall under the right of first sale and fair use.

  40. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 18:21:11

    @Jane: I don’t think we disagree. I don’t think you get as much for an ebook as you do for a print book, given the current prices of ebooks. I think there’s a potential to add value, but that’s not really being offered yet, aside from the perpetual libraries–which you can argue isn’t all that beneficial since the bookstores can pull content and there’s nothing the consumer can do about it.

    So if a bookstore stops maintaining the copies of the books that you have legitimately purchased, under your “theft” assertion, consumers should have the right to pursue those bookstores for failing to continue to provide copies to them

    Not necessarily. I’m saying an insurance company could include this in their protection. (Whether or not it’s worth doing for them, I have no idea.)

    I think that currently there are risks when buying ebooks that consumers don’t fully understand or aren’t told of, and that’s not a good thing. Also, the price should reflect the higher risk that the consumer is being asked to bear (in terms of DRM or potential loss or obsolescence if unable to back up). I think eventually this will happen, but it’s still early days for ebooks.

    @CupK8: Not sure which generation you’re taking about (I’m not going to speculate, nor reveal my age – heh). In any case, I believe current ebook reader users are early adopters, whatever generation they belong to.

  41. Kat
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 18:29:46

    @Jane: I was replying to your comment about writing a post on digitising print books and the fact that one copy for personal use isn’t illegal here. And yes, sometimes Aussie/UK books are done differently to US books (print)—e.g. covers, blurbs—though often it’s the other way around (Aussie books are changed for the US market). Harlequin Mills & Boon does this all the time.

    Right now, the digital ebook side is weighted so clearly toward the content producer.

    Yes, I agree. Still, I think it’s worth debating what consumers should reasonably expect when they buy ebooks. The right to back up data? Yes. The right to port to different formats and ereaders in perpetuity? I’m not sure. The right not to lose all content if your format or ebook reader becomes obsolete? Again, I’m not sure.

  42. ann
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 18:44:54

    I’m actually more disturbed by the fact that Amazon did not give notice before inserting themselves into people’s readers and deleting books. The invasion of privacy is very troubling to me.

  43. Jimmy Bryant
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 19:27:58

    THere are pros and cons of both ebooks and print, sometimes I just want to curl up in a chair and print does it for me there…. So I need both…. at times….

  44. CupK8
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 20:09:27

    @Kat: I was referring to technological generations, like iPod has the Gen 1, the Gen 2.. Video game consoles are the same – the xBox 360 and PS3 are in the same “generation”. :)

  45. Likari
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 20:22:44

    @Likari (LindaR): Why shouldn't consumers of digital books be entitled to the same rights as consumers of print books (the entities have no rights)? I have paid the same money (sometimes more) for the digital book as I have the print book. I should not be punished by having my rights limited simply because of my format choice.

    As I stated up thread, I would be perfectly within my rights to make a digital book of my print copy so long as I didn't share that copy with anyone else. I firmly believe that would fall under the right of first sale and fair use.

    I guess the smart-ass answer to the first question is: Because a digital book isn’t the same thing as a print book.

    I certainly think that a person should have the right to make/keep back-ups of their digital data. I don’t think that buying one thing gives a person the right to all things, like with my dvd vs blueray example before.

    But I can also see an e publisher offering different levels of purchases on their titles. Maybe you’d pay 5.99 for a file in one format with a limited number of downloads and 7.99 for more extended access and the ability to download in multiple formats, in case you switched from Sony to Kindle.

    And if you want to crack the DRM and do it yourself, how is anybody going to stop you? And is there a publisher or writer out there who thinks readers shouldn’t be able to make backup copies of the files they buy?

    Maybe I’m not understanding what you’re angry about, because I do agree you should be able to make your own backups. I also think it would be nice if readers could go back to the site where they bought the book and download it again, even in a different format. But then, that’s when we get into the weird existential questions about what is it the reader has actually purchased.

    With a print book it’s easy to define a specific physical thing that belongs to the owner. The owner doesn’t own the story, to make copies of as they see fit. They own the book, which they can keep, lend, give away at their will.

    With an electronic file, we’re wandering away from ownership of the book to ownership of the story — and I think that’s what’s causing the uncertainty.

    Am I making any sense??

  46. cecilia
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 21:10:23

    @Likari: I think that an earlier comment already kind of said this, but I’ll say it again. The blue-ray vs regular DVD analogy doesn’t work, because there is a difference between the products, whereas there isn’t a substantive difference between ebook files (talking about the same title, obviously). A .prc version of the book isn’t different in any way to a .lit version, except in terms of what program will open it. If I buy a blu-ray and throw out my DVD player, I can still play my regular DVDs on the blu-ray (and apparently, they’ll actually look better). When I buy an e-book in mobipocket format to read it on my Cybook, clearly I take the risk that I won’t be able to read it at all in the future because of technology changes. That’s not the same at all.

    However, while someone earlier mentioned that e-books should cost less (implying therefore we ebook readers should be satisfied with less), the fact is, I don’t pay a different price than someone who buys the hard copy. Why should I accept that my money only rents me the book when another person’s bought it, with more flexibility in terms of what they do with it? Almost all of the mass market books I buy in ebook form are the same price as they are in paper, yet the expense of the paper, the shipping, etc. is not the same for the publisher. Why am I paying the same, for less? For the convenience of not having clutter, for being able to carry a hundred books on one small device, maybe. Nevertheless, while I consider these books purchases, I’m being faced with the possibility that they are really just rentals.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a purchaser to keep an electronic file in one form (and lose access to the content) when they could convert it to another (or download it in another format) in order to maintain access to the content, especially when it’s been shown again and again that the restrictions placed on these files to prevent piracy don’t actually work.

