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Amazon To Launch Digital Book Rental Service 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the this-book-will-self-destruct dept.
First time accepted submitter ni5dotcom writes "Amazon is soon going to launch an e-book rental service soon for US customers, according to The Wall Street Journal. Publishers, however, have shown mixed reaction to this decision so far. From the article: 'Amazon is believed to have offered book publishers a large fee for joining the service. However, the negotiations are said to still be in their early stages. The Seattle-based technology company, which is expected to imminently launch a tablet device to rival Apple’s iPad, has also said that the digital ebook library would feature older titles and be accessible to those who pay for $79 a year for Amazon Prime, the service which allows people unlimited two-day shipping and films and TV shows on demand.'"
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Amazon To Launch Digital Book Rental Service

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  • I hope that this service is backwards compatible with their existing Kindle devices, making it Amazon Tablet (aPad?) only is going to anger their existing customer base...
    • by hedwards (940851)

      And making it Kindle only is going to underline why people shouldn't be buying Kindles in the first place. Not that I'd expect it to make much difference, people who care about that probably bought a Nook or something else that can read epubs.

      • by Phurge (1112105)

        hmmm with the easily obtainable f/oss your kindle can read anything.

      • If it's a rental service, why does it matter if it's Kindle only or not? How many eReaders do you have? Are you expecting to share the book with lots of people during the rental period?

        At the very least Amazon would have to heavily restrict who they gave access to the rental API. It's not something they can completely open up, otherwise anybody could write a client that doesn't do the self-destruct thing, thereby allowing anyone to just download all the books they want for free, and keep them.

        What's news to

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Which explains why everybody else adopted epubs? Last time I checked, epub came in both DRM and DRM-free flavors.

          The reality is that ebook rentals have been around for some time, although mostly in the form of borrowing from libraries. The main reason this is news is that it's Amazon and they've decided to charge for the privilege.

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            Which explains why everybody else adopted epubs? Last time I checked, epub came in both DRM and DRM-free flavors.

            So does .mobi (the format Kindle uses). I bought my first DRM-ed Kindle book by accident recently and was rather annoyed when I discovered I'd done so.

            • by hedwards (940851)

              I had the same problem the one time I bought from the Kindle store, that was before I got my Nook, but it sucks being stuck either cracking a book that one has paid for or having to buy it again for use on a different device.

              My point there was that there's no reason for .mobi to exist at all other than Amazon wanting to prevent people from using their books on other ereaders.

              • by errandum (2014454)

                This makes no sense at all. Amazon lets you read your kindle books in the iPad, the iPhone, Android phones, Android tables (including a rooted nook color), PC's, Mac OS X, all this besides the kindle. If you were stuck with kindles only, I'd agree with you, but pretty much everything BUT other ebook readers work.

                Remember that by controlling the platform where you read the books they can also speak for the quality of their service. If only kindles and kindle software reads kindle books, amazon won't get as m

                • by Cyberax (705495)

                  Are you kidding? Kindle on Android is @#$@#$ unusable.

                  It's not even possible to remove the #(*@ing page change effect. WTF were they smoking?

                  • by errandum (2014454)

                    I use it every day (almost) while on queue or waiting for something and don't have the kindle with me.

                    You don't like the page change effect? Fine. But it's highly usable and with black background and white letters doesn't even hurt my eyes. Personal Oppinion != fact

                    • by Cyberax (705495)

                      I'm not against them. You can have all the effects you want.

                      But there should be an option to TURN THEM FUCKING OFF!!

      • by Nox3173 (1495587)
        You can use programs to convert the files to a readable format for the Kindle. I have purchased books from rival services and converted them to my Kindle no problem.
        • by hedwards (940851)

          Which works fine as long as you don't mind committing a felony or can find them without DRM. Which is sort of the problem. They have apparently folded somewhat on the issue of other retailers selling Kindle compatible books, but the selection is still substantially less than if they'd just go along with the industry standard.

