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The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

This Book Will Self-Destruct In 10 Hours 437

Posted by timothy
from the and-then-there-were-none dept.
extrarice writes: "See here The "rent-a-book" concept is here. Pay a buck, and you're allowed to read for a cumulative total of 10 hours. After that, the text is inaccessible (unless you somehow access the content you purchased...)"
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This Book Will Self-Destruct In 10 Hours

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  • (open my 10-eBook in Adobe's viewer)
    (PrintScreen)
    (PageDown)
    (PrintScreen)
    (PageDown)
    (repeat several hundred times... use a macro/script if necessary)
    (close eBook)
    (read the story at my own bloody leisure)

    Oops, oh dear, I appear to have circumvented their access controls. Time for the DMCA police to send me and/or the programmer of my OS's printscreen utility to prison...
  • by DataGrok (81077) on Wednesday August 08, 2001 @08:06AM (#2147929) Homepage

    My two cents. You might try appending "I think that ..." before every sentence below.

    Argh. This will fail, for the same reason that the DMCA will eventually fail.

    If we assume that we are using a device that you own and control (such as your personal computer), then what follows is a universal truth:

    If it is true that you can see (i.e. displayed on your screen) the representation of electronic information,

    then it is also always true that you can make a duplicate of that information and use it as you please.

    Companies who try to evade this universal truth by creating an artificial scarcity of information in an effort to make more money are doomed to failure. Of course, until they accept the hopelessness of trying, we are going to see companies flail about with their lawsuits and congress-bullying to get laws made to protect their budgets from the advancement of technology.

    As the amount of available bandwidth continues to increase, I think greedy corporations that deal in the sale (or, rental) of information will finally have to stop suing the world and devise a new, sane to make money. Right now, corporations wish for us to think of information as a scarce, limited-availability, tangable substance. Because companies that deal in the sale of limited-availability tangable substances can command a good price. While electronic information is becoming an unlimited-availability, non-tangable substance, money-hungry companies would have consumers think otherwise through the misuse of laws and congress-bullying. This is why this book-rental idea, and the DMCA, are so stupid.

    Predictions:

    In the coming decades, as technology improves, I think information in and of itself will become much less monitarily valuable. Instead, the real value will have to be placed on the immediacy of the information. Meaning: Information can and will be disseminated. But, some may wish to pay a premium to be the ones to get at said information first. And that is where the value will lie.

    Some folks have also compared this scheme to Blockbuster Video. You can charge rent for a video because said video is a scarce, limited-availability, tangable substance. Namely, a videocassette containing a video in a conveinient-to-use format. You cannot, however charge "rent" for an electronic representation of said video. Because once that electronic representation exists, it instantly becomes an unlimited-availability, non-tangable substance. You can, however, Still charge rent for the conveinience of using a videocassette.

    Let's look at music. You can command a huge price for a live performance. You can charge a decent price for a conveinient-to-use piece of media containing a musical performance. But once that media can be read and represented in an electronic format, the representation of that performance loses all value except for that of the immediacy of its availablity.

    Let's look at literature. You can command a huge price for a piece of literature written just for a client. (Say, documentation, or a poem, or a biography... etc.) You can charge a decent price for a conveinient-to-use piece of media containing a work of literature. But once that media can be read and represented in an electronic format, the representation of that work loses all value except for that of the immediacy of its availablity. So, as soon as there exists a device which can rip a paperback book into an electronic format the with the speed and ease that a cd-rom can rip cd-audio into an electronic format, we will see the same DMCA, IP, and copyright turmoil in the literary industry that we currently see in the music industry. Even if the DMCA has already been overturned and forgotten about.

    This is just the way it looks to me like things will work out. I don't advocate for artists making less money in the future, or for "stealing" the electronic representations of an artist's work. But I think the approaching shift in the way things work will really show the world how much the creators of information are really worth to the consumers of their information. And how much more valuable a live performance is than a recorded one. People will be paying for quality of information, rather than availability.

    -Mike
    (Who just purchased two music CDs after he had downloaded and evaluated the electronic representations of their entire contents.)

  • First, this is going the way of DivX; nobody in their right mind is going to pay to read a book for a short period. People pay for books they want to keep permanently; for temporary trial reading, they borrow books from the free public library. As far as I can tell, they've just thought of a new way to prove that e-books are not profitable.

    Second, is it just me or were they extraordinarily stupid to release their timed ebook in Adobe E-book format right after Elcomsoft's Advanced E-book Processor has been heavily publicized in every geek-oriented news channel on the Internet? What are they saying here, "Crack me! Crack me!"?

    Third, making available preview e-book versions of a novel is effective marketing--if it's free. Baen Books [baen.com] has been making the first chapters of new books available for on-line preview for quite a while now, as well as making the first books of some popular series available in their entirety for free--apparently it's been an effective enough marketing tactic that they have expanded their list of free e-books. That's right, expanded! Now, can anyone tell me how effective that would have been if they charged a $1 fee for a short reading period per book in the Baen Free Library [baen.com]?

    Do publishers actually think when they come up with these schemes, or did the geniuses that came up with dot.bomb business plans move into publishing when I wasn't looking?

  • The RosettaBooks list includes...
    1984 by George Orwell....
    Thanks, but no thanks...I have my dead-tree copy (purchased back in '84, IIRC). The cover price was only $2.95, too, which is less than they're asking.

