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Books Piracy Your Rights Online

Book Piracy — Less DRM, More Data 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-bring-logic-into-this dept.
macslocum writes "Ambiguity surrounds the real impact of digital book piracy, notes Brian O'Leary in an interview with O'Reilly Radar, but all would be better served if more data was shared and less effort was exerted on futile DRM. 'The publishing industry should be working as hard as we can to develop new and innovative business models that meet the needs of readers. And what those look like could be community-driven. I think of Baen Books, for example, which doesn't put any DRM restrictions on its content but is one of the least pirated book publishers. As to sales, Paulo Coelho is a good example. He mines the piracy data to see if there's a burgeoning interest for his books in a particular country or market. If so, he either works to get his book out in print or translate it in that market.'"
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Book Piracy — Less DRM, More Data

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  • But just like with Apple and the itunes, Amazon is never going to convince me that the DRM they use is for my own good. It's about control and monopolies and always has been. (And yes I know itunes is DRM-free now that the ipod dominates the market).
    • by Junta (36770) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:21PM (#34828358)

      The seemingly most popular eReader can't 'legally' load copyrighted ebooks from Borders, B&N, or public libraries. Any user doing so violates the DMCA to get it there.

      It's worse when you see people advocating buying dedicated eReaders per store as a reasonable thing to have to do with the reasoning 'why would you expect to use Gillette blades with a Bic handle?'.

      • by jgagnon (1663075)

        There is very little cross use of DRM-burdened content for any of the devices out there, so it isn't just Amazon (and I know you didn't suggest that, just clarifying my stance). In my case, the Kindle was the best choice since I shop on Amazon frequently anyway and don't live near a B&N store. As for other devices/formats? I have access to a PC just about everywhere else I am and can read them on it if I choose.

        It would be nice if Amazon went DRM free for books like they did for music, but it is the

        • by Moryath (553296) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:50PM (#34828716)

          Book "piracy" (e.g. rampant copying) has been going on for ages now. At the same time, I can't object to much of what happens with it.

          I'm a collector of roleplaying system books. A large number of them are out of print. A sizable majority, not only are they out of print, the publisher itself is long gone. My options are to scour secondhand markets and convention auctions like nobody's business, but that can't find everything. Eventually, just to archive them and keep them around in case they get requested for reference, "piracy" is the last-and-only resort.

          It's not half as good as having the physical book in my hand, but it's better than being unable to find the material. And when traveling to a distant convention, sometimes it's a "necessary evil" in order to transport the material in a 6-lb laptop rather than shipping an 80-lb suitcase back and forth.

          Now, I'd be willing to pay $1-2 more to get a PDF copy of the book along with the print copy, but the same can't be said for Kindle/Nook/etc formats. Why? Because I have NO guarantee that there'll be a good reader for them 10 years from now. I'm hauling around (in some cases) 20 year old material here, I know I'll still be able to read a PDF a decade from now because it's non-DRM'ed, but the same can't be said for the DRM-laden formats.

          • You probably know this already, but you can easily strip the DRM from Kindle books.
            • You probably know this already, but you can easily strip the DRM from Kindle books.

              And you can easily learn how to pick the lock of your front door, so why do you carry a key?

              Fools break into their own property. Smart people make sure they own the key as well as the lock.

              Break DRM, and someone comes up with nastier DRM.
              Reject DRM, and it becomes too expensive to use.

        • There is very little cross use of DRM-burdened content for any of the devices out there, so it isn't just Amazon

          Actually, the Kindle is one of the most, if not the most, limited ebook reader devices in terms of DRMed content. The Nook and many other readers support the EPUB format with Adobe Digital Editions DRM, which is the closest thing there is to a standard right now. Amazon chose to make their own non-compatible format and not support the standard. So they're chosen to make things worse.

          In my case, the Kindle was the best choice since I shop on Amazon frequently anyway and don't live near a B&N store.

          In terms of content and options, probably not. The Nook supports alternate bookstores that use the EPUB format (Google just op

          • by PCM2 (4486)

            Sure, the DRM still sucks, but at least the device gives you a little interoperability and the option of selecting your source to some degree in the DRM world, unlike the Kindle.

            And in case anybody's wondering, yes, much like the Kindle, it is trivial to strip the DRM from Nook-compatible books with a few Python scripts.

      • I've started countering that argument with "No but I do expect to be able to use any shaving cream I want".

    • And yes I know itunes is DRM-free now that the ipod dominates the market

      Care to cite? Once the DRM model exists it it is a minor cost to keep everything under the same model. I highly doubt that Apple's marketshare has much to do with their dropping of DRM. If anything, Apple probably has even more competition than they have had when they had DRM in the past with major players like Amazon in the market.
    • But just like with Apple and the itunes, Amazon is never going to convince me that the DRM they use is for my own good. It's about control and monopolies and always has been. (And yes I know itunes is DRM-free now that the ipod dominates the market).

      It seems like revisionist history to imply that Apple put DRM on iTunes because they wanted to. What evidence we have indicates the contrary - Apple wanted to be DRM-free, but the record labels wouldn't allow it.

      • Re:I love my Kindle (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:37PM (#34828540)

        But just like with Apple and the itunes, Amazon is never going to convince me that the DRM they use is for my own good. It's about control and monopolies and always has been. (And yes I know itunes is DRM-free now that the ipod dominates the market).