          • by Nox3173 (1495587)
            I'll admit I'm ignorant of the exact law governing on what devices I can view content that I have legally purchased, but I certainly understand your point. Every new invention always seems to lead to an arms race of compatibility (Beta/VHS) (DVD/Blue-Ray) (Epub/Mobi/Kindle/PDF). They leave very few choices for consumers and wonder why we do the things we do. Company sells Item to Consumer that cannot use said Item unless they are standing on their head in a phone both in London during a rain storm. Soun
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:40AM (#37376594) Journal
      Given that their present "Kindle" service is available as a hardware device, an iOS application, an Android application, a WinXP/Vista/7 program, an OSX program, a blackberry application, and a webapp supporting some webkit browsers(I think that there might even have been a WebOS beta at some point...), I'm guessing that Amazon isn't planning on a hardware exclusivity play...

      It is conceivable that publisher freak-outery might demand more DRM; but I'd suspect that(just as Netflix recently relaxed from "Select Android devices with special DRM sauce" to "Android, why the fuck would you pirate the shitty stream on your cellphone, not the Blu-ray rips already on bittorrent, anyway?") any publisher who doesn't run screaming at the very thought of this will accept that dedicated cheapskates are probably beyond capture anyway, and it basically comes down to whether they'd prefer a reliable revenue stream from their readers, or a riskier; but potentially larger, one...
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        There was never any DRM secret sauce, for netflix on android. All you had to do was change the build.prop and the old client always worked. If it has used secret drm sauce it should have failed when that software/hardware was not available.

      • by ynp7 (1786468)

        How could you forget the Kindle app for Windows Phone 7? I'm sure you've deeply offended both of the Windows Phone 7 users.

    • I hope that this service is backwards compatible with their existing Kindle devices, making it Amazon Tablet (aPad?) only is going to anger their existing customer base...

      Would it not? Amazon provides not just the kindle hardware, but also software-base readers for Windows, iOS, Android and BlackBerry that you can register as your own additional devices. Just yesterday I *pushed* all my kindle books to my newly bought Vizio tablet (which is not a top of the line tablet mind you)... all that done from my Amazon Kindle account.

      Amazon has been tentatively made several books available for rental, for example, Li & Yao's "Real-Time Concepts for Embedded Systems", for a bit

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:30AM (#37376480) Homepage Journal

    It's ironic that as a society we were able to completely eliminate scarcity for things like books, music and movies and then we turned around and tacked on an artificial scarcity model on top of it.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:39AM (#37376580)
      Scarcity was not viewed as a problem by the people who published books. They are not in business because they want to spread knowledge or enable learning, they are in business to make money. Thus, the elimination of scarcity is actually viewed as a bad thing, and they want to prop up the scarcity with the law.
    • by bws111 (1216812) on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:41AM (#37376606)

      I wasn't aware of the fact that we had eliminated the scarcity of authors who write things we want to read. When did that happen?

      • by vlm (69642)

        I wasn't aware of the fact that we had eliminated the scarcity of authors who write things we want to read. When did that happen?

        Around the time of the invention of "the blog" and "the google" ?

        • by bws111 (1216812) on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:52AM (#37376734)

          You missed the 'we want to read' part. Further, how are we creating artificial scarcity of blogs and "the google"? The simple fact is, if you are content with the stuff you find on blogs and "the google", you can have as much of that as you want today. There is no scarcity. However, many people want professionally made stuff, and professionals want to be paid, and the 'artificial scarcity' is how we pay them.

          • Psst.. you can find all of that professionally made stuff with the google and the bittorrents. Don't tell the man.

            • by julesh (229690)

              Actually only a fairly small fraction of it. Unless you're willing to put up with badly OCR'd junk with large numbers of errors and paragraph breaks in the wrong place half the time. Or PDFs that are hard to read on your book reader because they don't reflow, so you have to either work with a smaller font than is ideal or constantly scroll around to see stuff.

              • True but I would say 99% of the books that have digital copies in any form, are available nearly perfectly in illegal forms, and I have a feeling the books that are available for "rent" will have this fact as equally true. No DRM has ever gone unbroken for long.
        • I have yet to find an author giving their works away who is in the class of Neal Asher, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F Hamilton, Heinlein, Azimov and my other favourite authors.

