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The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

This Book Will Self-Destruct In 10 Hours 437

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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  • 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.


    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.

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

  • by chefren ( 17219 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2001 @05:34AM (#2148013)
    No matter what publishers would like to think the consumers control the market. If we just keep buying books, this will be a commercial failure. Just as if all of us would stop buying DVDs this whole affair of region codes and trials would go away. The industry is testing new media. We decide what will succeed and what will be forgotten.
  • 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.

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

    by DESADE ( 104626 ) <slashdot@b o b w a r d r o p .com> 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 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).
  • 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.

  • Re:What a deal! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:08PM (#2167721)
    That's nothing - it says that if you don't like the time trial version, you can pay $5 for a full electronic version.


    $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.

  • 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...

  • by Cheetah86 ( 136854 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:11PM (#2167741) Homepage
    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)
  • Re:Rights? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Leven Valera ( 127099 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:13PM (#2167752) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by JohnG ( 93975 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:16PM (#2167773)
    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?

  • 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 mangu ( 126918 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:18PM (#2167790)
    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.

  • 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 [] at Project Gutenberg [], 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?!?

  • digital != analog (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:27PM (#2167832)
    Making a VHS (or any other format) copy of analog video introduces noise, so you cannot make an unlimited number of generations. But if you make a copy of a digital book, the copy is absolutely identical to the original, so a single copy can be quickly reproduced for literally every single person in the world.
  • That's nothing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by G-funk ( 22712 ) <> 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?
  • It's Brilliant!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by humblecoder ( 472099 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:37PM (#2167879) Homepage
    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...

  • by dokhebi ( 89124 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:43PM (#2167920)
    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?

  • Copy protection (Score:2, Insightful)

    by botik32 ( 90185 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:51PM (#2167959) Homepage
    I bet crackers who are used to crack copy protection schemes will find tons of possible ways to disable the time limit.

    As a simple scheme:

    existing code:

    cmp time_passed, 10*60*60
    jge time_expired
    ; continue normal loop

    replace with:

    cmp time_passed, 10*60*60
    ; continue normal loop

  • by Trifthen ( 40989 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @08:54PM (#2167972) Homepage

    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.

  • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <> 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 ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @09:10PM (#2168045) Homepage
    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 ) <> on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @09:13PM (#2168057)
    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!

  • 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.
  • by ebyrob ( 165903 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @09:26PM (#2168110)
    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.
  • by ASM ( 101804 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @10:34PM (#2168418) Homepage
    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.

  • 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.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"