    The name of the company is also somewhat ironic...imagine where our understanding of ancient cultures would be if the Rosetta Stone disintegrated ten hours after it was first "accessed." They're not the first company to apply the "Divx concept" to books, either...a college-textbook publisher has already tried something similar with one of its titles. If all content gets locked up like this without adequate safeguards to avoid loss of the unencumbered content, we'll all be much worse off in the long run as everyone's bits fall in the proverbial bucket, never to be retrieved again.

  • Your Local Library (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kynn (38537)
    I've read most of the discussion and one point brought up repeatedly is "Well, you can just go to the library and check out the book for FREE on a limited basis; why get an e-book you have to PAY for?!" While I am personally a big fan of the library, I have to point out a few basic facts:
    • Libraries are free because they are subsidized by government (usually local, sometimes state or larger).
    • Libraries pretty much track everything you read, or haven't you noticed?
    • Libraries are quite often subject to restrictions on what materials they can carry, based on content as well as on cost.
    • Most libraries only have a few copies of each book, so in general YOU may be able to check that book out for three weeks, but not everyone can.
    Don't get me wrong -- libraries are great -- but they are also a very restrictive system that allows you much less choice than you'd like as well as the security threat of the local library tracking every book you check out from them in a database. --Kynn
  • So PPV (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BiggestPOS (139071) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:00PM (#2167666) Homepage
    Instead of Pay-Per-View, you get to read the book for as pecific period of time. You didn't purchase the content, you purchased permission to view it for a certain period of time. Just because you rented it, doesn't mean you can KEEP it. People bypassing this and basically being dishonest will keep a semi-cool idea like this from really taking off because the publishers and authors, who have bills to pay, can't get the money they should be.

    • Re:So PPV (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hank (294) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:17PM (#2167780)
      Am I correct in saying that you can record PPV events you payed for to VHS for personal use to view again in your home for free? Or is that illegal too.
      • by mosch (204)
        there's not a set answer for that one. many newer cable systems actually allow for dual-rate pricing, one where a license to record the material is granted, the other where it is not.
    • Re:So PPV (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:21PM (#2167805)
      This is idiotic. Compare this to my local library, where I can go and get the very same book, for a similarly limited time (except that it's 3 weeks or so, instead of 10 hours, but that's beside the point), and then I have to return it.

      So what's the value added here? OK, so it's in digital form. Maybe they have some nice layout/font/presentation going on, but that's about it.

      Since a few Agatha Christie titles are available here [promo.net] at Project Gutenberg [promo.net], I assume her works have passed into the public domain by now. So aside from the fact that they actually entered this particular text into a file (by OCR or some other way), edited out the typos introduced in the process, and formatted it, what's the point?!?

    • Sorry, but I would like to as insightful as you are. How is this a cool idea?
    • You go to the store and pay $3 to rent a tape/dvd. Now you claim you bought the item and are allowed to keep it? This is no different except that its purely in electronic form.

    • Re:So PPV (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SlashGeek (192010)
      What? .mpB files? Bookster? If the music industry can't find a way to secure content, what makes them think they will be any safer? I guess they figure that millions of pimply faced teens won't be as excited about trading books online. But if they had pr0n books.. well... that'd be a whole 'nother story!

    • Re:So PPV (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cprael (215426) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @10:53PM (#2168489)
      Once upon a time I was an author. I quit writing "real" books because the publishers wouldn't pay dick. Ideas like this make sure that I wouldn't get paid dick. They make sure that the publisher gets paid more, and I get paid less.

      Further, the "time-based permit" is absolutely bullshit. 10 hours, to read a 275 page book. I can do that. My wife, on the other hand, would get to about chapter 3 before her permit ran out.

      Pardon my language, but please, before you attempt to dazzle us with your insight, LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT THE F*CKING INDUSTRY. I _can not_ agree with a piece of stupidity like this, either from the perspective of an author OR from a reader (or, frankly, from a taxpayer, who pays taxes to stock libraries, and is about to donate another 20 shelf-feet of content to the local libraries). It is an absolutely blazing piece of stupidity from a company that _used_ to know better, but now seems to have portions of its braincase inserted in a most awkward position. I'm frankly ashamed to say I have friends there.

      • Actually ebooks provides a simple method for circumventing the publishers. After all, while you might not be able to afford to have a book published, nearly anyone can afford a web site. If you don't need an actual paper book, then perhaps you don't need the publisher.

        The fact that this format would allow readers to cut out the publisher middlemen doesn't necessarily mean that this particular format will work. First of all, publishers do have a useful function screening and editting content. The best example of why this is useful, to my mind, is Victor Hugo's Les Miserable. By the time Hugo wrote Les Miserable he was so famous that he could refuse to have his book editted. As anyone who has read the unabridged version of that particular book can tell you, Hugo really should have left some of the text on the cutting room floor. To me personally the abridged version was definitely "value added."

        Second of all, If I want to read a book without purchasing it I personally prefer to use the library. It is considerably less expensive, I don't give up any fair use rights (I can make copies of pages if I want), and I don't have to worry about being "on the clock" when I am reading. Ten cumulative hours might not be long enough for some people to read a book, but two weeks generally is (and you can always renew). I also enjoy loaning out books (I am a masochist, I suppose). You can't do that with an e-book of this nature.

        Now, if the time based rental of the story was quite a bit less expensive, that's another story. I might be willing to purchase such a story if it only cost me 25 or 50 cents.

        • Actually ebooks provides a simple method for circumventing the publishers. After all, while you might not be able to afford to have a book published, nearly anyone can afford a web site. If you don't need an actual paper book, then perhaps you don't need the publisher.

