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Books Piracy

Analyzing Amazon's E-Book Loan Agreement 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody-wants-to-prop-up-your-dying-industry dept.
conel writes "The Economist has a knowledgeable mainstream take on the restrictions publishers are forcing on e-books. From the article: 'They wish you to engage in two separate hallucinations. First, that their limited license to read a work on a device or within software of their choosing is equivalent to the purchase of a physical item. Second, that the vast majority of e-books are persistent objects rather than disposable culture. ... Just as with music, DRM will be cracked. As more people possess portable reading devices, the demand and availability for pirated content will also rise. (Many popular e-books can now be found easily on file-sharing sites, something that was not the case even a few months ago, as Adrian Hon recently pointed out.)"
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Analyzing Amazon's E-Book Loan Agreement

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  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:38PM (#34150676)

    Are you kidding? The ability to lend a book once for 14 days if the publisher allows it? How is that a good thing?

    It's so ridiculously restricted it's essentially useless.

  • old school piracy. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:38PM (#34150680)
    Ebook piracy has been around since before ebooks were commercially available. Even many years ago there existed a usenet board I used to frequent where a constant stream of books were distributed - painstakeingly scanned, OCRed and (hopefully) proof-read by enthusiasts. The selection was surprisingly comprehensive.
    It's been a long time since I was witness to the ebook piracy scene, but from what rumors I have heard the real action there now resides on a few DC++ hubs.
  • What's wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brit74 (831798) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:48PM (#34150760)
    I don't find anything wrong with the lend program. I realize Slashdot has a certain "information should be free" ethos, but it doesn't make much sense to build in the ability to give unlimited copies to everyone and think that it won't undermine the business. While the publishers "wish you to engage in two separate hallucinations", it seems like lots of other people want us to engage in another hallucination: that giving out unlimited copies won't turn into a financial problem for booksellers. For example, how many students are really going to buy their own digital copies of their textbooks, as opposed to passing around one copy for everyone? (Not that I really agree with the current economic model of expensive, often-updated textbooks, but I also can't agree with the pirates desire for unlimited free copies for everyone - as if that has no economic consequences, either.)
  • Doing it wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:55PM (#34150796) Homepage

    - It's often more expensive than a hard copy
    - Its purchase does not affect the cost of getting a hard copy later (nor vice versa!)
    - It is intangible and can (and will) be remote-deleted for the flimsiest of excuses.

    Why are we supposed to buy this again instead of getting something made of paper?

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:57PM (#34150810)

    We need to start treating digital copies like books. We don't own the content, but we should own the copy we purchased, and we should be able to do with them what we want.

    Obviously there are some natural limitations that apply to books that would need to artificially applied to ebooks, but we can already apply them, as this piddly excuse for a loan policy proves.

    The concept is easy: a function in the software that ties an ebook to the device and only allows transfer to another device if it successfully ties it to another device, and then disables the ebook on the original device. That would make ebooks behave exactly like regular books. Then you wouldn't need a stupid loan policy, you'd just give your friend your copy of the ebook, just like you would a physical book.

    I seriously do not understand why this has not been done yet, or why they insist on these stupid "loan" functions. Just move the ebook off the old machine and onto the new! Leave it up to the owner of the book to get their copy back, just like physical books. We've been able to "move" (copy then delete) digital media for ages.

    Seriously, it's not that hard. Why the hell are they making it so complicated?

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordNimon (85072) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:00PM (#34150846)

    I realize Slashdot has a certain "information should be free" ethos

    I think you are mistaken. There may be a few people who believe this, but my observation has been that the vast majority of Slashdotters are much more concerned about the right of first sale, which DRM-encumbered digital downloads do not currently allow. There's no way I'm going to spend $10 or $20 on an e-book if I can't sell it to someone when I'm done with it.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:13PM (#34150926)

    I was moments away from ordering a Kindle - I had added it to my Amazon shopping cart and had started to add some e-book titles. Then I noticed the used book prices. Every one of the 5 e-books I had picked out were priced at $9.99, while used books with shipping came out to prices ranging from $4.50 to $9.99 including shipping.

