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DRM Books Your Rights Online

Why eBook DRM Has To Go 299

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-we-don't-want-a-bezosopoly dept.
Sci-Fi author Charlie Stross was recently put in the position of offering his thoughts to book publisher Macmillan on why eBook DRM is a terrible thing — not just for consumers, but for publishers, too. He makes a strong case that the removal of DRM, while not an immediate financial boon, will strongly benefit publishers in years to come through increased goodwill from users, greater leverage against Amazon's near-monopoly on distribution, and better platform interoperability. "Within 5 years we will be seeing a radically different electronic landscape. Unlocking the readers' book collections will force Amazon and B&N and their future competitors to support migration (if they want to compete for each others' customers). So hopefully it will promote the transition from the near-monopoly we had before the agency model, via the oligopoly we have today, to a truly competitive retail market that also supports midlist sales." Users have been railing against DRM for years, but it appears the publishers are finally starting to listen.
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Why eBook DRM Has To Go

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  • by pedantic bore (740196) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:14AM (#39793211)
    You can't be serious.
  • by NeverSuchBefore (2613927) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:24AM (#39793267)

    In this case, the real questions would be:

    1) Would DRM stop people from doing this? Highly unlikely.
    2) Is stopping the pirate bogeyman worth punishing everyone, including paying customers, over?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:32AM (#39793311)

    e-books will not seriously take off until they are suitably cheap. Once they're like iOS "games", selling for $1-2, people will start to buy them when selling portals are integrated into the various ereaders.

    That won't happen for a very long time, book publishers are terrified of losing control of the entire distribution and "scarcity" control.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:39AM (#39793367) Homepage Journal

    You could also phrase it as "decreased bad will from users", because when I see DRM applied to something it can't possibly protect (e.g. ANYTHING) I get mad and I want the perpetrator to go out of business and I don't want to give them money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:44AM (#39793393)

    You can't be serious.

    No really he's right. If we can get rid of the DRM, there will be some really nice people who will loan out their book collection to a million or so of their close friends.

    People are fundamentally honest. If this were not the case then tell me why Itunes sells drm free mp3 ?
    Its just as easy to record a music stream from some internet radio or download from your favorite warez sites. Yes you will find bad apples here and there but in the grand scheme of things people pay for things they want to OWN.
    I am very glad that the publishing industry is going in the near term drm free. As an avid reader I've refrained from even buying an e-reader since I don't want deal with vendor lock-in. Yes yes I know its easy to strip DRM but thats not the issue. DRM free books means everyone can sell these, not only Amazon. Diversity in the supply chain is good for everyone. Good for the publishers that are not beholden to one buyer, and good for consumers that can choose the store/s from which to buy ebooks. Ebooks are important, the ipad and other tablets are just a means to an end. For a reader, for me what is important is the ebook. Knowing that in 10, 20 years time I will be able to go back a read these books without any problem even if platforms change, and e-stores go out of business. Just like a real physical book.
    Now if we only could get the MPAA to understand this basic reality. Oh well we can't win everytime I suppose. 2 out of 3 is still good though.

  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:45AM (#39793401) Homepage
    On the other hand I can see how getting rid of DRM could really create better competition. I bought the first two books from The Hunger Games from Chapters/Indigo for my Kobo. When it came time to get the third book, the price had jumped from about $6 to somewhere around $12. I noticed that Amazon still had the book listed for $6. So I bought the Kindle version, cracked the DRM and moved it to my Kobo (This is legal in Canada as far as I know). I have no problem paying for books, and supporting authors, but there's not reason one retailer should be charging twice as much as another retailer for the exact same book. Most people have no idea how to do this, so when they see an unfair price from one retailer, they can either pay the extra money, or just download a pirated copy (which is more simple than breaking the DRM on a rightfully obtained copy). DRM (in it's current form) is unfair because it locks the user into a specific hardware vendor and a specific book store. If you don't like the price the book store is offering, you don't have the option of shopping around for a better price. This is bad for the consumer, and bad for the retailer. People will be hesitant to jump on the e-book bandwagon because they are unsure if they want to be locked into a particular store. And retailers can't really compete on the price of books, because after you've bought the reader, you don't have much of a choice of where to buy books from.
  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:45AM (#39793403)
    It takes just one person to upload
  • by NeverSuchBefore (2613927) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:50AM (#39793443)

    And then people have to download the book. If it has DRM, they'll just bypass it easily. Either way, your book will get downloaded by people who don't mind downloading it.

  • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:51AM (#39793453)

    Yes, and it only takes one person to crack the DRM, too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:51AM (#39793467)

    2) Is stopping the pirate bogeyman worth punishing everyone, including paying customers, over?

    Correction:
    Is stopping the pirate bogeyman worth punishing only the paying customers?

    That's the problem with DRM. It doesn't punish those who download illegal torrents, it punishes those who obtain legal copies. I think everyone would see that jailing those wh did not commit murder in order to prevent them from murdering is not a good strategy to fight murder. However with DRM, somehow people don't see that.

    Make it less painful to obtain and use legal copies than to obtain and use illegal copies, and you'll see most people use legal copies (well, unless you seriously overprice them).

    I've got a DVD player and bought DVDs, but I'll probably never buy a BluRay player or BluRay disks. Why? Because with a DVD player, I can be sure that the DVD will play, and will not stop playing at some time in the future because someone revoked some key because some third party I don't even know about made an unauthorized copy (or maybe for some other reason, after all, how could I check that it really is due to piracy, and not because some government decided to censor that disk and eliminate all uncensored versions that way, or the company got greedy and just wants everyone to buy that disk again?).

  • by wrook (134116) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:59AM (#39793515) Homepage

    To paraphrase Karl Lagerfeld, "People who buy knockoffs of my product are not my customers". In the same way, people who do not pay for ebooks are not customers of the publishers. I can understand the frustration people have when they see someone take their product without paying for it. But if they concentrate on the people who *will* pay for it, (i.e. their actual customers) they will be better off.

  • by s13g3 (110658) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:00AM (#39793517) Journal
    Correct. I would never pay EA or the like a single dime more for a game than I have to, and I usually give them what they ask for only grudgingly. OTOH, I have "overpaid" anywhere from 50% - 100% for every one of the 5 Humble Bundles I have purchased, not only willingly, but happily. A little goodwill earned by treating the customer not just well, but better than you have to, will go a long way in not only earning repeat business, but in the customer overlooking when you occasionally get things wrong, or being willing to patronize your business even when they may not need to.
  • by LandoCalrizzian (887264) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:01AM (#39793527)
    I just got on the e-reader bandwagon last Christmas and I can say that I have only purchased one book because I don't want to be locked in to B&N (yes I know it's hackable) if they can't withstand the Amazon/Tablet onslaught. I have 2 bookshelves full of books and choose to checkout library e-books instead of purchasing them. I'd gladly pay for an e-book if a) it is cheaper than the hard copy AND b) I could read it on any device at anytime without an internet connection long after [insert controlling entity] is gone. DRM is and always will be a short term gain because in the long run it will cost you more to maintain it.
  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:06AM (#39793547) Homepage
    There is a reason why the command to copy files is not: knockoff file copy_of_file
  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:09AM (#39793565)

    Unfortunately, that's a reality that these guys are going to have to face. No amount of DRM or lawsuits or even infomercials [youtube.com] has stopped it from happening yet, and likely never will.

    DRM only punishes legitimate customers, anyway. It makes the pirated version of a work, be it an eBook, video game, whatever, a better product than the legitimate one. A pirated eBook works on any device that can read the file format. No stupid account tied to a particular store tied to a particular piece of hardware tied to a credit card number required.

    I mean, you know it's bad when people are starting to buy legit products and still download pirate copies so they don't have to deal with the bullshit. I actually know people that do that, particularly with PC games.