        It seems like revisionist history to imply that Apple put DRM on iTunes because they wanted to. What evidence we have indicates the contrary - Apple wanted to be DRM-free, but the record labels wouldn't allow it.

        Then please stop trying to revise histroy. Apple always wanted DRM (their whole OS is DRMed on a hardware level. Want to install OSX on non-Apple hardware? Lots of cracks needed. The OSX DRM is to check to make sure its Apple only hardware.) Apple only got rid of its DRM in its music because Amazon was in the final steps of getting the labels to agree that they would be able to sell DRM music on Amazon.com (look when Jobs wrote that letter declaring 'Oh we don't like DRM, we were strong armed...' a few months before Amazon started selling DRM free music). Apple had to drop the DRM in response to the threat Amazon was about to cause. Because if Apple really didn't want DRM they would remove it from every other digital product on iTunes. They just don't though because they love DRM, helps lock you to them.

        • Re:I love my Kindle (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Ltap (1572175) on Monday January 10, 2011 @07:26PM (#34829998) Homepage
          Apple also does some sneaky things that aren't exactly DRM, but are basically locking people in -- for instance, funny implementations of h.264 for AppleTV that won't play well with much things, and anything that you want to use with AppleTV has to be encoded that way. Most torrents of films are aggressively compressed, which is too much for AppleTV to handle (maybe it has a weak decoder). At any rate, it isn't explicit or removable DRM (more a deficiency and weakness in the software and hardware) but it is still a limitation and one that rather cleverly locks users into buying both the content and the means to play it from Apple or Apple-approved sources.
      • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday January 10, 2011 @06:27PM (#34829250) Homepage

        > It seems like revisionist history to imply that Apple put DRM on iTunes because they wanted to.

              Except for the fact that the music on iTunes is only the tip of a very big iceberg. Or at least it should be.

              It's fascinating how the blindered Apple fanboys ignore all of the other stuff on iTunes not to mention
        everyone's old files that are still locked down unless you pay an extra fee to unlock them.

              There's DRM in audio books, books, video, phone apps and desktop apps.

              Apple's music is swimming in a sea of DRM including some stuff that is entirely under Apple's control.

        Apple benefits greatly from that lock-in and the fact that you are forever married to them and the fact that
        you must continue buying their hardware if you ever want to play the stuff you "own" ever again.

    • And yes I know itunes is DRM-free now that the ipod dominates the market

      Music from the iTunes store is DRM free, but unless it's changed very recently videos are still DRM-encumbered.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10, 2011 @04:59PM (#34828064)

    The other major problem with ebooks is that the selection outside of the US is shocking. Most stores refuse to sell to us, the others will have something like "This book is not available in your region" for most of their titles.

    • > Most stores refuse to sell to us...

      Because the rights for your country were sold to someone in your country. That's who you need to deal with.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Moskit (32486)

        At the same time you can import a real book without such problems.

        Now, if only international shipping weren't so expensive and books so heavy...

    • by lahvak (69490) on Monday January 10, 2011 @06:10PM (#34829000) Homepage Journal

      When I got a nook for christmas, I was looking forward for buying bunch of books from the country where I grew up. I would like to read some of the books that are being published there now, but shipping them across the ocean is pretty expensive. I was extremely disappointed by the small amount of ebooks that are available. In addition, when I tried to buy some, it turned out I would have to have a mobile phone number in that country. The only books that are available to me are either free out of copyright books that were digitized by libraries or volunteers, or pirated and illegally digitized books.

  • by Senes (928228) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:00PM (#34828074)
    Because if the only way for me to load text onto a text reader is to buy it an inflated price from the company's book store, then I'm just not going to purchase the device.

    If I'm going to spend money on a device that's solely for reading text, I'm going to want to use it to read the long volumes I encounter on a daily basis because seeing them on a backlit screen is far more comfortable than seeing black text on a white background on a computer monitor. If I can't put whatever I feel like onto a reader, which is what serves as an open door to piracy, then it's not very useful to me.
    • by Korin43 (881732) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:17PM (#34828310) Homepage

      Because if the only way for me to load text onto a text reader is to buy it an inflated price from the company's book store, then I'm just not going to purchase the device..

      Isn't that exactly what the publishing companies want? Ebooks are a threat to the publishers' bottom lines. They're easy to share, they don't get old or fall apart, and authors can self-publish for basically nothing. Anything they can do that make ebooks unpopular keeps them relevant a little longer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        At the same time, though, publishers are desperate to find a way to kill the used book market, which is an even bigger threat to their bottom lines. You see the worst sorts of tactics to kill used book sales in the textbook market -- publishers often release a new edition of a textbook with little more than the order of the practice problems changed. Publishers love the idea of DRM because it allows them to kill used book sales; of course, they are in for a hard dose of reality when they finally learn tha
      • by faedle (114018) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:32PM (#34828462) Homepage Journal

        You might be looking at the wrong end of the dog.

        Plain text eBooks (or ones using open unDRMed formats) represent a threat. However, book publishers have found a way to have their cake and eat it too with DRM.

        Through DRM, they eliminate the used market and lending, make it a challenge to share, and through obsolescence of the hardware will "get old and fall apart." Also, authors can't self-publish as easily, because while there's nothing stopping anybody from making a .mobi file that will load on just about everybody's platform, it won't have any of the DRM protections and none of the distribution advantage.