    While I understand that people that travel a lot may prefer an e-book for the convenience, I do 90% of my reading in my living room. Why would I pay $139 for a device plus a premium price on each book just to have a fancy gadget? I'm not one to run out and buy the latest bestseller and I have enough books on hand to not find it hard to wait a couple weeks for a used book to arrive.

    I could even resell the books after I'm done and make the effective cost even cheaper (printing a priority mail label takes a couple minutes, so there's hardly any inconvenience). Though in reality, I donate my books to a local charity.

    I don't expect the publisers to allow e-book resales, but unless they cut their book prices significantly, they are going to have a hard time competing against paper.

  • eBook piracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:17PM (#34150944)

    I avoid eBook piracy by simply by reading the classics []

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cynyr (703126) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:20PM (#34150960)

    or gift it to a friend, or let my kid take it to college, or... any number of other things i may do with a physical book involving lending.

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:21PM (#34150964)

    I realize Slashdot has a certain "information should be free" ethos...

    Not really. "Information wants to be free" is used more when talking about the free/open-source software movement, or against locking down data in inaccessible proprietary formats. It's generally only used as justification for piracy in one of two contexts:

    1. As a straw man attacking people with a rightful opposition to invasive DRM schemes.

    2. By idiots who pirate things because they don't want to pay for them, and then flail around trying to find some kind of philosophical justification for their actions. Of course, that's nobody on Slashdot... riiiiiiiiight?

    The reality is, there are always going to be fucktards who will look to the Internet to avoid having to pay for something. What we're saying is we don't see why the existence of these people- who will always exist and will always find a way to crack DRM, guaranteed- should mean that we have to have a crippled product that we legitimately paid for, and legally own.

  • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:22PM (#34150978)


    New books range from 9.99 to 14.99. Older books are cheaper. Classics are free (thanks project Gutenberg) and the good stuff (sci-fi) even recent sci-fi is normally 6 bucks or so. Heck Anathem is 7.99. Sure you can get used books for super cheap and even market place paper backs cheap as well, but we are talking about bookstore prices here, nit bargain bin copies.

  • by Decker-Mage (782424) <> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:23PM (#34150982)
    Baen Books has been posting e-books, several formats available, for several years now. And, curiously enough, it's the authors that make the choice. I have a solid library of their titles that are loaded on all my machines to read during down-time (waiting on something) and all of them, including ones that I initially wouldn't have bought in book form normally, are here in the pulp as well. So, it's a good deal for the author, give me a book that may have me buy the series, rather than miss a potential sale.

    A rather radical thing that I recently encountered was a hardback Baen Book ("Rats, Bats, & Vats") that had a CD with several dozen titles from Baen on it that encouraged you to make a copy and give them out.

    As for the e-book community, yes, they are alive and well in the newsgroups last time I looked (August I believe) and you can get what you want in almost any format. Then again, that's been true of anything that can be presented in electronic form pretty much since newsgroups (NNTP) came to be. Just as with the cracking community (hell Apple should know what with rooting the iPhone) you'll always see them out there. Keep the price point low enouigh and frankly most people won't go to the effort of finding, downloading, etc., since you never going to know what you get (unusable/, malware, and lawsuit, oh my!).

    And before anyone professes that this is incorrect, go back and take microeconomics again, specifically opportunity costs. The beautiful thing about iTunes, iPhone Apps, NetFlix, downloadable software, and e-book marketplaces is that they have been an ecometrician's wet dream for statistical market behavior. I don't think that this was the intent of the providers of music, apps, and video, but there you have it. Saved us a ton of research grant money. Thank you!
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:36PM (#34151050)

    How can you say "hogwash" if you haven't even read what I wrote? I clearly said used books. Why buy new when the words on a used book are just as legible as a new book? I rarely keep a book after I read it, so I don't care if the cover is torn or the pages are a little dogeared.