  47. Janet W
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 21:35:39

    Cecilia, remind me again why anyone — OK, me — would want to invest in an e-book reader — when there are no guarantees about continuing access to content. And, oh wait, the content provider might actually wipe out your “thingie”! Or the technology might move forward … yadda yadda :D

    I have books, books and more books in my house, some crappy and falling apart, some uber gift editions, others purchased from/to me or family or whomever, UBS copies, gifts from friends and I will ADMIT IT, one, only one, photocopy of Gentle Conqueror by Mary Balogh (he’s a virgin, she’s a bit of a miss) — I interlibrary loaned it and there was no way in hell I was ever going to be able to buy a copy of it so I did that. I pretty much need a back doctor after holiday trips ’cause I schlep so many books (tree copies) with me. So I’m addicted to reading.

    But I’ve lived through VHS, DVD blah blah blah and I have, for fave movies, bought up to three LEGITIMATE copies of said movie so why on earth would I do that for a book?

    I pay my dd’s iTunes bills (I just bought her a new card yesterday), she once in a while makes me a cool new mix — that’s it. These tales from the Dark Side are not encouraging me to buy anything to read books electronically.

  48. Terisa Wilcox
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 07:25:17

    This is one more reason I won’t buy an ebook reader. The invasion of privacy, without any notice. Who is Amazon to say which books I can have access too or not. But because it’s in the Kindle TOS, they are legally within their rights. I think this is just one more example of more of our rights being taken away and it’s done legally.

    Piracy is wrong, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t done all the time. They find a way around the so-called protections that are in place.

    I for one will stick with my print books for just these reasons. I don’t want to be considered a criminal just because I bought an ebook.

  49. Angelia Sparrow
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 07:35:41

    This incident confirmed everything I feared about the Kindle. That’s why I won’t buy one. When I first started hearing about how it could download directly, but oh, yeah, proprietary software, I knew it wasn’t for me. Because when you can access them, they can access you.

    Despite Amazon’s marketing, Kindle=/=the sum of all e-readers. There are others that cannot be wiped remotely.

    I use a Sony. I download my books to my computer, back them up on CD and THEN put them on my reader. I could put them on my phone, but I’m middle-aged and legally blind. Yes, it’s fragile. Yes, I have to be careful. But for hauling reading material to doctors’ offices, dentist offices, sf conventions and many other places where a lot of waiting is involved, it can’t be beat.

  50. Leah Hultenschmidt
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 09:08:18

    Thank you for this, Jane! Since it’s stuff we were talking about recently, I really enjoyed seeing all the casework laid out.

  51. Mireya
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 12:55:59

    Not touching a Kindle (or any other device similar to it) with a 10-foot pole. One of the things that I LOVE about most small epubs is that they don’t shove DRM down your throat.

    I can’t get over the way Amazon did what they did, not even giving notice? That’s what I call a true WTH moment.

  52. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Of book linkin’ and kitty prisons
    Jul 28, 2009 @ 02:04:16

    […] provides some great thinking points about ebooks, reading, and ownership, as does Dear Author. Barnes & Noble’s new ebookstore (complete with their own DRM) gets some thoughtful […]

  53. Lane
    Jul 29, 2009 @ 09:09:07

    I agree that the DRM problem is so ineffectual against its intended target that DRM issues and Piracy issues should be separate subjects. It is simply only interfering with honest consumers. I suspect it comes up because there are authors who are so distressed by the subject of piracy that they are protective of what few defenses they have, regardless of how effective that defense is.

    I think the problem with the analogies I’ve seen is that they all represent different ‘generations’ that are expected to be bought separately. Personally, I think the proprietary format problem is more like buying a sony movie like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and then finding out that it will only play on a Sony DVD player.

    I really like to think that once DRM is removed from the equation, and readers can as easily back up thier e-book files as they can any other computer file without threat of criminalization, they will be part of the front line solution to piracy. I mean, we’re talking romance fans here. If you didn’t feel like you were being looked at as part of the guilty party, wouldn’t you rage at anyone that hurt your favorite author?

  54. Lane
    Jul 29, 2009 @ 09:25:42

    Regarding the Piracy issue itself:

    @Teresa:

    Piracy is wrong, but that doesn't mean it isn't done all the time.

    I’m afraid it does. In the day since you posted that remark, on only one pirate site, over two dozen unauthorized romance novel titles have been made available, affecting numerous authors and cumulatively producing illegal downloads in the hundreds, and representing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of illegally reproduced material.

    It is not necessarily that authors would necessarily receive a sale for each illegal download. It is that part of the reason they signed a contract to have thier work published, they had the reasonable expectation to be paid for each copy created. Pirates breach this contract.

    By their actions, they tell authors that their work is not worth paying for. Worse, they tell authors that they have no rights of ownership, no control over the work they have created. It creates the same depression, sense of helplessness and devastation as any other form of violation.

    This is the harm done to authors by piracy.

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