        With DRM, eBook readers are a publisher's wet dream. /Disclaimer: I actually own and read books on a Kindle. I'm part of the problem.

        • by Junta (36770) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:42PM (#34828618)

          authors can't self-publish as easily

          There is nothing in the DRM encumbered market that makes this true. The stewards of the DRM are the likes of Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc. Even if an author *did* consider DRM a must-have for him to be comfortable publishing, the vendors will gladly help that author self-publish with DRM in order to cut out the publisher middle man. The publisher doesn't implement any technical infrastructure required for DRM to function.

          Even if it were the case that DRM is inaccessible, sure they don't get DRM, but they also don't have to let a publisher gouge them for money in the middle.

          • by faedle (114018)

            The process is not transparent to authors, and requires a small amount of technical savviness.

            I know a good number of authors, a few of them you may have even heard of. None of them understand the technology enough to effectively use Amazon's self-publishing platform. Amazon's self-published e-books section are filled with books with typesetting problems. Hell, you could say the same thing about the professionally edited and published books: there are few eBooks I've purchased from Amazon that didn't hav

        • by zentigger (203922)

          don't forget that with ebooks, the publisher's distribution costs are practically nothing, there is no printing cost, and no worries of over/under printing, but despite that, the books are still the same price (more or less) than the paper equivalent!

      • "Isn't that exactly what the publishing companies want? Ebooks are a threat to the publishers' bottom lines. They're easy to share, they don't get old or fall apart, and authors can self-publish for basically nothing. Anything they can do that make ebooks unpopular keeps them relevant a little longer."

        You know, I really am sick and tired of this drivel. Seriously, THIS gets modded up? I challenge you to prove just ONE of your claims. Go on - take a look at market figures and prove just one of them.

        Not on

    • if the only way for me to load text onto a text reader is to buy it an inflated price from the company's book store, then I'm just not going to purchase the device.

      I'm not aware of any reader that doesn't let you load content via USB. It's really not an issue.

  • by thue (121682) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:01PM (#34828088) Homepage

    If you decide to only sell DRMed books, then you are selling a lower quality product than the pirates are given away. DRM can be a huge bother.

    So I hope they are taking into account people who would have bought a non-DRMed ebook, but will pirate ebooks if only DRMed ebooks are available for sale.

    • The Kindle user experience is a data point against the "lower quality product" argument. It's certainly locked down, but the delivery path is pretty damn good. I've seen both DRM and pirated books, and buying a Kindle ebook is a better experience. Period. It just costs more.

      This is very different from music and movies, where pirates perfected digital downloading long before a commercial option was available. Amazon, not stupid about these things, is hammering down ebook prices to get people on their platfor

      • by hedwards (940851)
        It costs more and you lose your entire library if you switch to the competition.

        But yes, the delivery path is quite straightforward. At least with the competition you're not quite as locked down and can move to a different device.
        • by faedle (114018) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:39PM (#34828576) Homepage Journal

          The average consumer doesn't understand that. The average consumer has already purchased their copy of "Neverending Story" on video tape and now DVD, and is waiting in queue for their copy on BluRay. Yes, they've bought the same movie three times over the last 20 years (four if they paid for a movie ticket).

          Yes, you and I know (as geeks) that today's current crop of monochrome-display eInk readers are almost identical to tomorrow's crop of color display ones, or today's tablets. Being as the latter can run Kindle/nook/Border's store, that's not a big issue.

          Most people don't honestly care about library retention, and they never have in any other mass electronic medium to any large degree. Most consumers expect tomorrow's technology to not play today's media. Very few consumers who invested in large Laserdisc libraries yelled very loudly when they had to repurchase their libraries on DVD.

        • If you care about that, you probably have already figured out that ebook DRM has all been cracked.
      • by Nadaka (224565) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:33PM (#34828500)

        Plus you get the bonus of having all your books and historical documents redacted and updated to the current version available from the ministry of truth with out any fuss or fear of the thought police busting down your door.

    • by godrik (1287354)

      Well, I also recalled spending hours looking for books in a epub (even drm-ed) format and I couldn't find it. I finally resolved to look for it on TPB and I found it in 2 minutes. I wanted to buy the book. But I couldn't find it!

    • by Tx (96709)

      Yes. I have a substantial library of DRM-protected Microsoft Reader and Palm Reader books, which I'm now trying to deprotect and convert to read on modern hardware, as those formats are now practically abandoned. I gave the DRM a fair shot, and I'm not feeling like I got a good deal. I'm not aware of any stores that let you re-download a book in a different format if you buy different hardware, which they could easily do; seems to me the DRM is as much about trying to lock you in to a platform as it is abou

    • by thesandtiger (819476) on Monday January 10, 2011 @06:56PM (#34829642)

      I have over 100,000 ebooks and I've paid for exactly 5 of them. Maybe 10,000 of those books are in the public domain and the remainder I grabbed in a few mega torrents since hey, they were available. I set up some scripts to have MobiPocket convert them all to a format my Kindle can handle, and they all fit onto the memory card my (original) Kindle can read.

      The whole process of getting those 90,000 books and converting them so I could read them was easier and took less time than it took me to deal with Amazon customer support when, erroneously, the 5th and final book I paid for from their site, disappeared from my device when I was in the middle of reading it. It turns out it was just a software error, but it made me decide that as much as I like the device, I will absolutely *not* let Amazon have anything to do with what I put on it.

