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O'Reilly To Release DRM-free Ebooks In July 132

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the piracy-be-damned dept.
andrewsavikas writes "Starting in July, O'Reilly Media will pilot select books as DRM-free ebook bundles (PDF, EPUB, and Kindle-compatible Mobipocket) priced at or below the cover price of the book. David Pogue comments on the pilot in the wake of his own recent dustup about ebooks and piracy, covered previously on Slashdot."
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O'Reilly To Release DRM-free Ebooks In July

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  • I'll buy a few... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:48AM (#23884995)

    I'm really surprised that we are actually seeing DRM free eBooks, I though this would take much longer to come about... I plan to buy a few to at least support the concept. I hope though the final title list presents some more interesting titles...

    • Always want ebook. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Odder (1288958) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:25AM (#23885371)

      Given the choice, I will always buy an ebook from O'reilly. I can put them on sftp and have them anywhere, they won't sag my shelf and so on and so forth. I also imagine it will be easier to buy because I don't have to drive to a store or wait for UPS. I wish all my textbooks were like this.

      • Posting to undo moderation. I meant to moderate insightful.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Poorcku (831174)
        I tend to read a lot of Pdfs (articles and so forth), and they are fine for quick reference. still nothing beats good old fashioned paper. I find it more relaxing for my eyes. Could be the way I was taught though. Ideas on this one?
        • First make sure your monitor is working well. You can easily check this with a test pattern [entropy.ch] If it flickers or has aliasing you need better.

          Try to reduce the contrast in light levels between your monitor and it's surroundings. High contrasts in light level will cause your eyes to work harder and reduce your ability to see fine details.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by morcego (260031)

        I do "own" several DRM'ed ebooks. My main problem is that they are locked to a computer/reader (serial number). So if I loose that computer (cellphone etc), I loose access to the ebook.

        This is something that really annoys me. If they want to "lock" the ebook, fine. But lock it to ME, not to my computer.

        • by EllynGeek (824747)
          LOSE, not LOOSE. You LOSE your cellphone when it falls into the river. You LOSE your way in the dark woods at night. You LOSE your job because your boss is a dork. You LOOSE (release) the dogs of war. You LOOSEN your belt after eating too much. I may LOSE my hat because it is too LOOSE on my head.

          Thank you.

    • I've never read an O'Reilly book before, but I plan on downloading a few!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mollymoo (202721)
        You're reading /. and you've never even read an O'Reilly book? Wow. I though everyone with with a reasonable level of interest in computers would own one, or at least have had one thrust at them when they asked a colleague for help. I've got all of them. Well, sort of - I've got a Safari subscription. Half a dozen or so paper ones too. Safari is awesome, by the way. The web is nice and all, good for specific answers, but when you need a properly structured introduction or detailed reference you can't beat i
        • Agreed ... I have 2 O'Reilly books in front of me at this very second. They're virtually indispensable in this day and age. I'm still not convinced about eBooks though. Paper works reaaaaaally well. I'm guessing I should check out an eBook reader some day, my screen real-estate is very valuable to me, there's really no room for a PDF reader open at the same time. However, the quick search advantage of PDFs is very attractive, as well as not having to lug a mini library with me to client sites.
          • Screen real estate (Score:4, Insightful)

            by dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @02:21PM (#23886969)

            ...my screen real-estate is very valuable to me, there's really no room for a PDF reader open at the same time

            Don't you love virtual desktops? One for the browser and mail, one for the IDE, one for the PDF documentation and finally one spare...

            I'm not kidding, but it is one of the reasons I consider Windows not ready for my desktop.

          • by oakgrove (845019)
            I can only speak for myself but I bought the original Sony eReader they were selling at Borders a few years ago for 300 bucks and have been gravely disappointed. The screen is great, it goes for weeks on a single charge, very easy on the eyes, almost as good as paper. There is only one problem. It flat stinks for pdf's. Straight up text files are great on it but the formatting of most pdf's makes them illegible when scaled to the eReader screen. There are 3 text sizes you can configure and none of them
          • Safari is amazing. The subscription model is perfect for tech books.