          Actually, not true. Between

          • Cost of the software to create an eBook (Acrobat currently runs ~$900 retail for a single-user license)
          • Cost of an ecommerce website that generates those nifty time-limiting keys
          you're actually looking at as much or more than it would cost to do a boutique printing run. I could do boutique hardback runs in low quantity for $15-20 each, 10 years ago - and the costs have gone down. Assuming no volume discounts, I can still get a small starter run done for about what it would cost to set up the ebook system. And using Paypal or something similar, my transaction costs are lower - I keep more profit.

          First of all, publishers do have a useful function screening and editting content. No, you're talking about _editors_. Publishers retain editors, but editors can also be had damn near for the asking - I personally know a dozen professional-grade editors just off the top of my head.

          Properly speaking, publishers control (a) the printing press, and (b) the marketing/distribution arm that gets the books out to the booksellers. All the rest is support services, that they may or may not provide. All we're talking about are those two points on the value chain.

          • Thanks for clearing that up. That was a very enlightening post. I especially appreciate the points you made about hiring an editor. It seems fairly obvious to me now that hiring an independent editor should be possible. I imagine if you hired out the web serving and the creation of the "secure" version of the e-book to someone else you could still create an e-book for less than a hardback, but it doesn't sound like the slam dunk win that I expected it to be.

            Not that it matters. Treating the e-book format as secure is clearly insane, and there is definitely added value in a physical book (except possibly for reference manuals).

            Thanks again.

  • hmmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by *xpenguin* (306001)
    looks like another thing dmitry sklyarov needs to hack.
      • He already has - it's the same encryption scheme.
      • Why bother. This is going to die of its own stupidity before too long.
  • by Blue Neon Head (45388) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:04PM (#2167685)
    Why pay $5 for a convenient, low-tech copy that may be read by you and others at will when you can pay $1 for every 10 hours of reading on a headache-inducing CRT?

    Yep, sign me up.
    • Re:What a deal! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's nothing - it says that if you don't like the time trial version, you can pay $5 for a full electronic version.

      FIVE DOLLARS??? WTF?

      $5 for 300 sheets of paper, printed cut and bound, then warehoused, distributed, and conveniently available for me to pick up in town is *very* good value.

      $5 for a download of the exact same thing is not.

      It should be 20c for 10 hours and $1 for the whole thing, that is the genuine "eCommerce enabling technology" - pricing that reflects the vastly lower overheads involved in digital publishing.

      • If you like the feel of a book, the handling, the better resolution, etc, get the paper version.

        But paper is bulky. My standard ruler is the King James Bible, about 1000 pages, 5 megabytes. One CD-ROM is equivalent to some 130 Bibles, about 5 meters of bookshelf.

        I still get almost all of my casual reading in paper form, but, for reference works, digital is definitely superior.

        • and a 4.5lb ebook (big damn electronic tablets that are about 1.5x the size of a regular paper back) isn't?
          Or a laptop?
          The thing about books is that you can carry them pretty much anywhere, don't need batteries, etc...
          • I carry my notebook computer (which is closer to 2 lbs in weight) anywhere I go to work, anyway.

            So I compare a CD-ROM, 1/50th the size and weight of a paperback, to 200 paperbacks for the same information capacity. And my notebook, quite dated by now at 2 1/2 years old, has a 6.4 gigabyte disk.

            Which is more portable, a 2 lb computer or 2000 paperbacks?

            (Of course, a hundred years from now those 2000 books will still be readable, while the computer will be nothing but pollution in a landfill...)

        • Not to mention that I still haven't figured out how to use grep on my dead-tree literature. I don't think any *IX variants (well, maybe NetBSD, I haven't checked) have been ported to tree pulp yet, not to mention that those evil publishers seem to be using some kind of proprietary I/O interface that still hasn't been reverse-engineered. Is anyone working on any OS ports to wood pulp?
        • MS WORD (Score:2, Funny)

          by Roadmaster (96317)
          yet, if you were to save your bible in MS word format, it would probably take up 2 or 3 CDs.
          Ah, the wonders of word :)
  • Gives me a good excuse not to lug so many books to class...

    "I would have brought my book, Professor, but it expired last night."

    InigoMontoya(tm)

  • Good argument.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DESADE (104626) <slashdot@bo[ ]rdrop.com ['bwa' in gap]> on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:05PM (#2167694)
    for learning to speed read. I like this model personally. I might not want to subscribe to Salon.com for a year, but I might pay a buck to have ulimited access for a day if I ran across some content that was really compelling.

    I doubt this will work very well for ebooks though. The average consumer is too used to owning (books, CD's, DVD's, tapes, etc.). It will take a real shift in consumer habits to pull this off successfully and I think we've already seen how resisitant people are (DIVX DVD's for example).
    • > [Good argument] for learning to speed read.

      I don't have a citable source, but have heard from a psychologist who studies reading, that "speed reading" is just a euphemism for "skimming". Experiments with "professional readers", such as editors and grad students, have (the psychologist claims) shown that comprehension is more or less proportional to the time spent reading. I.e., if you give a grad student an article and say "skim this; you have one minute", that student's comprehension will be exactly the comprehension of a speed reader who spent one minute on it.

      I don't mind skimming computer documentation to find out whether I need to read it carefully, but if I do need to read it carefully, I want enough time to do it right.

      And as for skimming literature... why bother? Would a one-page summary of your favorite novel make a satisfying substitute?

      [Alan, oh, Alan! Where are those <rant> tags you called for?]
    • by Trifthen (40989)

      Speed reading. No doubt.

      The average person reads about a page every two minutes. Due to re-reading, clarifying, or what have you. 10 hours is *barely* enough time to read a 275 page book if you take that into account.