          And yes, I've trawled through the Baen free library - most of it I didn't finish reading due to the low quality of writing.

          "Ability to publish" does not equate to "ability to actually write". Remember that.

          • by guruevi (827432)

            Isn't Azimov dead? Who is preventing anyone from publishing it? I have e-books from Einstein through the Gutenberg project. Oh wait, copyright. The problem is not the publishers, the problem is the copyright.

            Any scientist that unnecessarily restricts education should not be funded by the government imho.

          • Neil Gaiman has given away for free
                    American Gods – PDFs - It was a limited time thing.
                    Graveyard Book – YouTube of him reading the entire thing.
            OK – this is kind of the expectation proving the rule

    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:43AM (#37376634)

      Artificial scarcity or not, people still like to get paid for work they do.

      • Artificial scarcity or not, people still like to get paid for work they do.

        Stop it. You are making too much sense, which is anathema in /.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Authors could have lowered piracy by discounting e-book prices. Instead they made e-books cost equal or higher to paperback prices. Result: massive (deserved) piracy.

        Now some authors are complaining about e-book sales. So they come up with a new renting model. Except people hate being told they have a limited time to use something. Result: rental unlocking tools.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Authors could have lowered piracy by discounting e-book prices. Instead they made e-books cost equal or higher to paperback prices. Result: massive (deserved) piracy.

          Hint: publishers set prices, not authors. I've read several authors complaining about their publishers setting ebook prices higher than paper book prices and annoying their fans.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          Most of the e-books I've seen are actually the same price or cheaper than the cheapest available version of the book. (That is, it's at hardback price during the hardback release period and paperback price afterwards.)

      • Many music stores are DRM free nowadays and they still make a bunch of money. People who don't want/can't pay will find other ways to get the content. And they'll have a better product that those who pay for it.

      • And, as we all know, capitalism is the only system that can ever work. I know this because I said so (and a few other systems failed in the past).

    • Just you wait, sonny boy.

      Any day now, the Corporate Feudalist/RIAA/Hipster legislative interests are going to ratify the "God Damnit! It just sounds warmer!" Act.

      This act will require that all digital storage media Must introduce a small number of unrecoverable bit flips every time they are read in order to recapture America's analog glory days.

      And don't even think about employing the Circumventing Rightful Copyright 32 algorithm, or any of the more sophisticated circumvention devices in that vein.
    • by skoch (238567)

      That is the whole point of copyright, trademark, and patent laws. These create artificial scarcity, or Government enforced monopolies.

      The question remains were is the maximum benefit for society with these laws. Right I think we are much on the side or welfare of existing companies, than on the side of maximum benefit to society.

  • by MimeticLie (1866406) on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:32AM (#37376508)

    One US publishing executive told The Wall Street Journal: “What it [the digital book rental service] would do is downgrade the value of the book business.”

    In other news, libraries exist.

    • ...and the publishing industry hates them.
      • It wouldn't entirely surprise me if the publishing industry recognizes that libraries can serve as a useful promotional instrument and state-supported proxy customer on behalf of those who would otherwise be lousy or nonexistent customers; but they would really flip their shit if libraries became too convenient.

        If buying is easier than borrowing, many people will. If the "library" now has the same interface as the bookstore, game over man...
      • by PCM2 (4486)

        ...and the publishing industry hates them.

        Actually, this is a myth. Public libraries buy lots and lots of books, typically hardcovers. They're already moving into e-book lending. Publishers want e-books to have a limited "shelf life," after which libraries must repurchase them, which a lot of people disagree with. But overall, libraries have done much more good for the publishing industry than bad.

    • The interesting thing about this is that anyone can see book rentals are going to cut into book sales. It's doubtful that people will read more simply because a rental service is available -- for me and most people I know the limiting factors on the amount they read are time, energy, and interest, not the cost of books. Therefore Amazon could be viewed as undercutting its own book-sales business with this service, providing rentals of books to their most active customers who would normally buy them. Why? I
    • by tgd (2822)

      One US publishing executive told The Wall Street Journal: “What it [the digital book rental service] would do is downgrade the value of the book business.”