      I am not the kind of person one would normally think becomes a pirate, but in the last few years, the behavior of those who hold copyrights abusing the system to ensure that their copyrights NEVER expire coupled with DRM that punishes ONLY legitimate customers and not pirates have made me basically decide, fuck it - I'm just not going to worry about paying for things like this.

      Mind you, I am also the kind of person who paid on the high end for the Humble Bundle (and didn't play any of the games) and who bought a few "name your own price" tracks and albums just to support those models, bought songs on iTunes when they dropped the DRM to show support for that, and I also tend to send a few bucks to various OS projects when I find their stuff useful or neat. But I'm done paying unless I feel like it, and I can't even bring myself to feel guilty about it as I would have just 5 years ago.

      I've got a lot of disposable income (more now, thanks to piracy), and I just choose not to bother spending it on people that treat me preemptively like I'm shit.

  • One must examine all possibilities before jumping to any conclusions. Maybe Baen Books doesn't publish anything worth pirating. :^)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by faedle (114018)

      Came here to say exactly this.

      A lot of Baen's catalog is dry, hard sci-fi and fantasy, and a lot of it is sold in used bookstores for 25 cents to $1 a copy.

      There's not a lot in Baen's catalog I'd really be interested in reading as a casual sci-fi/fantasy reader. Most of their stuff I find to be impenetrable and/or very dry reading. I'm sure the hardcore fan base will mod this down, but there's a lot to be said for "Baen's content is DRMed by being completely inaccessible to the mass market."

      • Re:Baen Books (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MadChicken (36468) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:30PM (#34828430) Homepage Journal

        You need to read more Keith Laumer.

      • There's not a lot in Baen's catalog I'd really be interested in reading as a casual sci-fi/fantasy reader.

        Oh, c'mon. Yes, Sturgeon's Law applies here like anywhere else, but are you really claiming that writers like Lois Bujold don't appeal to casual genre readers? Do you know anyone that's read the Vorkosigan Saga and not been utterly bowled over by it?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by alSeen (41006)

        You need to read Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series. The series has 3 books that have won the Hugo for Best Novel and 3 others that were nominated but didn't win. It is one of the best scifi series out there.

        Available from Baen. DRM free. Heck, completely free from here.

        http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/

        Go to the Cryoburn CD to find the files.

        This is a site that is hosting the CDs that Baen will include in some hardcover books. The CDs are freely redistributable. Baen is aware of the site and whi

        • by CRCulver (715279)

          The series has 3 books that have won the Hugo for Best Novel and 3 others that were nominated but didn't win.

          That's not going to convince judicious readers. All too often books have been nominated or awarded the Hugo or Nebula solely on the ideas they present, not the writing that the reader has to get through to hear these ideas. I just finished reading Robert Sawyer's Calculating God [amazon.com] , felt it was mainly crap, and then was shocked to read that it had been nominated for a Hugo.

        • by moniker (9961)

          Tycho from Penny Arcade praising Bujold here:

          http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/11/26/additional-boys/ [penny-arcade.com]

          Great series of books. My understanding is that Memory is on the CD, but not actually linked from the TOC.

      • Re:Baen Books (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Unkyjar (1148699) on Monday January 10, 2011 @06:31PM (#34829296)

        I disagree entirely.

        I would say that while their entire library is science fiction and fantasy, very little of the Baen library is "hard" science fiction/fantasy. It's much lighter reading than that, but then again I probably read more Sci/Fi and Fantasy than you so it's really hard to mark where your tolerance is for prose since you cite no examples of texts you tried.

        I will however point out that Tor, Harper/Collins, DAW, Del Rey, are all publishing the same quality books and authors as Baen. And you'll find that ALL paperback books can be found in used bookstores for a dollar if they're older than 10 to 15 years with a decent print run. It's the nature of the used paperback market itself.

    • by moniker (9961)

      Amazon sales would say otherwise....

      When Amazon says that Citadel has a salesrank of 2,675, that means there are 2,674 books in all categories currently selling better. Keep in mind, these are people who actually paid crazy deadtree prices. I got all of these books directly from Baen in an ebook bundle for just $15 a month... and I had them a month before they appeared in dead tree format. Granted, I would love if Baen had authors like Vernor Vinge and Iain Banks, but I find myself reading and buying a lot

  • Why I pirate books (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Because it's an absolute SIN that they charge the same or more than the dead tree version of the product. The costs are so much less compared to physical books -- no distribution costs, printing costs, materials cost, less middle men costs, etc. Recently three authors wrote an ebook and self-published at ~$3, they all made the same amount of money they made with a publisher. Yes, this is a different business model as the publisher does provide some value add services, and these three authors were already
    • by cob666 (656740)
      This !

      I've always read books and I find myself reading more now on my Nook than I did before I got an ereader device. The biggest gripe I have with ebooks is the price. I can walk into any bookstore and buy a paperback book for around 7 dollars, the same ebook will cost me a minimum of 9.99. I buy enough ebooks where this is becoming a problem. I recently tried to 'borrow' ebooks from the library but the selection is just laughable and unlike physical or even audio books there is no secondary market
    • by hawguy (1600213) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:38PM (#34828558)

      Because it's an absolute SIN that they charge the same or more than the dead tree version of the product. The costs are so much less compared to physical books -- no distribution costs, printing costs, materials cost, less middle men costs, etc.