    I'm not talking about bookstore bargain bin prices,I'm talking Amazon used books delivered to my door.

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grcumb (781340) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:41PM (#34151082) Homepage Journal

    I realize Slashdot has a certain "information should be free" ethos, but it doesn't make much sense to build in the ability to give unlimited copies to everyone and think that it won't undermine the business. While the publishers "wish you to engage in two separate hallucinations", it seems like lots of other people want us to engage in another hallucination: that giving out unlimited copies won't turn into a financial problem for booksellers.

    Just for the sake of argument, let's accept that assertion of yours as truth: Infinite distribution necessarily causes financial problems for publishers. That doesn't explain why they would choose to give fewer lending rights to possessors of digital copies than to those who buy the paper object. Nor does it explain why they charge pretty much the same price for this reduced capability.

    We seem to be dealing (yet again) with anti-features []: The publishers are actually adding to the consumer's burden in exchange for nominally lowering the cost and 'allowing' them the convenience of reading an electronic copy of a given book.

    As the Economist rightly notes, this won't stand. Anti-features (including DRM) only need to be removed once. Argue however much you like about the rights of the author. As a writer, I'm pretty damn sympathetic. But realistically, writers have to adjust to the world as it is. People will share things that delight them. They do so with photos, with posters, books, music, TV shows and movies... in short, with everything they can.

    Yes, it puts creators in a quandary. Yes, it threatens livelihoods and, potentially, might even prevent the next great opus. But to attempt to remodel the world to fit an outdated vision? That's just insane. I don't mean stupid -it actually requires a fair amount of imagination to get there- I mean insane - nuts, cuckoo. The idea is premised on the fact that all of society (save the poor, beleaguered author) is wrong, and must change. Even if the first clause is correct, the second does not follow. And even if we accept it logically, we still have no hope of effecting that change through technical means.

    I suppose it is possible that we could change society. It's happened before. But we will not do it with DRM and anti-features.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:49PM (#34151106)

    Sure you can get used books for super cheap and even market place paper backs cheap as well, but we are talking about bookstore prices here, not bargain bin copies.

    Except that if this current approach takes off there will never ever be any more used books. I'm sure the publishers think that's a good thing for them. But they aren't thinking it through. The used market supports the new market. If they can't resell your used copy, that's effectively a price increase for anyone buying new. Furthermore, lack of cheap used books means less opportunity for an author to build an audience. People are much more willing to risk 50 cents on an author they've never read before than they are $10. If those 50 cents books aren't around that just more incentive to look elsewhere for entertainment or to pirate, and once you've gone through the effort to figure out pirating why would you ever return to paying? So yeah, the availability and price of used books is one of the most important factors to the long term viability of the industry.

  • A "few months ago" I wouldn't have thought about pirating a book. I could get my favorite books for under $10 and I was reading them like crazy. Then here comes iPad and the bullshit deal Apple setup with the publishers to let THEM set the price and break Amazon's lock on E-books. Publishers, led by Macmillan, put the hurt on Amazon, and now they too are forced to let Publishers set book prices. Damn near overnight my buying of books came to a screeching halt as nothing I was interested in reading could be had for what I felt was a reasonable price. Some of the books I looked up were CHEAPER in hard copy! Books that have been out 6-7 YEARS for $12++?!

    So I too looked towards Torrent sites and elsewhere and sure enough there was tons of books available. I haven't bought a single book from Amazon, hard or soft copy, since this change in pricing went into effect. the sad thing is that E-books are so small no one ever just shares one, it's ineffective. Instead you see huge collections thrown together in order to make the file size decent.

    Thankfully some authors are getting a clue! Hopefully more will follow this guy's lead -> []

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @09:54PM (#34151458)

    "I'm still waiting to see any real data that shows the damages from widespread file sharing of copyrighted materials."