            -price is competitive with what I spent on books before.
            - always up to date
            - copy and paste code snippets
            - great for researching new technologies (esp with rough cuts)
            - no special hardware/software required. (if you're reading about programming, you're probably in front of a computer anyway. Youdon't really curl up with the Apache Cookbook at the beach)
            - and SEARCH. God bless search.

            so the PDFs are a big "meh" for me....

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Instine (963303)
          I don't have any but will be putting pay to that shortly in light of this news. I'm a dyslexic developer. My guess is, having seen some tech docs in my time, I'm not the only one.

          While I love the web (I can use various assitive technolgies [textic.com], easily, on most markup based pages, and even some PDFs), I HATE books, and DRMed PDFs put addional barriers between me and the knowledge I'm after..

          This is, therefore, potentially, good news for a possible 10%+ of potential O'Reilly readers.
        • by AndyCR (1091663)
          I've been programming for 9 years and have only read about 5 books on the subject. Everything else is gleaned from the Internet and personal experience/experimentation. I rarely even think about needing books to do my work, and the last time I picked up a programming book for reference to something I had forgotten was nearly 2 months ago.

          Different people learn in different ways. I often read books for recreation, but nearly never read books on the subject of my work. It doesn't matter much where the knowl
          • You must at least realise the risk of someone responding that you are ignorant, and that you are ignorant about your ignorance?

            While I am wondering why you didn't pre-emptively counter that painfully obvious response, I agree with you. Books are great (and I actually read technical books all the time), but they aren't the sole venue of study.
            • Actually he is not ignorant. The reality and this is from somebody who stopped writing books is that books are kind of useless. Yes you will still buy some books on specific topics. BUT on the whole the book market is DEAD!

              It was great back around 2000... People still bought books. But now with most documentation being available on the Web and many many articles books really don't stand a chance.

              Look I see it in my own behavior! When I want to learn something how do I do it?

              Step 1) Type specific question i

    • by RDW (41497)

      'I'm really surprised that we are actually seeing DRM free eBooks, I though this would take much longer to come about... I plan to buy a few to at least support the concept. I hope though the final title list presents some more interesting titles...'

      I was happily supporting this concept up until a couple of years ago, when O'Reilly decided to abandon their excellent series of 'CD Bookshelf' titles, which had a series of 4-6 related titles on CD in DRM-free HTML format, bundled with a printed version of one

      • You can still kind of do that with Safari with the extra membership that allows PDF chapter downloads - but I don't think you'd be able to download even one books worth of chapters with any of the limits on monthly memberships making it an expensive way to do so.

        I still use Safari even though technically it's rental, just because it's so useful. And getting new editions of books for "free" is kind of nice, which I'm thinking would not be the case with the PDF versions they sell.

  • Still too dear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:52AM (#23885049)

    Why should we pay as much, or near to the full price of a dead tree product for a digital copy? The manufacturing and distributions costs are near zero. There's no need for shelf space in retailers either. On top of this, we have little resale options. Ever see legal digital itunes music on ebay in lots?

    • Re:Still too dear (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sancho (17056) * on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:27AM (#23885385) Homepage

      Well, frankly, because of economics. If the ebooks sell at full dead-tree price, why shouldn't O'Reilly sell them at that price?

      Also, don't underestimate the cost of keeping a server running and capable of serving out the eBooks 24/7. The actual cost of sending the bits through the tubes might not be high, but the cost of keeping those servers running and cool isn't negligible.

      Then there's the issue of value. Lots of people consider ebooks to be more valuable than dead-tree versions because they're searchable and smaller. If they're perceived as more valuable, they'll sell for more. We saw this trend with cassette tapes vs. CDs and VHS tapes vs. DVDs. In both cases, the disc-based media cost less to produce than the tape-based media, but tapes sold for less because they were considered inferior and were in less demand.

      • by Stellian (673475)

        Also, don't underestimate the cost of keeping a server running and capable of serving out the eBooks 24/7. The actual cost of sending the bits through the tubes might not be high, but the cost of keeping those servers running and cool isn't negligible.

        On the contrary, it's quite negligible, if you outsource it to a competent 3rd party. For 100$ you can get terabytes of traffic, within a secure, stable server. Add to that an upfront payment for someone to develop you a website, of a few hundred - thousands of dollars. You will also outsource the checkout/payment to a payment processor, for a small commission.
        If you add everything up, you get no more than a few pennies per book, 100-1000 times less than what ebooks actually sell for.
        So yeah, the actual co

        • by KGIII (973947)
          If you are paying a *competent* third party you don't get terabytes for $100, at least not realistically. They'll cut you off. (Webhosts oversell and make huge claims in hopes that you won't actually use the amount they claimed they alloted you.)

          They've already got the website devoted to this and surely keep staff on hand to add new content, I'd *assume* that they have their own handy dandy custom CMS that they use, if they don't they're absolute morons and how they have stayed in business this long would
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "... why shouldn't O'Reilly sell them at that price?"

        Because it is evil, immoral and wrong. Yes, that's right, excessive profits are actually theft. All the cheap talk about economic theories amounts to nothing more than justifing taking more out than you've put in. A actual profitably transaction enrichs both parties. An unprofitible transaction impoverishes either or both parties. Clearly then, charging people more than a reasonable profit on an item is to take more than one has earned by performing the t

        • But then who gets to decide what the "fair" price is? You? Me? Uncle Sam? If a price is too high, then people won't buy it, and the price will drop. Just because you think a price is too high doesn't mean that there won't be enough people to say that it isn't and buy the product.
      • by Firethorn (177587)

        Don't overestimate it either.

        Baen, after all, manages to run a quite profitable website selling ebooks for, on average, $3-6. Personally, I tend to buy the monthly ebooks, gaining me 6 for $25. The books themselves are under 10 megabytes.

        Many sites can afford to allow more megabytes available for download for free.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tikkun (992269)
      Technical books have a much smaller audience than popular titles do. This drives up the cost to the reader, as fewer people are paying for the costs of the book, many of which do not have anything to do with distribution (i.e. research, testing, editing, etc.).
    • by Odder (1288958)

      Ever try to sell your old textbooks? You are lucky to get 1/3 rd the value the next semester. The kind of O'Reilly books you would sell won't get you much more. If you don't want it anymore, most people don't want it. You are not going to be losing much this way.

      If I'm willing to pay for a print book, I'm willing to pay for the electronic copy. I want the information, not the paper. The easiest place to find it will be the publisher.

      • by tyrione (134248)

        Ever try to sell your old textbooks? You are lucky to get 1/3 rd the value the next semester. The kind of O'Reilly books you would sell won't get you much more. If you don't want it anymore, most people don't want it. You are not going to be losing much this way.

        If I'm willing to pay for a print book, I'm willing to pay for the electronic copy. I want the information, not the paper. The easiest place to find it will be the publisher.

        Give me the paper. I'm not interested reading on the toilet with a laptop sharing space, but I'll spend hours reading with a book in my hands.

        • by orasio (188021)

          Give me the paper. I'm not interested reading on the toilet with a laptop sharing space, but I'll spend hours reading with a book in my hands.

          You should definitely eat more fiber.
    • Most of the time, you don't. Few technical eBooks are sold on an individual basis. Most are offered through services like Safari, where an institution (university, company, etc) buys a subscription for a flat rate and can get access to any book in the collection immediately (which is worth a lot when you have an employee who needs an answer to a technical question today, rather than in two days time). In these cases, resale value doesn't matter, because you're not buying books, you're buying access to a
    • if they follow the "pragmatic programmer's" approach:

      hard copy: $36.95
      pdf: $22.50

      http://pragprog.com/titles/jaerlang/programming-erlang [pragprog.com]

      Also, they do "social DRM", adding "Prepared exclusively for YOUR_NAME" as a small footnote on each page. I kinda like it.

      • by Stellian (673475)

        http://pragprog.com/titles/jaerlang/programming-erlang
        I don't understand why PDF+paper costs more than paper only. PDF costs 0 to produce, you are paying only for the information, which you already have in the paper version. Other than this, the prices seem fair.
        • I don't understand why PDF+paper costs more than paper only. PDF costs 0 to produce, you are paying only for the information, which you already have in the paper version. Other than this, the prices seem fair.
          Sure, PDF costs zero to produce. Maybe I could offer you a job at may company handling the publishing all our PDF documents. Your salary will of course be zero, so that we can keep the cost at zero.
          • Of course, in this context one refers to the marginal cost of making an extra copy of the PDF file. `cp file.pdf new-copy.pdf' costs, marginally, zero.
          • by tepples (727027)

            Then is this more valid?