      But if you look at it from the publisher's point of view, he doesn't see a $1 eBook sale as a new $1 of revenue, instead he sees it as a $20 hardcover that didn't sell.

      So he charges $10 for the eBook to make up for the fact that eBooks are eating into his paper book sales. Worse, he's still got to maintain that whole paper distribution model, but now instead of a title selling 100,000 paper books, it's only selling 70,000 so his cost per paper book is increasing making it more important to make up the revenue in eBooks.

      The advent of eBook readers may expand his market and let him sell more total books than before, but that's not a given and I don't think that's proven to be the case (yet). I suspect that the eBook early adopters are many of the same readers that would have bought the new release at a bookstore.

    • If ebooks were in the $3-5 range I would buy everything, but $10 is a rip off. It's not my fault the industry hasn't laid off all the middle men and are trying to protect their jobs. So until they fire the extra costs, I say pirate away.

      You are, of course, almost certainly lying. If ebooks were in the $3-5 range you would be here with an almost identical complaint about how that is too high, but if they were around $1 you would buy.

      • $1 is too high for a separate purchase. I want to buy a hardcover or paperback and get an ebook free (or "free") with the same purchase. Kind of like how bluray/DVDs are now beginning to include digital copies of the movies in addition to the on-disc version; its a way (albeit, so far imperfect) to provide additional value to someone who actually wants to purchase your product.

        Sometimes I like the paper copy, like when I want to take my reading outside, especially when poolside.

      • by Pengo (28814)

        You are, of course, almost certainly lying. If ebooks were in the $3-5 range you would be here with an almost identical complaint about how that is too high, but if they were around $1 you would buy.

        Really?

        Maybe i'm one of those burnt customers who have bought a Kindle with the hope that the eBooks will be more cost effective than tree-books.

        I have just looked at my amazon account, and between myself and my wife we have over 100 purchased titles in our account. Both of us have kindles, as we're both avid readers.

        A disturbing trend that seemed to occur when the iPad launched with it's book reader, the price of books nearly tripled, even more in the more popular books. Authors such as Steven King, have

  • Baen (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjpadbury (169729) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:12PM (#34828248) Homepage

    In all fairness, one of the reasons there's such a low piracy rate on Baen's books is that they are free to distribute as long as you don't charge for them

    Baen on their own website has many first books in series available: http://www.baen.com/library/ [baen.com]

    Also, they've released CD's of books in many of their hardcovers over the years, with a license that allows copying, including online. One site that has them available is http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/ [thefifthimperium.com]

    The only versions of their books that are electronically available and not allowed to be distributed are the ones purchased at http://www.webscription.net/ [webscription.net]

  • by Junta (36770) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:14PM (#34828278)

    Music has by and large ditched DRM efforts on purchased content (may still factor in subscription/streaming services, I'm not paying much attention there. I think music has found a comfortable low price point that renders the point mostly moot. Music may be DRMed on streaming, and the best protection their is that a lot of people who would deobfuscate their stuff have no motivation to since purchases aren't afflicted by DRM. It's almost reaching a point of sanity, that the per-unit cost can be brought low because the distribution overhead is minimal (even more minimal without DRM) and the production cost is sizable, but not horribly bad.

    Books, on the other hand are still DRMed by the dominant vendors. They also charge outrageous amounts and want to compare the price to the hardcover editions, completely ignoring the fact that per-unit cost is next to nothing compared to even paperback. They don't even have a significant up-front cost to recover (Movies/TV have actors/sets/etc, music has engineers and sound studios that are really needed for respectable sound, books don't *need* much more than a diligent author with a computer, though editors and artists frequently help). The DRM on at least the epub stuff is laughably easy to remove (because without removing it, it's pretty damn hard to actually put it on many devices, so they get a large volume of people out to get it). I wonder if publishers are keeping prices high and the distribution overly complicated just to slow down the electronic market because they know full well they play a negligible role if distribution becomes trivial to do.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Why? Books were pretty much always the most locked down form of media to consume. It took a lot more effort to pirate them than was generally worth, and the savings to the end user was minimal.
      • by Junta (36770)

        The reasons for that are technical. Books on a technical level are more comparable to film reels and vinyl records without tape or any sort of digital representation existing.

        With the popularity of eBooks, that playing ground is now nearly level on distribution, leaving little more than production cost distinguishing the mediums from a business standpoint.

      • This. Ripping a book is nothing like ripping a CD. And even if you do it right, and the book doesn't have necessary non-textual elements, formatting the text properly is still a chore. And nobody seeds exactly the book you want on torrent sites, you have to hope it's in a collection of books that enough other people like, and hope the formatting of that book in that collection doesn't suck, and that it either IS or IS NOT a pdf, depending on your preference (reflowing a pdf on a portable reader loses ALL
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shmlco (594907)

      "They also charge outrageous amounts and want to compare the price to the hardcover editions, completely ignoring the fact that per-unit cost is next to nothing compared to even paperback."

      Per-unit costs of paperbacks are next to nothing. (The physical book, shipping, etc., come in at less than 50 cents.) Fully half the book price goes to the retailer or store where you buy the book. So for a $7 paperback, that's $3.50 to the store and $0.50 physical costs, which leaves just $3 to the author and to the publ

      • by Junta (36770) on Monday January 10, 2011 @06:31PM (#34829298)

        Sorry, but $3 for something that takes a year or more to create isn't much money.

        That argument would make sense if incremental cost were the dominating factor or even a major contributer. Even if a paperback costs 50 cents to create as an incremental cost, that's still probably two orders of magnitude higher than a digital version. With negligible incremental cost, you can play all sorts of games with the demand curve and so talking about an individual purchase without the context of how that price increases/decreases volume of units sold is kind of pointless. If hypothetically charging $5 gets you 10,000 copies, but $1 got you one million copies, then $1 *is* a lot of money for a man-year of work, it's even more than $5. It's hard to play those games with even mass-market paperback, because you need to guess pretty well in advance what the required run will be or else get eaten alive by the incremental costs.

        And if you want to bring up paperback pricing, nearly any book on Amazon in paperback form is available for basically the same price as an ebook

        I consider this to be unreasonable. If I were going to buy an eBook and get no physical copy, I should benefit from the decreased cost from not having to create the book and carry stock that may or may not sell. If you insist on gouging me for the eBook, then I should be able to buy a physical book and be entitled to an eBook copy to go with it. If you insist on new-release pricing being high, then do hardcover only and save the e-book for paperback time. An 'early adopter' for a book getting a hardback at least gets a product with extra value that persists after the paperback comes out, but the eBook edition will be *identical* before and after a hypothetical price drop, leaving the original purchaser with nothing tangible to show after that arbitrary point.

        Finally, I'm tired of people only looking at costs and using that to justify piracy.

        I'm not doing that, my stance is abstain from the industry. I feel the need to make it known why I'm almost abstaining from the market (have taken advantage of some appropriately priced ebooks when they are on 'special'), and how I (and presumably others like me) could be persuaded to participate. Pricing is one issue and DRM is another. DRM makes it damn near impossible for law-abiding (since DMCA screwed over fair use) people to do things like move a book from their Nook to a new Kindle they got, but it's absolutely useless at deterring unauthorized copies for people willing to break laws (just run two commands and poof, all DRM gone from your eBook library).

        There's more to any business than per-unit costs. And if you think you're entitled to everything at cost, just go into MacDonalds and try paying a dime (cost) for a Coke.

        Well, for one, I won't pay the $2.50 many restaurants charge for tea or soft drink and instead go for water. But in the larger scheme, incremental cost is a key factor in contrasting digital distribution from physical distribution. The cost of producing a copy, of stocking surplus, of risking spending money on copies that will never sell, of shipping that stuff all over the place, that cost is significant and yet consumers don't see any significant savings at all by participating in a model that saves the vendor and publisher from all of that.

      • Sorry, but $3 for something that takes a year or more to create isn't much money.

        Sorry, but in a capitalistic market economy, how long it takes to create something is not what dictates price. Instead, what dictates price is supply and demand. And the supply of amateurishly written books (and yes, that applies to a lot of big name authors as well - like you, Dan Brown) is damn near infinite.

        Want to make money writing? Better make sure it's loads better than the competition, or get out of the market.

        Finally, I'm tired of people only looking at costs and using that to justify piracy. There's more to any business than per-unit costs.

        Yes, that's called supply and demand. And that really is it. Unless you wanna go try that

    • I'm no expert, but I believe a lot of musicians get most of their revenue from merchandise, live shows, etc--and all for items that probably took a few weeks of effort to finalize. Books take months or years of daily effort (no up-front cost my ass, that's a lot of lost productivity which might NEVER be recovered if publishers don't like it), require the services of a proofreader at the very least, and take enough time to be read that you don't typically buy several copies nor reread them more than a few t

    • by TavisJohn (961472)

      For subscription services, I totally endorse DRM. You are paying a monthly fee to access music you are not paying for the songs themselves. If the company goes under I do not have a hard drive full of music or videos I purchased that will stop working. You are basically renting the music or videos, and you know that up front.

      I am totally against any DRM for anything I purchase. Because if the company I purchased the DRM'd content goes under, their DRM servers stop, and the content I paid for stops worki

  • by pieisgood (841871) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:15PM (#34828286) Journal

    I find that this sort of debate really lies to the side of entertainment publishing. Books that contain real educational material, usually, are so steeped in the universities that online piracy isn't even considered an issue. Thus, you can find older editions of classic texts online for most of the real "learning" material. Math, Physics, Engineering, Chemistry and Biology all have large collections online for download. The math collections are particularly deep and contain so much content as to not be able to understand it all. When you can find books on applying stochastic processes to financial markets, you've gone pretty deep into the rabbit hole. The DRM issue, as I see it, really lies in the realm of "popular" entertainment. The top sellers list on amazon, the prize winners and Oprah boasted "books". I think all the information that's important is readily available online in stashes so deep it takes a life time to understand them all. It takes two university years to get through both Rudins, let alone all the other math texts. I can hardly imagine the number of physics and bio books available.

    In summary, let them have their DRM... I'm not really interested in the next Glenn Beck tirade or ghost written political horse shit that seems to plague the top sellers lists.