      Besides, that has to be the most idiotic idea I've heard in a long time. Books are not about time! The phrase "To sit down and relax with a good book." and its ilk are a perfect example of why this will fail. For a most part, books are read for pleasure. Nobody wants to be rushed through the book unless the ocntent is simply that gripping.

      This is just a stupid idea, period. Just like DIVX, it'll fail. Nobody wants something in their house they have to keep activating to use.

  • You can go to the public library. Library cards are free, and you get books for a couple of weeks. Overdue fees in my area are a ghastly ten cents a week... maximum of $0.50.
    • Although a cursory attempt to find a URL that goes into depth about the subject failed, I believe that publishers and other "content providers" are looking at ways to combat this very "leak" in the protection of their intellectual property and their ability to profit off of it.

      When Bradbury wrote Fahrenheity 451, he seemed to think that it would be a tyrannical state that would suprise libraries and other unapproved channels of information. Who would have thought that it would be the publishing sector that instituted as many controls as they could, at the expense of a public institution (the library?)

  • Don't make me laugh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Maskirovka (255712)
    This'll be cracked in less than a month. Besides, who (consumer) wants to read a book off their computer screen? Hell, you don't even need to get a crack for it. All you have to do is take a screen shot every every page, and print them. Or am I totally and completely wrong again...?

    Maskirovka

    • by Wraithlyn (133796) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:38PM (#2167891)
      A month? Are you kidding? Try a day or two. Hell, I could crack it right NOW with some sort of jerry rigged automated screen capture and OCR scheme. (Uh oh, I just violated the DMCA by saying that. Good thing I don't live in the States or they'd throw me in a cell with Dimitry)

      When will content publishers realize that security/encryption isn't worth a damn when the end party is NOT TRUSTED. Guess what? If I can read/view/hear it on my computer, there is a way of capturing it, and re-releasing it with no protection. This simple fact will never change. And yet the industries will waste countless millions of dollars trying to invent secure delivery/viewer systems, which is a complete fool's crusade.

      The only answer is to add enough value, that consumers are willing to pay the money to avoid the hassle. What these guys are doing is ADDING MORE hassle, and no real added value.

        • The only answer is to add enough value, that consumers are willing to pay the money to avoid the hassle

        As a commercial auther (text and software), I should be ranting about you advocating the theft of my hard work.

        But the thing is... you're absolutely correct. I have no right to make money off of my work; if I fail to persuade people to buy my work under my terms, then I've already lost the sale. I have no one to blame but myself. If my work then gets copied, what more have I "lost"?

        Maybe I'm just peculiar in the head, but I actually see myself as having an obligation to offer value on the customers' terms, not demand reward on mine.

      • by ASM (101804)
        I see a sig around here from time to time that says something to the effect of "Software engineers are so infatuated with the fact that they CAN, they never stop to consider whether they SHOULD"

        I present the same to you. Certainly any first year CS student could crack such a lousy scheme, but what benefit would there be in that? Who does it serve?

        My answer is that it serves you, and you alone, You steal from the author (yes, they're a millionaire. But they got those millions, because they earned it), you steal from the public at large. How? because when you steal the material, you discourage the author from producing more of the same material that you like so well, and so society looses.

        This is the simple case, I know. There are still concerns with the evil RIAA &c. But the point here is for you to think about your actions first. I think, that perhaps, just because something can be done, there are times (like this one) when it shouldn't be done.

        • A few comments on your post:
          1. My answer is that it serves you, and you alone, If cracking the ebook served only the cracker, it would not be a copyright infringement. Everyone has the right to copy copyrighted materials for personal use. More likely, the cracker would be looking to benefit the entire world by publishing the plain text of the book. This benefits everyone who can read and has internet access.
          2. You steal from the author... I'm always curious about you folks who claim that copying data is stealing. If you're going to call it something totally irrelevant, why not rape? Say "you're raping the author". Or how about murder? If you have some logical case against copying things, you're just impairing it by calling copying theft. Secondly, the main beneficiary of book sales is generally the publisher, not the author. The author gets little or none of the price of a book. Agatha Christie is dead, so she won't get any.
          3. ...yes, they're a millionaire. Generally, authors are not millionaires. The median published author in the US gets a sub-poverty-level income from his writing. Typically people write for fame and to spread their ideas.
          4. But they got those millions, because they earned it... This statement is not as simple as it sounds. Make the same assertion of a plantation owner in the slaveholding south. Did he "earn" his money? To a large extent he benefited from a peculiarity of contemporary law. Copyright law is fairly arbitrary. Let me illustrate with only one point - duration. Let's say that book X makes $1000 per year forever. If the copyright term is 10 years, the publisher makes $10,000. If the term is 20 years, the publisher makes $20,000. Which amount is actually 'earned'?
          5. ...you discourage the author from producing more of the same material... I want to discourage Christie from writing more books. I don't approve of dead people competing with the living. In general, though, I think that copying of ebooks will discourage future ebook publication rather than all publication. And that's a good thing.
          Anyhow, in an internet context we get used to thinking: if it can be done, it will be done. Fretting about the moral issues has not turned out to be productive in evaluating security weaknesses.
  • It's just like a library, but you get to pay, and you won't be burdened by actually getting a physical object for your money.
  • by HerrGlock (141750) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:08PM (#2167716) Homepage
    You rented the use of the book for a cumlative total of 10 hours of reading time.

    If you want to BUY a book, do so. If you want to borrow a book, go to the library or get a buddy's book.

    If you agree to the terms laid out in the agreement, is that really a problem? Now, if there were no other options around, or the book renters decided to destroy all other ways of reading, that would be a baaaaaaadddd thing, but since other ways already exist and people are already used to owning books (or borrowing) this will be a big hoohaa about nothing.

    Ignore it and it'll go away.

    DanH
    • As long as this fails quickly, then it won't be a horribly damaging scheme. Evil, yes, but not horribly damaging.

      If it even starts to succeed, however, it will lock up some proportion of works in a format that cannot legally be viewed (as soon as the current version is obsolete). I already have a great deal of problem accepting that copyrights are legitimate for books that are out of print ... well, actually, I don't accept that. This in combination with the extended period of copyrights and the DMCA ... every participant in this plan is committing treason against humanity.

      Have you tried to read a seven-track 200 bpi tape recently? What about a 9-track 1600 10.5 inch reel? New works being published in this medium are just being thrown away.

      It's gotten to the point where I'm going to have to start keeping a list, so I can keep track of which companies are worse than which. Almost nobody seems to be competing for better, though. I'm starting to feel that the entire idea of a corporation is a bad idea. In the middle ages it was an engine of freedom, but since around 1900 (perhaps slightly earlier) it seems to be mainly an engine of corruption and oppression. --- It was probably the case that decided that corporations were people that was the turning point. Maybe if just that case (and it's dependant decisions) could be overthrown, things would become more nearly balanced. Perhaps.

    • by rgmoore (133276) <glandauer@charter.net> on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @09:06PM (#2168020) Homepage
      Now, if there were no other options around, or the book renters decided to destroy all other ways of reading, that would be a baaaaaaadddd thing, but since other ways already exist and people are already used to owning books (or borrowing) this will be a big hoohaa about nothing.

      But how long do you think that things will stay that way? If enough people wind up buying devices that allow them to rent books, then pretty soon publishers will stop offering books any other way. People who want to read books will be stuck; they'll be forced to buy readers that support only renting or do without entirely. Remember that copyright gives an absolute legal monopoly over the production of the work in question, so authors and publishers will have the power to force that decision.

      That's the big point. Once limited use is a viable option for a substantial readership, publishers will start to make it the only option. It's important for readers to stand up now, while permanent ownership of a copy is still available. Don't buy limited use readers and limited use copies, or pretty soon limited use formats will be all that's available.

    • by startled (144833) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @09:19PM (#2168077)
      Unfortunately, to enforce these unwieldy business models (which essentially boil down to "please don't make a copy of the book, pretty please"), they impose a series of restrictions on our rights. If this was someplace I could go to rent a book for 10 hours for a buck, like a pay-per-use library, this would hardly be news. Cybercafes aren't evil because they kick you off the box after your time runs out.

      Given that to support this sort of value-removed business model, laws such as the DMCA have been passed that prohibit us from doing a number of perfectly useful, valuable, and educational things we were able to do a few years back, it makes quite a bit of sense to oppose the businesses that spring from it. The more money that's tied up in these models, the bigger a fight there will be to reverse bad laws like the DMCA. Solution? Friends don't let friends rent books.
    • The first author decides to offer his book *only* in this format. Now all of a sudden there's a book you can't read without renting and that libraries can't offer on their shelves.

      Kinda like proprietary software is now.
  • would roll over in his grave if one of these things showed up in his library. You can only read it until the company says you are done, then you gotta pay more to read some more.

    What happens if you want to go back and read a part back at the beginning of the book? I've read "And Then There Were None" at least 15 times, and it's a very good mystery, which obligates you to go back and re-read certain parts from time to time. This is why I don't buy anything but real, honest-to-goodness BOOKS. I can take them in my backpack whereever I want, read them whereever I want, and I don't have to get on my knees for some greedy publisher just to enjoy a good story.

    • by JohnG (93975)
      No,
      Tomas Jefferson would just be smart enough to BUY the book as opposed to RENTING it. Problem solved. I don't see where this is a big deal, until they completely stop SELLING books and go exclusively to RENTING them, what is the problem?
      You are given a choice, some people might not want to read the book all ten times, why should those people have to pay as much for 10 hours of use as you do for a lifetime of use?

  • Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:10PM (#2167731)
    Although there wasn't anything in the article about it, I sincerely doubt that the license will say that you've 'purchased' the content; you're just allowed to look at it for 10 hours. Exactly why do people get all riled up about this, and yet I haven't yet seen a big story yet about "Blockbuster video intends to make you return that movie after 2 days!" The only difference is that you get the convenience of not having to leave home, and have better control over your use of the product -- when you want to use it, what you want to read it on, etc.

    Also, if you look near the bottom, it says that you can buy it (and presumably own it as much as you own any print book.) for $4.99. So your precious rights aren't being abused. Unless, of course, your "rights" include getting the product for 1/5 of the price it's being sold for. If that's true, I've been wasting an awful lot of my money...

    • Re:Rights? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Leven Valera (127099)
      Blockbuster won't have you arrested for returning the book late.

      Blockbuster won't have you arrested for making a copy of certain scenes of a movie for fair use.
      • For those who have been under a rock for the last few years, the MPAA isn't exactly dead-set against the DMCA either. Just because (illegal and unethical) use of bad laws is possible doesn't make make it a certainty.
      • by Wesley Everest (446824) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @09:04PM (#2168012)
        And Blockbuster can't have you arrested for linking to a website that explains how to return a video a day late.

        Warning: the following is an illegal device!

        When you rent a video for one day, if you want access to it for an extra day, drive it back to Blockbuster on Thursday instead of Wednesday.
  • The original divx(the purchasing system from circuit city, not the video codec) had a similar system. After you bought it, it had a way of not being usable after two days. I'm not sure if it was via the dvd player(logging a id number of the video on the player) or some kind of timestamp on the actual media. Of course, with this book technology you can renew it by paying more, a divx was a one use media. (It never found a market because a special player bought at circuit city was required)
  • Div for books (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Brian Kendig (1959) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:11PM (#2167745) Homepage
    This sounds a lot like the ill-fated Divx DVD format of two years ago. With Divx, you could buy a DVD and 'unlock' it for any 48-hour period for a few dollars.

    Divx failed because it just wasn't convenient enough for the price ($100 more for a compatible DVD player, and you still had to go to a store for the discs), but this rent-a-book concept doesn't suffer the same problem if the books can simply be downloaded.

    It'll be interesting to see what happens. If the rent-a-book concept succeeds, that means that renting bits (CD's? software?) might catch on again; if it fails, then don't expect to see anything else become rentable on your computer in the next few years.

    • May it fail quickly and thoroughly. This thing is dangerous. (Not so much by itself, but in combination with the DMCA, extended copyrights, and technological obsolescence.)

  • Would you want to "rent" this book (Agatha Christie's classic mystery "And Then There Were None") for a dollar when you can buy the book for about the same on half.com or a local used book store.
    I could, maybe, perhaps, possibly be interested if it was a new book, but not a fifty year old classic (1939).

    I have no idea what the RosettaBooks execs are smoking, but it seems to be the same stuff as the guys who make the ebook (you've seen them at staples, office depot, etc.)- a 4 pound lcd screen with a back light (its only reedeeming feature) that sells for nearly $300.

    Wake up you morons. Nobody is going to buy (or rent) your (word seems to fit perfectly here) shit.
    Who wants to take bets on how long before they hit fuckedcompany? We'll start a betting pool and everything!
    • I go for books every time.. I flat out refuse to buy an e-Book, 'cos it's not convenient.. I can't use it to unwind when I loaf on the sofa or the bed.. I can't take it hiking, or on trips..
      If you're running the betting, my money's on about 14 months (that's about the time it takes the average expanding startup to run out of venture capital, downsize a couple of times, and slowly have the last few dollars walk away in pens to sign the cheques for the last of the bills they owe...).
      No doubt they'll get some purchases, maybe enough in royalties to keep a small staff going, but, I wouldn't bet on any sizable company from this idea..

      Malk
    • Oh yes, its old so it sucks. Agatha Christie novels do suck, but not because they're old. What is considered to be the greatest book of the 20th century (James Joyce's Ulysses) is older than that. Not everyone wants to read shit like John Grisham novels and cyberpunk.
  • I know a lot of people out there speed read.. I can pull a good speed on a book if I want to..
    I wonder how long until people all get that skill, and can read the whole thing inside the 10 hr limit?
    Then, to all intents and purposes, those who pay the buck get the full book for that buck, instead of the five or so that it'd normally cost..
    Bye bye lots of profit..
    And what happens then? Companies make you pay $1 for an hour's reading?
    If, as it seems, the 10 hours is to allow a feel for the book to see if you want to spend the price of a book to purchase a 'permanent license' (i.e. you have the book in all but physical terms), then reducing to one hour won't let the non-speed readers get a look in..
    Oh, what a tangled web they do weave...

    Malk
    • I know a lot of people out there speed read.. I can pull a good speed on a book if I want to.. I wonder how long until people all get that skill, and can read the whole thing inside the 10 hr limit?

      Yeah, I could make myself speedread all my lesiure-time reading - but why? Assuming it's a good book, that'd be like chugging a fine wine, or rushing sex. Yeesh - savor the book, enjoy the book. A text connoisseur wouldn't touch this whole mess with a ten-foot-pole, guaranteed.

  • Searching on www.abe-books.com, I found several paperbacks for $2... Of course these are likely to be reading copies, but remember folks, an ebook has no collectible value.
  • OMG!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by 3-State Bit (225583) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:17PM (#2167779)
    Watch this gem:
    Arthur Klebanoff, CEO of RosettaBooks, said, "We are delighted to take our marketing relationship with Adobe and our distribution services relationship with Reciprocal to the next level. RosettaBooks prides itself on being ePublishing leader for quality content, innovative marketing, and critically-acclaimed titles. This first of its kind offering of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None is
    just the beginning of a brave new world of literature and technology."

    Good God, I hope the man was joking, and not just Freudian Slipping us an advance warning.... link1 [huxley.net] Link2 [huxley.net].
    • If adobe's involved ...
      this is the kind of thing they've been doing recently. I would avoid this out of principle, even without knowing the details. Avoiding adobe seems much safer than trusting it.
  • How long before the first lawsuit from a dyslexic who regards themselves as discriminated against?

    In UK examinations, dyslexics are allowed [I believe] an additional 25% more time to compensate for their disabilities as, it's not that they can't read, they just can't do it as fast. The existing music method works because you either can or can not listen to music, it is not speed/ability based. With varying reading speeds, especially with disabilities, surely they're asking for trouble?

    Then again, one of the arguments for decrypting Adobe's e-book format was to make it comply with Russian law that would allow blind people to use text-to-speach and look where that got Dimitri.

  • by oGMo (379)

    One Word: DivX. People will simply not stand for such a thing, especially if it offers no added benefits (lots of high-demand content only available in this format is what it takes). I think everyone has been used to media they own indefinitely with (at least perceived) unlimited access that anything that infringes on these givens won't be accepted without major incentive. Incentive I don't think can be accomplished (but never say never, right?). It's sickening to see ("consumers will be able to enjoy [..] for a full 10 hours", "Adobe applauds RosettaBooks"), but who will buy it? Especially for a buck, when you can get a "real live" paperback for $5-6 more. And if it's not the same book, there are thousands of other books worth reading.

    For instance, DVDs are accepted because most people don't run into region coding problems, and those that do can pretty easily overcome them (although people might wake up if Joe Sixpack starts getting prosecuted). DivX's weren't, because the restrictions crossed the line.

    Another example might be Pay-Per-View TV. I'm not sure how popular this is, but my guess is that going to the store and renting something that can be viewed multiple times and at the leisure of the viewer is still more popular. (I don't think this is exactly an analogous situation, but enough mportant elements are there to make it potentially interesting).

    I'm not worried about this. It'll probably die the same death a thousand other Really Stupid Ideas have. If anything, I'd be worried that this will stigmatize books in a digital format even further.

  • RosettaBooks(orwhateveritis) offers an Agatha Christie novel at $1 per 10 hours of reading time on a computer of some sort.

    The copy of 1984 on my shelf cost a bit over $8, and provides me with unlimited reading time, not to mention portability, no need for a battery or external power sources, and I can store it damn near anywhere. Best part is, no one can take away my right to read the book; I've paid for it, it's my copy, I can read it or resell it as I wish.

    Really, who's going to pay $1 per reading session - because you just know there will be people who can't/won't finish the book in one sitting - when you can buy the book or read it at a library and take all the time you want...without needing a computer? I had a serious lesson in getting along without the magic glowing box after it decided to suicide during a room rearrangement two weeks ago. Got it running, but not for four days. Guess what? I lived.

    Back to the topic - the problem facing Rosetta's model here is the same problem that contributed to the death of the Divx movies-on-disc format. Instead of the illusion of outright owning the content you purchase, being able to use it at your leisure, you're stuck into a time-limited PPV model. Rather difficult to use if you have bad credit, no credit, you have less time available per day than is necessary to read the e-book in timely fashion, and anything else I forgot. I highly, highly doubt this type of e-book will become anywhere near common, despite what some publishers are probably desperately hoping for (much like some studios hoped for with Divx).
  • That any book they have is available free within the first 10 hours? The way I see it the only thing stopping me from copying the whole thing is the honor system, and we already saw how well that worked when a book was placed online.
  • I've read an e-book or two (I downloaded a couple of volumes from the Gutenburg project to my Palm), but I must say...there is something satisfying about paper. About holding a book in your hands. About owning a book.

    Most of the books I own are not dated "travel guides" or "How to program C in SunOS 3". They're either timeless references such as the Dragon Book, or great fiction such as the works of Asimov and Zelazny. And the joy of owning these books is not just from the one time I read them. These books have depth and purpose, and I keep coming back to them so that I can read them again and see what I missed, or just to see the story from an older pair of eyes.

    Most of them hold up very well.

    Ray Bradbury has, in one of the earlier prefaces to "Fahrenheit 451," a wonderful description of his love for books. How you can shout at a book and throw it on the ground, or the smell of the paper and ink, or the feel of the pages in your hand. The experience of reading a book should not be a race against the clock! I enjoyed the fact that I could just slowly sink into "Necronomicon," page by page, so that I could really enjoy the work.

    Having said that, I see the market for this kind of beast. The readers of Clive Cussler and Terry Brooks and Danielle Steele, the ones who go through pulp garbage like popcorn, can make use of this. I don't pick up the pulp after I've read it to enjoy it again...the second time through, I can see the banality of the mass-produced work.

    But if it's Stephen King, I want to let him paint his mental pictures before me, and that takes time. I can't feel rushed, you know? If it's Neal Stephenson, if it's Frank Herbert, if it's someone with the tiniest shred of talent...well, come on then...let me read the damned thing.

    If you take away ownership of the pages, it's just not a book any more. It's not part of information. It's no longer a meme. It's just throwaway disposable garbage. And it's great for that sort of thing...but let me keep the treasures!
  • What an ironically perfect title -- because it describes perfectly what will happen to your content after the time limit!!!
  • That's nothing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by G-funk (22712) <josh@gfunk007.com> on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:34PM (#2167867) Homepage Journal
    You know blockbuster, where you go to get those cheap videos? Well those evil corporate bastards have made it so you can only watch it overnight, or for a few days, and then you have to take it back! TAKE IT BACK FERCHRISSAKE!!!! Not only that, but now thanks to the ADMC it's illegal to make my own copy for personal use for free whenever I want. Man, they must have bribed a few senators to get that one through! We must rally against it, this corporate mastery! It must be a scheme to keep the little guy, the grass-roots video publishers out of business- CONSPIRACY!

    What the hell am I on about?
  • buy
    Pronunciation: 'bI
    to acquire possession, ownership, or rights to the use or services of by payment especially of money

    rent
    a usually fixed periodical return made by a tenant or occupant of property to the owner for the possession and use thereof; especially : an agreed sum paid at fixed intervals by a tenant to the landlord b : the amount paid by a hirer of personal property to the owner for the use thereof.

    There's a difference. See if you can't figure out what it is.
  • It's Brilliant!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by humblecoder (472099)
    This is exactly eBooks need in order for their popularity to take off.

    Forget the fact that you have to pay hundreds of dollars for a reader before you get any content....

    Forget the fact that reading this stuff gives you a headache....

    Forget the fact it's a pain in the neck to flip between pages....

    Forget the fact that there's so few books available in eBook format....

    Forget the fact that the competing "technology"(paper books) is superior....