            I don't understand why PDF+paper costs significantly more than paper only. PDF costs a negligible amount to produce, you are paying only for the information, which you already have in the paper version. Other than this, the prices seem fair.

    • As noted, you can search them, which brings a lot of value to the user.

      But also - do you not want the author rewarded for the effort it took to make a book? Writing a technical book is not like writing a Grisham novel, in terms of the number of people that will buy one...

      And finally there is the potential for updates to the book for corrections.

      I use O'Reilly's Safari service for pretty much all technical book reading now, because of the benefits it offers. But I wouldn't mind having slightly more "real"

    • by chromatic (9471)

      Why should we pay as much, or near to the full price of a dead tree product for a digital copy?

      You can do so much more with an unfettered electronic copy than you can with a physical product. What is the value of device shifting, or full text search?

    • What would happen if you eliminate the DRM, but purchasing a book would allow you to "resell" that book at a price of your choosing later?

      The idea would be that you'd delete the file after selling it, and that you'd only be able to re-sell the book through O'Rielly's web site once.

      It would mean that people would be financially invested in the product after buying it, which would limit their willingness to give it away.

  • by Coopjust (872796) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:04AM (#23885153)
    Make them openly viewable, but lock them for editing via password and put the name and address, and account email on the title page. That will let people use the ebooks as they want, but strongly deter people from uploading them or freely sharing them with people who haven't bought the book.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cephah (1244770)
      It's a good idea, except if people want to spread them, they would just remove the lock and change the information. DRM doesn't work, period. I'm glad to see O'Reilly embracing this fact.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You're wrong, sorry :(. DRM does work, because 90-95% (taken from large population of my clients) of computer users still have no idea how to break it, and most non-nerds value their time above the effort required to find an unauthorised DRM-free copy of something.

        Unless they can get the copy off their equally non-nerdy friends, which is precisely what DRM stops.

        ORA is exceptional as it caters to the very industry of people who already know how to ignore DRM.

        • Unless they can get the copy off their equally non-nerdy friends, which is precisely what DRM stops.

          Or unless they can get the copy off a nerdy friend -- or a nerdy "friend" who's released it onto thepiratebay, or wherever. And once one of them has the DRM-free copy, they can share it with their friends, and the whole system comes tumbling down.

          Let me spell it out for you:

          90-95% (taken from large population of my clients) of computer users still have no idea how to break it

          It doesn't take 10% to break it. It doesn't take 5%.

          It takes one person to break it for everyone.

          No, DRM does not work. If it has worked for you so far, you either aren't popular enough yet (niche market), or you're lucky -- and, possi

        • If you google for a couple of words from the title of my book, the first link is a PDF download. How much technical expertise do you think this requires? Once someone has cracked the DRM then anyone can get hold of it trivially. All DRM does is irritate people who have legitimately paid for it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Pinckney (1098477)

      Make them openly viewable, but lock them for editing via password and put the name and address, and account email on the title page. That will let people use the ebooks as they want, but strongly deter people from uploading them or freely sharing them with people who haven't bought the book.
      And how do you propose to lock them? In what proprietary format must these books come, and how long until someone releases a program to ignore the read-only bit?
    • by bencoder (1197139)
      how do you propose to keep them openly viewable, while also locking them so they can't be edited, and without using DRM?

      Unfortunately those are conflicting goals.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      Just like making bits uncopyable is like making water not wet, so is making data unmodifiable. "Lock them for editing" is DRM, and can, has been, and will be circumvented.

      • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:43AM (#23885569)

        DRM isnt the super-breakable trick everyone claims here on slashdot.

        One could devise a DRM which procesess all state information within a signed VM. You have multiple exterior checks on the container to guarantee integrity, and once processing the VM, the VM itself checks itself. And if one was to go massively paranoid, a service could be required that satellite service for exterior verification.

        Look at this in similar terms of Xen running SElinux with communication via satellite.

        Is it crackable? Of course. Will you be found out? Most likely.

        Yuo just wait... The next movie player will require a network connection to play videos and music. Blu-ray already uses the VM schematic. All they need is a continuously on connection. All they need is SSH or something similar and the thing'll be damn near unhackable. One would probably have to hook up to the TV lcd chips to record a signal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

          ``DRM isnt the super-breakable trick everyone claims here on slashdot.''

          You won't hear me claim that it is always easy to break a DRM scheme.

          ``One could devise a DRM which procesess all state information within a signed VM.''

          No. Because that's an implementation detail. You can't force people to use a particular implementation.

          Fundamentally, you have a Big Bag Of Bits (usually a file) that has the information in it. Once you figure out how to interpret the bits, you can get the information out. The only way

          • Having said that, you _can_ make it very difficult for people to decode the information in the BBOB, without going through a channel controlled by you.

            And DirecTV has done a damn good job of that. When was the last time that DirecTV was meaningfully cracked?

            Finally, once you have raised the bar for decoding the content so high that nobody is willing or able to crack your scheme...they can still get at the information once your software has decoded it for them.

            True, analog reconversion [wikipedia.org] and similar tactics apply to noninteractive media. So what should one use to copy interactive media?

        • by debatem1 (1087307) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @12:37PM (#23886085)
          While I admit that you raise the difficulty of breaking such a scheme considerably by doing all of that, it is far from "unhackable". My first thought would be to run the entire VM under an X proxy, which would permit me to capture image files of each individual page. Another possibility would be to take snapshots of the VM in operation and correlate the opening of the file to memory allocation. Either way, you're fighting against Knuth's third law, and you just aren't going to win that one.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by nyu2 (1263642)
      There is another choice, one that no publishing company seems to be willing to explore. What about moving to the 'ransom' model of book-making, where you release the book free-of-charge after enough people put money towards it? This could work well for books and music, and probably movies as well. How many people would have been willing to pay $5 for another episode of Firefly? $2? $1? Add to that a tipping model for after-the-fact donations, and you're set. All of this assumes, of course, that what
      • That works nicely for fiction, but not so much for technical material. Safari, backed by O'Reilly, Prentice Hall, and a few others, offers a more useful service where you pay a subscription fee and get access to electronic books from any of the participating publishers. Great if you just want to read a specific chapter in a book.
      • by shmlco (594907)

        If I'm looking for a book that's listed somewhere then I tend to want it now. That's why I paid for Amazon Prime so I get free second-day shipping (easily paid for itself, BTW). I don't want to browse some list of some books that some author may write and deliver a year from now.

        And as been pointed out every time this comes up, ransomware really only works for known authors and known subjects. And it definitely doesn't work well for certain movies, as you can't tell people enough about the movie without spi

    • by debatem1 (1087307)
      There is no cryptographic solution to a problem in which the attacker and the intended recipient are the same person.
      • There is no cryptographic solution to a problem in which the attacker and the intended recipient are the same person.
        But the problem does have one not purely cryptographic solution that involves a change of medium. Once you make a work interactive, which I admit isn't the case of the article, you separate the message for the intended recipient (a program's output) from the message that the attacker is trying to retrieve (the program itself).
        • by debatem1 (1087307)
          Very few formats are designed for cryptographic strength. They do provide small amounts of diffusion and confusion, burying the signal in noise and raising the difficulty in obtaining the information- but not providing much protection against a determined and skilled attacker. In the best case, it winds up moving the point of attack from the transmission to the points at which it is stored, interpreted, or presented. An example would be the idea of packing your data and a custom reader application into a si
          • by tepples (727027)

            but a simple screenshot application obviates the entire system.
            True, one can make a screenshot, even if through a camera. But screenshots still lose even basic interactive features such as searching the text of a document.
            • by debatem1 (1087307)
              Like I say earlier in this thread, more complex solutions yield correspondingly more powerful results. A screenshot can only display information, but a custom X proxy or modified graphics toolkit would be able to harvest text and formatting information.
              • by tepples (727027)

                a custom X proxy
                Would be noticed by the digital restrictions management software when it queries the TPM to see what software has loaded.
                • by debatem1 (1087307)
                  Let me preface this by saying that I am not an expert in TPMs. I haven't looked into the technology in more than a year, and it may have changed significantly since then. You probably know more about them than I do. Having said that:

                  1) TPMs are far from universal, and have far from universal OS support.

                  2) The level of support needed to verify that there was not an X proxy in operation would be extremely burdensome. In addition to having to verify the existence and correctness of software- which TPMs wer
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Excellent idea. Then I can use advanced ebook processor to remove the password, and Acrobat to delete the personal info on the front pace.

    • Sorry, but if you can view it, you can edit it. End of the story. Unless you make the format and the viewer proprietary, you are out of luck. Kpdf, for example, has a nice checkbox in Settings > Configure Kpdf > Settings > Obey DRM Limitations.

      The time spent trying to limit content usage could be very well spent on something useful. Then again, some people are spending their free time watching stupid TV shows instead of learning math or reading Tolkien. Of course, they are free to do it, but manki

    • by Bluesman (104513)

      I think you should patent encrypted, password protected DRM-free media.

      This is truly amazing!

  • While on the subject, what are the relative merits of the various formats? I know PDF from other things, but I know virtually nothing about Ebooks. Can someone enlighten me?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't be lazy [wikipedia.org]
      • I have a couple of their "Bookshelves" on CD already, and they are in DRM free HTML. Use them all the time and work great on my laptop.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)
      The basic difference is that PDF is designed to give you exact page layout, which is great for printing things out, while other formats like mobipocket are 'reflowable' and generally good for devices that arent the size of 8.5x11 paper. Differences otherwise I guess relate to feature sets, but those are the big ones.
  • Well (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mensa Babe (675349)

    "... priced at or below the cover price of the book ..." [emphasis added]

    Well, that's the problem - "at or below" is not enough. If I am to get only the raw information without the physical thing, without the possibility to go to a park with my book (and not looking like a dork with a laptop, or worse yet - a Kindle), without being able to decorate my room with a book, et cetera - it has to cost at least 10 times less (which it doesn't) or be 10 times better (which it isn't). This is the same reason why the

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is the same reason why the idea of selling mp3s was such a failure.

      Selling MP3s is a failed business model? Somebody tell Apple to shut down iTunes, and be quick about it!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      And where do you derive the x10 rule from? Rules of marketing from what I understood is to extract a maximum amount of money from as many as you can.

      Traditional rules also said that the customer was always right. With recent days, DRM and lack of service says otherwise.

      • The 'Customer is always right' is a mantra that was sold to customers to make them believe they are always in control - in actuality, a customer is very rarely right when it comes to your business.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gnasher719 (869701)

          The 'Customer is always right' is a mantra that was sold to customers to make them believe they are always in control - in actuality, a customer is very rarely right when it comes to your business.

          Actually, "the customer is always right" is supposed to remind the sales person that their job is not about being right, but about selling and making money. If a customer says he wants to buy X because of Y then you say "yes", sell him X and make money. If you say "no you are wrong", even if you are right, he walks away and spends his money elsewhere, so you lose..

          There are cases like a customer saying "what you sold to me is rubbish, you have to give me my money back", where 'the customer is always rig

          • by Aladrin (926209)

            "what you sold to me is rubbish, you have to give me my money back"

            On the other hand, sometimes the customer is right in THAT instance, too. If refusing that customer will lose future sales, it makes more sense to treat the customer as the customer thinks is fair. Every situation has to be weighed on its merits, but there aren't very many situations where it makes sense to piss the customer off. Most of them -are- reasonable.

            And before anyone says 'then you never worked retail!', I did. For years. I ha

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by repetty (260322) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @12:04PM (#23885791) Homepage

      > If I am to get only the raw information without the physical thing

      Somehow, that's a peculiar point of view to encounter on Slashdot... the value of a book is its physical instantiation, not the information it contains.

      I see it the other way around.

      A couple years ago, I bought the PDF rights to a Ruby on Rails book during its development -- I needed the info immediately and couldn't wait for it to go to print.

      I had a copy center print it up, spiral-bound, and I also used it in soft form on my computer. Later, when the book actually went to print, I bought it again. (It was a good book.)