    The war on piracy is just as effective as the war on drugs or the war on terrorism. Something like 70% of people here in the states think that there is nothing wrong with sharing media between family and friends, according to a poll I read during the SOPA debacle. The general public is not on their side in this fight.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:13AM (#39793597) Homepage
    So Butcher is saying that there are 22,000+ people who would either have never read his book, or would have checked it out at the library instead of buying it, who are now - if it was any good - likely to mention it to someone else who may well then go out and but it ? The poor bastard!
  • by NeverSuchBefore (2613927) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:27AM (#39793703)

    Oh that's right, its a pro-piracy story

    Being anti-DRM and being pro-piracy are not equivalent things.

  • by tibit (1762298) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:34AM (#39793769)

    I do the some with any EDA and development tools. They are all legitiate, but the first thing I do is get a crack for them so that I don't have to deal with the silliness. Who the heck wants to travel with a fistful of dongles in those times of checkpoint groping and think-of-the-children mentality.

    PS. Now, moderate that, ha.

  • by beanpoppa (1305757) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:38AM (#39793821)
    EXACTLY! With four kids, I buy (or receive as gifts) a lot of kids DVD's. Disney, Dreamworks, etc. When we put a movie on in the car, I can't be juggling menus to skip past previews galore, and ultimately hit enter on a menu to get the movie to start. I regularly would use tools like DVDShrink to rip the movie to another disk so that it would play automatically when put in the player. Eventually, I got tired of the cat and mouse chase with copy protection, and began to download the torrents of the movies instead. Not to mention, ripping a movie would take close to an hour on my old computer, but I could download the torrent in 20 minutes! These were movies that I had on legitimate DVD's in my hand, but the pirates were still providing a product that was more convenient.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @09:09AM (#39794169)

    I had the same issue. Book one is $10 on amazon. Paperback is $6. Used is 40 cents. Why the hell would I pay $10 for a 12 year old book, than I can't loan to a friend when I'm done. It's pricing models like this that drive people to just download it.

  • by Hyperhaplo (575219) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:04AM (#39794953)

    The scenario I am often now faced with is with friends and family with kids who have spent hundreds of dollars on DVDs.. and bought some DVDs several times.. for the usual reasons.. mostly when the kids turn the DVD into a coaster but also when the DVD wears out.

    In these cases.. what have you purchased?

    In many cases these parents now refuse to buy the DVD.. they skip directly to the downloads and then burn disks as needed. These are not technical people. They are, however, quite annoyed at buying a DVD several times.

    An obvious solution is to deliver content electronically.. but we are still a way off that. Still no solution to play electronic purchased material in the car... I wonder if someone will bring out a device equivalent of the current car DVD player screen devices which instead of playing from a DVD instead plays from a hard drive.. download from the net to the drive, put the device in the car and away you go..

    I don't buy books online. I've been burnt with DRM already. I have had several situations where the ebook option would be great.. but the industry right now is not exactly in a state where I trust them.

    Probably a good thing as I have hundreds of books I'd like electronically.

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:08AM (#39795021)

    Charles Stross also has an explanation of why reducing ebook costs to that level is impractical...

    Indeed. Those hundreds of thousands of $0.99 e-books on Amazon can't possibly exist.

    A while back I saw a study of the top 100 SF best-seller e-books on Amazon and if I remember correctly the most popular price was $2.99.

    Sure, a trade publisher with shareholders and a fancy New York office can't afford to sell books at that price, but plenty of writers can.

  • by s0nicfreak (615390) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:29AM (#39795353) Homepage Journal
    People pirate books that were never legally released as ebooks too. Book pirating was around long before legal ebooks.
  • by s0nicfreak (615390) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:32AM (#39795401) Homepage Journal
    I see every pirate as a future customer or friend of a future customer.
  • by Githaron (2462596) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @11:49AM (#39796565)

    People aren't inately honest they're inately lazy.

    If the reason people don't pirate is because they are innately lazy, then to decrease piracy, you have to make it easier to purchase than pirate. This can be done by adding additional services on top of the book that just make things easier. DRM usually does the opposite.

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