    We'll just restrict people's use of the content, charge them more, and boom, it will take off like a rocket!

    Excuse me while I go out and buy some stock in this outfit...

  • The Right to Read... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:37PM (#2167881) Journal
    It didn't take that long.

    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [gnu.org]

    I'm a whore.
  • Hacked/Cracked (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TwistedTR (443315)
    While it would be nice to be able to get decent books at far lower then market price (average paperback going for over 6.99 nowdays). But come on, does anyone really think that the format will not be hacked/cracked within hours of it being released? Everything anyone has ever tried for something like this has been gotten around. Look at DeCSS for example, or the countless Serial # systems that software makers produce to try to prevent someone from cracking it the day it comes out. It's a good theory, but can it be done correctly?
  • by dokhebi (89124)
    I don't like the idea of paying money to view an eBook for a short period of time because I don't read as fast as others. 10 hours would get me about 140 pages of most authors (maybe 250 for Tolkien and Asimov). I would end up paying about the price of a physical book for something I could never re-read without paying more money.

    Now, about my subject: I used to work in a chain bookstore (Waldenbooks #642), and I know how much they pay for books (about 60% of cover price). Now take out the cost of printing (about 20%) and eBooks should cost about 40% of the paperback price (why pay $20 for an eBook just because the store copy is in hardback?) not close to full price! No matter how much I love "The Lord of the Rings" I would refuse to pay more than $2.50 for each volume and I would want to read it as many times as I choose.

    I can understand if they wanted to operate on the honor system like a public library does, but since I'm not taking a physical item from them I shouldn't have to pay to "borrow" and eBook. If they want security they can encrypt it so it can only be read by my reading device (in this case a Palm IIIx).

    I wonder if Gates of Redmond is behind this?

  • At least they're being upfront about what you're allowed to do.

    Consider this, if you rent a car for three days @ $20/day, do you expect to be allowed to use the car whenever you feel like it on any other days. No, because you rented the car. Now, if you actually purchased the book, and then they told you it expired in two years, when the next version came out; THAT would be something to complain about.
  • Okay, so here's what we have. A company has made available 10 hours of access to an eBook for $1, or you can purchase it in a "permanent format" for $5.

    I fail to see the problem. If you want to buy the eBook, you can. If you want to rent it, you can. If you think eBooks are incredibly gay, you can buy a dead-tree edition.

    Now quit whining about things that don't matter and Support the EFF [eff.org]

    • I fail to see the problem. If you want to buy the eBook, you can. If you want to rent it, you can. If you think eBooks are incredibly gay, you can buy a dead-tree edition.

      I'm glad you can still be optimistic enough to think that the dead-tree edition will be an (affordable) option if this is allowed to become entrenched.

      Now quit whining about things that don't matter and Support the EFF

      Already have. Thanks for the well-needed kick in the ass, Adobe.

  • I'm wondering if anyone here has ever come across research that was accessible for a fee... Instead of owning a copy of a $50 manuscript, I'd be more than happy to look at it for 10 hours for $5 or less... I wouldn't do this with fiction or any book I want to own, but there are lots of books I only need to look at, and if the choice is own for $35 right now, read for free from an interlibrary loan and get it in a week or two, or read it now for $1, which will I pick?
  • Does this mean screen grabbers are now illegal circumvention devices under the DMCA? There are screen grabbers that will automatically scroll through a window and will store the complete content in a file.

    What bogus idea will Adobe come up with next that will result in yet more technology becoming illegal?

  • ... to say that this is a hoax. It has to be, hell I warned of this in a post a couple of weeks ago. I was using it as hyperbole. Gotta be a joke.
  • Attention, Slashdot member. This is a code RED ALERT. Someone, somewhere in the world has come up with an alternate data delivery system that could conceivably (if they somehow force everyone on the planet to use their system) abridge your rights.

    Please ignore reason in this instance.
    • Please ignore the fact that this new delivery method is fairly analogous to existing delivery methods for library books, movie videos, and carpet cleaners.
    • Please ignore the fact that this is just a product or service and not an act of the US Congress.
    • Please ignore the fact that many similar attempts at keeping a hand in your wallet have failed (see Circuit City's DivX "standard") by just letting the market decide.
    • Please ignore the fact that many people may actually like the reduced pricing structure enabled by this delivery method, and that this may actually turn out to be a Good Thing(tm).
    ALERT ALERT. Attention Slashdot member. This is a code RED ALERT. Please proceed to the Slashdot posting web interface and begin ranting. While posting, please also cast negative aspersions on the following people or topics: the RIAA, the MPAA, the DMCA, Bill Gates, and George Bush.
  • "Adobe applauds RosettaBooks for being the first to explore the opportunities that `timed' eBooks bring to the publishing market," said Susan Altman Prescott, Vice President of Marketing, Cross Media Publishing at Adobe. "Timed eBooks offered in Adobe PDF open a number of innovative ways for publishers to market and sell books. For example, they offer a cost-effective way to distribute review copies and bound galleys with the layout, fonts and graphics intact."

    .. as opposed to printed books, which are constantly screwing up the layout and require expensive dedicated reading devices, such as eyeballs.

    To hell with readers and that little Ruski turd," concluded Altman.
  • Don't you find this a bit scary? Big Brother wants to be able to delete books when they no longer suit his purpose. He wants to delete references to unpersons. He will say paper books are doubleplusungood. The Ministry of Truth will order all books to be in revocable format.
  • The article says that this could jump start e-books???? How?

    Let's see... I pay $1. I get 10 hours of an ebook. I go to the Brick&Mortar library for free, I get a book for 3 weeks...

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