      In other news, libraries exist.

      Digital ones don't -- at least as far as the majority of books people would want to read are concerned. Overdrive's selection, even for the largest library systems, is awful. Its a small spattering of books people may want to read, and thousands of books you can't give away.

      There's still a big gap there. But it seems to me all Amazon is doing is opening their own digital library, just like Overdrive, only having your membership fee pay for it instead of the fees charged to your town or employer.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        Overdrive's selection, even for the largest library systems, is awful. Its a small spattering of books people may want to read, and thousands of books you can't give away.

        This seems like an exaggeration. I've borrowed maybe a dozen books from the Overdrive selection at the San Francisco Public Library. I haven't been reading e-books for all that long. The SFPL seems to have a pretty decent selection, mostly fiction. If anything, the problem is that they don't have enough copies of the books you'd want to read, so you end up having to get on the waiting list. Also, most people don't know how to use the technology, so even if it takes them two days to read the book, they don't

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          And it requires using crappy Adobe software and logging into some Adobe account. And it tells the people running the service exactly which books you're reading; the local libraries delete all records of physical borrowing after you return it, do the ebook servers do the same?

          From what I understand the local libraries also don't support lending of books from some publishers who wanted to make them buy the ebook again after it's been lent a couple of dozen times.

          • by PCM2 (4486)

            And it requires using crappy Adobe software and logging into some Adobe account.

            I don't see this as a big deal. Maybe you're on Linux; then it's a big deal.

            And it tells the people running the service exactly which books you're reading; the local libraries delete all records of physical borrowing after you return it

            I don't generally go out for conspiracy theories, but do you honestly believe that? The checkout for physical books at my library system is all electronic now, too. Do you seriously think the FBI/NSA/whoever doesn't have access to that information, even if it's inadmissible in court?

            Seems like the best you can do, with any library system, is to check out a bunch of bogus books to throw off your profile. Seems like that's easier to d

  • has also said that the digital ebook library would feature older titles

    If I wanted an old book, why not download it legally or otherwise? To subscribe I have to play games comparing the average price of a years worth of downloads to the annual price of the service. Also I'd feel locked in to only reading stuff from the paid service to maximize my "profit" rather than reading what I actually want to read.

    I'd rather subscribe to a (new) book of the month club. They already have subscription infrastructure, it would all be marketing. Simply offer "Baen New Releases Magazine"

  • Amazon Prime might be worth it if Amazon Video were available on my 360/PS3 (or even on a Roku box). But, AFAIK, it's only available through a browser or Tivo. Does anyone know if they have any plans to bring this to consoles, blu-ray players, etc. like Netflix Streaming?

  • So it's like a library, but you pay for it?

    I know, I know, libraries are paid for with taxes and their various fundraisers, but that's because they have physical buildings to maintain in addition to the books. Unless this service is pennies a week, it's gonna be a ripoff. Their distribution costs are negligible (text files of books are what, a few kB?), inventory control is practically free because there's no such thing as a lost book, and they can send out as many copies as necessary instead of waiting for

    • by alen (225700)

      $79 a year which includes free 2 day shipping on all physical purchases and access to their online media catalog as well. not a lot of money

      • by Aladrin (926209)

        It was well worth the money just for the shipping for me. I save at least $80/yr on shipping with it. And the media was a bonus. This will be an awesome bonus.

    • It is going to be part of your Prime membership, as yet another value add. And $79 / year is in fact "pennies a day".

      Originally, Amazon prime only gave you free unlimited 2 day shipping. Now it gives you that, plus free unlimited streaming of TV and movies. Now, they are going to add unlimited book rentals as well.

      If you are an existing Prime customer, this is nothing but a good thing. If you are not, this is yet another way for Amazon to get you into Prime.

      It's actually a very smart move, vs. making a stan

  • the digital ebook library would feature older titles

    This sounds a bit like they are going for out-of-copyright stuff in the first place. So why not just get these books from Project Gutenberg?

    Also many public libraries (e.g., The New York Public Library) offer ebooks via a DRM-enforced lending mechanism using "Adobe Digital Editions" software. I download the ebook to my PC then copy it via ADE to my Nook. They currently have only about 13,000 ebooks of this sort (not counting copyright-free stuff th

    • This sounds a bit like they are going for out-of-copyright stuff in the first place. So why not just get these books from Project Gutenberg?

      Shhhhhhhhh! Don't tell people how to get around their idiot-driven model. :>

  • Last week (out of pure curiosity) I downloaded relatively small torrent that contained text docs of every single star trek novel. I thought to myself, wow, this is amazing. How is the publishing industry ever going to stop this? One blueray disk that costs $1 is large enough to contain the top 500,000 ebooks, which is virtually all of them really. Three or four blu-ray disks would hold every title Amazon sells. Don't we need to rethink commerce? Why would anyone rent a digital copy if the alternatives are s
    • Piracy has nothing to do with the availability of digital books. Most books are pirated by scanning and OPRing a physical book. The DRM on a physical book sucks. To make a copy you just need one of those cheap multi function printers and the willingness to cut the spine off the book. Trying to DRM books is like trying to prevent people from photographing sculptures in public places.
      • by Duradin (1261418)

        I'd say the DRM of a physical book works quite well.

        Doesn't get in the owners way, can pass on the book to someone else at will, and the pirated versions of it are generally inferior in quality, enough so that having the real thing is better than the pirated version.

  • What'd be the real life, real technology meaning of an e-rental?
    I get I file that I later need to delete when the rental expires?
    Smart! Very smart indeed!

    • What'd be the real life, real technology meaning of an e-rental?
      I get I file that I later need to delete when the rental expires?
      Smart! Very smart indeed!

      You make it sound like spreading the seeds of lawsuit potential. Amazon could sue for cash and pass part of that cash on to the publishers whenever their profit margin starts falling. Sounds like encouragement of piracy for future survival safety from what you say.

      I didn't think about it that way, but nice observation!

      Unfortunately, they'll just have AmazonWare(tm)(c)(r)(sm) on every usable device to spread their visibility and reliance. Reminds me of some small company from the past called something str

      • by aglider (2435074)

        Don't think so.
        Technically speaking e-rental is simply bullshit.
        It'd rely on software (or firmware, which is the same) to enforce limitations (DRM).
        But sooner there'll be software (or even hardware) to circumvent it.
        See Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii, Apple iThings and so on. Sooner or later a DRM circumvention has been introduced.

        From the marketing point of view, it's even worse.
        You mean I buy something I won't be able to listen to within a week or a month?
        Forget about it!

  • The first, and probably largest, is where people are regularly buying new (fictional) books to read for pleasure, and after they are finished with them,they sell or give them away to somebody else, or otherwise discard them.

    The second case is for college or university students who might need a particular book for one course they are taking, but are not likely to need to utilize the book afterwards. Obviously, for some courses, especially the ones that are directly in a person's primary field, permanen

    • by yuna49 (905461)

      My daughter's college now rents as well as sells many of its books for courses. My first reaction to this article was that it would be a great benefit to students (and their parents!) if you could rent a e-textbook from Amazon for the length of a semester. As you say, some books are worth purchasing even at the ridiculous prices now charged for textbooks. We bought her organic chemistry textbook for that reason. But there are lots of books that students will only need for at most a few months. Renting

  • From my experience, the older titles I've gotten from Amazon have been hastily OCRed and not proofread, I'm assuming to give Amazon a back catalog or books to intially entice people to buy their Kindles for. It worked on me, at least initially, but I had to train myself to substitute common OCR errors in my head as I was reading. It was a wholly unpleasant experience and wrecked my concentration. I went back to buying actual books, which has been better - I spend 8+ hours a day in front of a computer scree

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