      I realized that I didn't like the officially printed book as much. My spiral-bound version was larger and easier to read and laid flat on my desk. Since I knew that I could print another if necessary, I didn't hesitate to write notations in it. Finally, the searchability of the PDF actually changed the way I read: I didn't have to refer to a table of contents, I didn't have to refer to an index, and I didn't have to thumb through pages looking for pertinent information.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by failedlogic (627314)

        I've had a copy center print out a few GPL books before and supplementary PDFs that came with a textbook I purchased. PDF is wholehartedly a much more convienient format, especially with the ability to bookmark, highlight and write notes on the page. And I agree, having a digital copy means you can make unlimited markups of the text and start with an unmarked copy without having to buy more. I actually edit my documents using PDFs in this fashion rather than use Word's (or similar) text markup. Because of t

    • You get the extra value of being able to carry it around on a thumb drive in your pocket wherever you go, search the whole book instantly, and a host of other advantages of computerized viewing, such as zooming in for those with poor eyesight.

      Yet because you're worried that you'll look like a dork when you go to the park, it shouldn't cost more than 10% of the paper version?

      You certainly have the right not to buy the books at that price, but I doubt that so many people will share your sentiments that they w

      • On the other hand, you lose the ability to read when your batteries die or the power goes out. You also are required to buy an expensive device (a computer or "e-book reader") in order to view the material at all. And if you want a dead-tree edition as many of us do, you have to do your own printing and binding.

        To me, at least, this is all okay, but does not justify paying the same price as getting an already-assembled real book. 10% might be a bit low (at least until the market takes off and prices com

    • by panda (10044)

      I don't think this will work for fiction, but the kinds of books that O'Reilly is most famous for, tech. books, it will work fabulously.

      I already have this pretty much with a Safari subscription. For the programming titles, electronic copies are so much better than dead tree copies. When doing the exercises or working on the examples, you can just copy and past the code into your text editor. There's no need to copy files from a CD-ROM or download them from a book-related website.

      Same for a lot of the other

    • I agree. I happen to enjoy holding an actual physical book, and as such it's worth several times more to me than the same information in electronic format. I'm not sure if 10 times is the right number but at least a factor of 2 or 3 should be evident.

      I grew up with computers, and to this day I just don't get the same enjoyment from reading text on a screen vs. text on paper.

  • I think this is great, right now, you can search for almost any o'reilly books on Torrent and Rapidshare, so this wont add anything to the already existing books in the pirated world. But this will give a chance to people who wants to buy their books but think that it is too expensive.
  • http://www.webscription.net/ [webscription.net]

    They have been doing this exact thing for YEARS. What's with all of the "Finally" and "About time SOMEONE" comments.

    Are Baen books everyone's cup of tea? Of course not. But isn't O'Reilly just as much of a niche?

  • As its developer I'm clearly biased, but I still think Interbook [thinkpress.com] technology is the best mix of having a physical book in your hand, saving paper, and having electronic resources available on the internet if desired. It can be protected by basic DRM (type in word x on page y to continue) or none at all at the publisher's discretion.

  • I have experience with DRM-free ebooks, because I couldn't figure out how to do them any other way.

    I've had several discussions with Adobe on how to put copying and printing limits on my line of 40 e-books (do to with learning and customizing AutoCAD, Visio, IntelliCAD, and so on).

    All they can offer is a centralized server that hands out permissions. But for isolated customers -- the kind I have -- who buy and read my ebooks, this obviously isn't going to work.

    Mass copying? It happens. One customer a

  • Pricing Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by leabre (304234) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @12:52PM (#23886217)

    I wouldn't mind purchasing digitally unrestricted files, but not for "at or below the price of the book". I've seen way too many Kindle books that are nearly priced the same as the printed counterparts and gives me no advantages of my printed counterparts (can't give it away, sell it, write in it, requires no additional expense EG batteries, etc.). I'm talking tech books. Some are priced okay, others that I've had an interest in are nearly $50-70. I've seen one Kindle book that was $135 while the printed counterpart (no longer in print) was selling for roughly $15 used.

    I don't know what would be a good price point for a ebook, but considering bandwidth is relatively cheap compared to printing and binding and shipping a book, I don't think an ebook should be priced similar to the printed counter part. With DRM-less ebooks, perhaps it is less of an issue than with DRM encumbered ebooks, where a dead machine or defunct ebook publisher can render your collection useless (has happend to me, which is why I don't buy encumbered ebooks anymore).

    To me, an ebook should be pricsed roughly 20-40% of the price of the book if it was printed. Keep in mind, retail books are already highly marked up from what the retailer pays the publisher/distributor. It should be 20-40% of the whole sale cost of the book (because other publisher/distributors/retailers don't usually offer the ebooks for sale anyway, so it need not be priced according retail value, but wholesale value).

    The other thing is, while certain very-hard to find books, or other in-demand little-supply books could command a premium in print, ebooks are not scarce. They are, for all intents-and-purposes, unlimited supply. So they should not reflect prices of scarcity or high-print costs.

    Until the pricing of any ebook reflects something more realistic considering the what we have to sacrifice to use and that the publisher has so little overhead costs associated with the distribution of the digital media, then I still am not convinced to purchase.

    I do applaud O'Reilly for doing this. They produce great books and if more publishers follow suit, then maybe, just maybe, the landscape will improve and the Ebook market will become more viable.

    Thanks,
    Leabre

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GleeBot (1301227)

      I don't know if 20-40% (a markdown of 80-60%) is really reasonable. I'm not entirely sure where this attitude comes from that bits should be vastly less expensive, just because the distribution costs are near-zero.

      Newsflash: Printing a technical reference doesn't actually cost anywhere near the majority of the book price. That $50-200 book you bought might contain a few hundred pages with lots of glossy color pictures (if it's a very nice book).

      Compare that to the price of, say, Harry Potter 7. 784 pages

      • by Spacejock (727523)
        40-60% of the final price of a printed book goes to the retailer and distributor. When the publisher sells an ebook directly, there's no such payment - they pocket the lot (minus author royalties).

        Therefore, ebooks SHOULD sell for 40-60% of the price of the printed version, just as a starting point.

        And that's why I believe full price ebooks are a ripoff, whether fiction or non-fiction. Yes, you're buying the information and not the pretty covers, but the publisher is making three times more out of you
    • by shmlco (594907)

      So what if Amazon publishes your ebook? They're a retailer, not a wholesaler, so you still have retail markup over wholesale costs.

      Secondly, publishers won't sell at wholesale, as then they're undercutting their retailers. You'll notice you can't buy a physical book direct from the publisher at wholesale for that very reason.

      Third, and in the same vein, price the ebook at too much of a discount, and you undercut sales of the physical book.

      Finally, the value of a book lies with what is within it's pages, and

  • by y86 (111726)

    I for one, WILL buy these. Then I can read them on my EEEPC, my cell phone, whatever.

    I didn't buy music until I could buy Mp3s off Amazon. Now I buy 2-5 albums a month.

    I don't buy ebooks since they are such a PIA. Now I WILL be able to buy.

    Good move!

  • by code4fun (739014) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @01:38PM (#23886595)
    I think ebooks should be bundled with each copy of book sold. Or, at least give a reasonable discount. I have a lot of books which I would love to have an electronic copy.
    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      completely agreed. If you bought the physical copy of the book, then bundling a download for a PDF is a negligible cost for them. They already have the infrastructure for selling ebooks. Why not provide one with a physical copy?

  • O'Reilly? Their E-books just keeps falling apart. I go with Stubbs instead. They make proper E-books.
  • As I recall, the physical manufacturing and distribution of a book costs around 60% of its price. Seems like the publisher could pass some of that savings along. I mean, how much does it cost to upload a bunch of pdf?
    • by Spacejock (727523)
      On a $10 paperback the printing cost is only about $1 or so in large quantities. Distribution and retail are by far the biggest chunk (60-70% of the selling price.) If you supply the ebook as a PDF it's identical to the printed version, and already laid out which means no additional expense reformatting it, then your only expense is bandwidth and the cost of the transaction, whether that's paypal fees, card service fees, etc.
  • I tend to buy computer books, especially those on programming languages, in PDF simply because they tend to get outdated fairly quickly. Disk space is cheap, but shelf space is not.

Prediction is very difficult, especially of the future. - Niels Bohr

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