  • One of my favorite books is The Pirate's Dilemma: http://thepiratesdilemma.com/ [thepiratesdilemma.com] It talks about the association between ancient methods of production and distribution, and streamlined methods of delivery. Piracy has always been on the bleeding-edge of mixing things up, and getting things out there faster than any large corporation could handle. I don't see that changing any time soon. Sure, the corporations might force governments to lean on the pirates, but they will just push them underground - won't
  • 1. DRM sucks.
    2. Drastically reduce prices for digital media, when there's no hardware cost/middlemen involved. The potential customer base is massively bigger so they can afford that, but I guess greed is greed...
    3. Put LOTS of tempting offers
    4. Aim for the customers' convenience when buying / browsing.

    For pc games, in which piracy is rampant, Steam works great. It can't be that difficult to think of something similar..
    Oh, and the mined data can be used for all above points.
    The separate industries
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      What they really need to do is make the cost so low that people don't even think of whether or not to buy it. It should be so low that I don't even want to bother pirating it. Music should be a dime a song, $1 for the album, books should cost $1. That way I could buy every song I even remotely liked, without even thinking about whether or not it was "worth it", or if I should spend the extra time to pirate it. With the distribution costs being basically zero, and the production being a fixed cost, peopl
  • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:21PM (#34828366) Homepage

    While I'm still in the middle of writing a bunch of short stories (and working on one long-form story that could potentially extend past 1,000 pages), I only have one that I feel is "ready for release".

    "Reversion" tells the story of a zombie that is slowly coming back to life. The whole story is done from the perspective of the zombie, although it's told from a "god's eye view". Completely and totally free to read/download. Enjoy! [scribd.com]

    • by wcrowe (94389)

      The plot doesn't really sound like my cup of tea, however I give you kudos for sharing your story.

  • I've never understood how ebooks, even compared to other media are so rigorously DRM'd. You should WANT people to share the content. Believe it or not, the concept of properly compensating someone for their work is an agreeable idea to many people. The trick of it is that getting it legally should be easier than trying to get it for free- I think both Apple and Amazon have shown that it is now much easier for most people to drop some coin and purchase books instead of trying to "pirate" them.
    But what the

  • Situation in Spain (Score:5, Informative)

    by Superken7 (893292) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:24PM (#34828388) Journal

    Let me briefly explain what the current situation in Spain is and why it drives me nuts.

    Over here in Spain all ebooks are sold and advertised as ePUB, until you notize its not really ePub, but Adobe DRMed ePUB. I think Barnes&Noble does the same. And there are lots of other platforms that use Adobe DRM to encrypt their PDF files.

    It drives me nuts that adobe has such a high penetration in the ebook DRM market because they don't have tools for most platforms. AFAIK no official readers exist for any platform beyond Windows or Mac, which is great (sarcasm) given how many portable platforms exist nowadays (Symbian, BlackBerry, Android, iOS)

    What good is using ePub if you are going to encrypt it in a proprietary format? I don't know why they took the time to advertise it in PDF and ePub (the two "biggest" and most popular cross platform formats) if they are going to screw everything up by turning it into a proprietary file.

    I for one will avoid DRM ebooks, and like with movies and music, will just buy it from places where there is no DRM. If no such places exist then they have already lost because I'll just look through the net for hacked .epubs, simple as that. And if that happens too often I will just stop looking for legitimate ebook shops and start downloading everything. Maybe some people don't agree morally, but I am okay with it, and reality is most people will do the same...

    I should mention that over here in Spain, amazon does not offer any spanish ebooks, same goes for the iBooks store and google books, all books are sold as a DRMed download and you need to register at Adobe Digital Editions, then register AGAIN at the online store where you are buying your books at (there is no "central store" like amazon.com, they tried to replicate the physical stores fragmentation to the online world), then validate your content with your device - granted thats even possible - its not possible for any android device for example, and THEN you are able to read your book, if you are lucky

    It just amazes me how an industry that has been able to learn from the music industry and then the movies industry is so slow at adopting what consumers want.

    Just my 2c, :P

    • by bcrowell (177657)

      It drives me nuts that adobe has such a high penetration in the ebook DRM market because they don't have tools for most platforms. AFAIK no official readers exist for any platform beyond Windows or Mac, which is great (sarcasm) given how many portable platforms exist nowadays (Symbian, BlackBerry, Android, iOS)

      When I go to this URL [adobe.com], it automatically recognizes that I'm running linux, and it offers me the linux version of Adobe Reader to download.

  • DRM is impossible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harl (84412) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:30PM (#34828448)

    It's impossible for DRM to work. The customer has to have both the lock and the key or they can't use what they paid for[1]. If the customer has both the lock and the key then it's impossible for DRM to protect anything.

    What vendors need to realize is that a lot of piracy is done simply because they can. When the cost of acquiring things is literally 4 seconds of your time you go crazy and acquire all sorts of shit that you will never use.

    Is the cost of the DRM more than the lost sales? Yes piracy does generate some very small number of lost sales but not a significant amount.

    Stop catering to non customers!

    [1]Yes there are central server methods but until we have 100% uptime wireless, usable anywhere, with central servers that have 100% uptime forever this method will never work.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      It's impossible for DRM to work. The customer has to have both the lock and the key or they can't use what they paid for[1]. If the customer has both the lock and the key then it's impossible for DRM to protect anything.