    You'll be waiting forever because there is none. In order for something to be taken, it must first exist. The profits that they could have had in the future (which is what they try to say the pirate steals) do not exist, and therefore can't be taken. Not to mention that, again, everyone in existence 'steals' profit that others could have had. You do that by merely choosing not to give someone your money or by interfering with someones flow of profit. Everyone fits that category, as far as I know. The potential profit (demand, time, etc) argument is simply absurd.

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @10:02PM (#34151498)

    "The reality is, there are always going to be fucktards who will look to the Internet to avoid having to pay for something."

    I'm sorry, but I don't see the problem with this. What are pirates taking by copying data? How are they harming others? If you say that they're stealing "potential profit," then I'm afraid that's illogical. For one thing, for someone to be taken, it must first exist. Profit that they do not yet have is not theirs (and thus the profit that they could have owned in the future does not yet exist). Second of all, everyone in existence 'steals' profit that others could have had. You do so merely by choosing not to give someone your money or by interfering with someones flow of profit. As far as I know, everyone fits that category.

    If you're looking for something to fix or something to blame, you should turn to our illogical capitalistic society (at least, our current one) which practically demands that goods that are in an infinite supply be paid for, and if someone doesn't, then they'll be labeled a 'thief'. If anything, that is what is causing these supposed artists to 'suffer', because it certainly isn't pirates (for reasons pointed out above).

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @10:37PM (#34151668)

    You are exactly right. Its almost insulting that the offer it, probably doing so only to deflect regulator attention for violating consumer's rights.

    Its the same deal offered by the publishers to Barnes & Noble for Nook users. (Not Amazon's doing, in other words).

    They have found a way to end run the First Sale Doctrine, by controlling right after the purchase. Non infringing resale is essentially impossible, and even loans or gifts are not possible.

    The problem is no consumer group exists which can fight all the way to the Supreme Court, which is probably what it will take.

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:23PM (#34151866)

    "If you could duplicate a distribute a physical book for zero cost, that still doesn't change the fact that the author has spent a good portion of their life and creative energy creating the work, and deserves to be paid for it if they choose to."

    But as I said, this is no more the fault of the pirate (who didn't actually take anything, mind you) than it is someone who chose not to buy the product (if they had bought it, the author would have had more money and would have been awarded for their creative effort).

    "If you don't believe that creative effort doesn't deserve to be rewarded"

    I never said that. However, it should be an optional endeavor. Our illogical capitalistic society demands that this not be so.

    "But you can't consume it and simultaneously say there is no value to it."

    I never said that there was no value. It has entertainment value, but if I can get it for free, I'd rather do that.

    Again, if you're angry at people for not giving the author money for his/her "creative works," then you will want to scold every single person who didn't buy the product but also didn't pirate it. Not rewarding someone with your money clearly means that you've stolen potential profit from them!

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:41PM (#34151948)

    As the Economist rightly notes, this won't stand. Anti-features (including DRM) only need to be removed once. Argue however much you like about the rights of the author.

    The thing is, the system set up by Barnes and Noble and copied by Amazon rendered ebooks to the same status as paper books.

    It made it very easy to loan a book, and prevented you from reading it or loaning it again to another person till the first person returned it. It was a beautiful thing. It would even handle gifting, by severing all of the original owner's rights to reclaim the copy.

    Then the publishers stepped in and said, No Way. Lend it once in your entire life, and only for 14 days.

    Here they were handed a way to make ebooks almost exactly like paper, and someone else was willing to do the accounting all for free, and they turned it down.

    Its a total mind fuck that they would do that, knowing full well that doing so would just encourage DRM removal. I would think authors would be the first to stand up and object.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:43PM (#34151968)

    Why is lending or gifting what is supposedly yours a bizarre new right?

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @12:24AM (#34152094)

    You're confusing distributors with the distribution system. Trucking companies aren't distributors just as ISP's aren't.