      But if you lock that key inside a dedicated device that no end-user can reasonably get into, then successful DRM becomes possible. Very few people have the resources to slice open a chip and use a scanning electron microscope to decode what is inside that chip.

      And if the key is stored in NVRAM rather than hardwired into the chip, it's even harder to pull out. But of course, Amazon allows eBooks to be viewed on non-Kindle devices (PC's, phones, etc), so that's where their weakness is, and I believe the PC a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Content is being protected by copyright laws that guarantees the revenue stream for the life of the author + 50 years. This form of law does not encourage the authors to produced, but instead encourages them to be lazy.

  • ... I've been frustrated with the whole book publishing model in the era of the internet for many kinds of books, esp technical books and self-teaching kind.

    No few people can write a whole book and make sure it is error free. It's time to put "teach yourself X book" and technical books in editable wikibook like format, then everyone who has knowledge can contribute to the work making the book more valuable over the long term.

    So many books are just pump-and-dumps for cash grab... many people buy books to te

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:52PM (#34828740)

    I hate so sound so, "get off my lawn", but I really don't like ebooks or digital readers. I can appreciate having your whole library on a single device, etc. But there are too many disadvantages to ebooks as they currently work.

    To illustrate: right now it's looking like Books A Million will be going out of business soon. That is a shame. However, I don't have to worry if that happens because I will still be able to read all the books I've bought from them over the last 20 years if they go out of business. Additionally, short of fire or flood, I do not have to worry much that their pages will get scrambled, lost, or damaged -- at least not in my lifetime. I also don't have to worry that anyone will steal my books, nor do I have to worry that Books A Million will come in my house and take my books back.

    The only way I am going to enjoy and use ebooks is if they are in plain ASCII text format, like those in Project Gutenberg.

    I do have an open mind. If someone can give me some overwhelming benefits of having ebooks over print books, i would love to hear them.

     

    • I can take 1000 ebooks with me wherever I go in under 300 g of weight. It's all about convenience. (And none of them have any DRM anymore.)
    • by Xian97 (714198)
      The biggest advantage I have had since buying my Kindle is the adjustable type size. The older I get the harder it is to read small print and not every book is available in large type. With the Kindle I can change the type size and line spacing with ease to adjust to whatever is most comfortable to me.
  • Publishers are old businesses.

  • Since eBook sellers dont' have incentive to allow books in other formats to run on their reader device, then maybe book publishers should be required to allow a user to have his books be revoked and reissued under any other reader that the publisher supports.

    The publishers don't want Amazon to be the sole eBook reader maker - it gives Amazon too much power over them.

    This gives users something more akin to a real book -- they can keep it forever, moving it to other devices as they are released.

    And it preven

  • The answer to ebooks is public libraries.

    First, you need copyright protection so that loaning out ebooks by a library is fair use. I think that already exists, but I'm not sure how it works with scumsucking DRM.

    Second, you need to make it so that people can donate their used ebooks to libraries. This will save your municipalities tons of money. This may require a copyright fix.

    Third, facilitate inter-library loans of e-books.

    Who needs to own a book? If you need it, download it from your public library.

  • I've lost more money to publishers than I have to copyright infringement.

    (My current publisher and I give away the electronic versions of Modern Perl: the book [onyxneon.com] for free.)

  • by jandersen (462034) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @01:52AM (#34832806)

    What somehow seems to be lacking in the furore over the issue of "piracy" and DRM is the fact that the realtion between seller and buyer is a business one - even if one side is a multi-billion dollar business and the other is a pennyless student. And what are the fundamentally important things in any business relationship? Respect and trust. And those two come from both sides experiencing mutually beneficial transactions.

    In the past we've seen that book publishers have charged very high prices for their materials, especially for study books - and what was it actually they were paying for? Considering the fact that, say, the mathematical department at my old university could produce basic, but very useable course material for about 1/20'th of the price of a book from a global publisher, I think there must have been a lot of excessive profit involved - so students quite reasonably felt cheated by the big publishers.

    And now, with ebooks, it is even more crass: no expensive printing, binding and physically transporting tons of paper books, and on top, many abooks now have a limited lifetime, so you can't even buy second-hand. And the prices, I bet, remain the same as ever, or more. So how can one even start on building a respectful business relationship?

  • by Builder (103701) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @05:52AM (#34833840)

    I used to violate copyright to read ebooks on my reader. You see, to buy many of the titles I wanted, I had to buy the book from Amazon US then strip the DRM and convert it to ePub so that my reader can view it. Buying from Amazon US meant using proxies to change my IP to one that is allowed to buy the book, a complex gift certificate purchasing and gifting process and a number of other hoops.

    I'm buying the book, but I'm still violating the DMCA / EUCD to be able to read it. I have to do this because for reasons beyond my understanding, while I'm running naked up and down the streets with a fist-full of money yelling "Let me make you rich!", many publishers won't sell me the books that I want in my region.

    Now, if I want to read these books in electronic format, I have to break the law. So why bother to pay money to break the law? That seems silly. I'm a criminal with similar penalties and censure in both cases, so why not just move to downloading for free ?

    Oh, and it turns out that downloading for free is actually _easier_ than when I was paying money. When I was paying money to get this product, it took 4 steps and a number of pieces of software that I would prefer not having to use. By getting the book for free, it's a 1 step process and there is no extra software required.

    Want to stop ebook piracy ? Sell me the damn book!

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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