    Most people, yourself included, seem to think publishers do nothing. THey provide a number of services, such as forcing the author to improve the quality of their work, hiring editors to assist the authors, marketing the product, and organizing those tours you claim the author will make their money at (it costs a lot of money that the authors don't have.. and that money is not recouped by the ticket sales, but by the residual product sales the tour generates).

  • Re:Not good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:01AM (#34152248)

    I think they need those protections, because pirating can hurt the book market a lot.

    See, that's where you messed up. You're doing the same kind of 'thinking' an audience does when they observe a magician's act. It's a trick.

    Creators were making little to no money from media sales long before wide-spread pirating came along. This has been true ever since the dawn of industrialized mass-reproduction of media. Publishers, editors, printers, binders, distributors all get paid, but the authors frequently get swindled. It's an old, old story and so-called piracy, (I prefer the word, "sharing") has little to do with it.

    Nothing has changed except that greedy people are frustrated when others share.

    Interestingly, when people embrace sharing, authors and musicians get paid. -Because money is shared as well! Those who hate sharing and want to build a system of forced payment will, when not forced themselves, fight to not share with authors and creators.

    See how it works? Don't be tricked.


  • by rcharbon (123915) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:35AM (#34154098) Homepage

    I just published "Chasing the Runner's High: My Sixty Million-Step Program". If you buy the eBook from my site [], there is no copy protection. There's no point. All Digital Rights Managment schemes do is make it harder for honest readers to buy a book and enjoy it. DRM doesn't stop piracy. If a book is popular enough for it to matter, someone will break the copy protection and make the book available for free.

    The book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. The license allows you to share unmodified copies of the book, as long as you don't use if for commercial purposes. If the book is read by thousands of people who got their copy from a friend, that's a win. I'm better off than if they never read it. Some of those people will end up buying paper copies, buying copies for their local libraries, or just paying what they think the eBook was worth.

    You can also name your own price for eBook editions of my book when you buy from my site. I believe that if you can pay what you think a book is worth, you're more likely to buy. A sale for a little money is better than no sale at all (as long as you pay more than the 50 cents it costs to process your order).

    Most people will be fair. The ones who aren't fair probably aren't going to pay anyhow.

    Note: the eBook is available from other sites. Some people only shop from (for example) the Kindle store or the iBookstore, and so I need to be listed there. Those versions have fixed prices and may have DRM, but wherever it's possible, I've asked the vendor to sell it without DRM.

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:16AM (#34154752)

    "If I do choose to pirate a work, then that means I want the product and potentially other products the author makes. Not paying for it is detremental to gaining other products from the author and/or publisher."

    That's really your problem now, isn't it? If you want the author to make more media, pay him. Not giving someone money but still copying data doesn't hurt them. I mean, it might hurt you if you want to see the artist make another product, but not the artist. If you say it does, then I will go back to my previous statement and say that this is also the fault of anyone who didn't buy the product (even if they didn't want it) because if they had, the artist would have had more money.

  • Re:What's wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by barthrh2 (713909) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:27PM (#34155684)

    You're presuming that everyone who pirated the product would not have purchased it otherwise. If that were true, you'd be right. But it's not true... Without a doubt, a percentage of people who pirate a product would have purchased it if the "free" option weren't available. This necessarily means that there is in fact a cost -- an opportunity cost -- due to the loss of revenue.

    The argument of industry that one download = one lost sale is incorrect, but so is your pro-piracy argument. The fact that something can be duplicated without a cost has nothing to do with the fact that it has value to those who developed it and equally to those who pay money to enjoy it.

    Should you eventually work as a software developer, perhaps a day of downsizing may come where revenues can no longer support staffing levels. Or perhaps the economic success of version 1 cannot support the development of version 2. Maybe the reason for this will be a bad product or a poor salesforce, but it could just as easily be piracy.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell