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DRM Books Media Entertainment Your Rights Online

E-Book Lending Stands Up To Corporate Mongering 259

phmadore writes "Publishing Perspectives is talking today about the rise of e-book lending, which, one would hope, will lead to a rise in questioning exactly how far one's digital rights extend. Although the articles are mostly talking about the authorized lending programs through Kindle and Nook ('The mechanics are simple: ebook owners sign up and list books that they want to allow others to borrow. When someone borrows one of the ebooks you have listed, you earn a credit. Credits can also be purchased for as little as $1.99 from eBook Fling'), we have to ask ourselves why we are suddenly paying publishers more for less. In the case of iBooks, you can't even transfer your books to another device, let alone another user, but then at least the prices are somewhat controlled. In the case of sites like BooksOnBoard, you've got ridiculously out-of-control prices with a greatly decreased cost of delivery. It's not all bad, don't get me wrong; Kobo offers competitive prices that never leave me feeling ripped off or stuck with an inferior product. Still, I can't help but think: digital rights management, sure! Where are my rights, as a consumer, and who is managing them? I wouldn't mind selling the rights back to the publisher or store for in-store credit; I also wouldn't be terribly bothered if they got a reasonable cut off the resale of the product to someone else. What I won't like is if they never allow it or continue to make it impossible for me to sell what's rightfully mine."
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E-Book Lending Stands Up To Corporate Mongering

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  • by Yaddoshi ( 997885 ) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:41PM (#35202162)
    If it's not available in any of those standards, then the eBook is as worthless as DRM-hampered MP3s purchased digitally. If you can't purchase your eBook in one of the aforementioned formats, do yourself a huge favor and go to your local bookstore, and purchase it in paperback. That way you can keep it indefinitely, sell it, trade it, lend it to friends, and so forth. It's about time for companies to stop proactively treating their customers like criminals and thieves. Vote with your wallet.
  • by savi ( 142689 ) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:47PM (#35202236)

    That their out-of-print books from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, that are currently making them ZERO money, could be sold for $2-$5 as pdfs. There are hundreds of books that I would like to buy, but since they are out of print (and weren't cheap to begin with and had small print runs), they cost in the rage of $70+. This means that I simply don't buy them. This means that no one makes money of my desire to own these books. What a waste.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:50PM (#35202254) Homepage

    The Nook, Kibo, and (I think) Sony readers all use ePub, but the books still have DRM. As you yourself point out, just because it's an open standard (or a de facto one, like MP3) doesn't mean you're automatically free of DRM.

    If anything, the way this will change is if people buy the hardware, use it, and put pressure on the vendors to get rid of the DRM. It eventually worked on Apple and Amazon for music. I think Barnes & Noble would be more than happy to provide people with DRM-free books (and I've received some classics from them that already are, though they don't advertise it). It's the publishers we have to convince (and maybe Amazon, which seems to want to create an empire).

    Also, note that it's trivial to crack the Adobe DRM used on the Nook, for example. And I often find myself doing it, not necessarily to pirate the book, but because the formatting is so cockeyed on my Nook that I have to bust open the ePub and tweak the CSS myself. Digital publishing still has way to go before it's truly mainstream.

  • by yossie ( 93792 ) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:57PM (#35202342)

    They cost as much or sometimes more than the printed copy, are badly edited/proofread and the software for reading them has issues with formatting, they are DRM'ed, and the rules for lending and/or reselling them (when that is even possible) are restrictive and draconian..
    Fact is, e-books are an outrageous scam, by any measure. Far more so than the music and movie industry, the book industry figured out how to fleece its customers more, so much more.
    That said, they do save paper. I own a kindle, but I am still trying to figure out how much money I want to give amazon. I am petitioning my favorite authors to directly publish, hopefully cheaper..

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:58PM (#35202362) Journal

    1) Buying ePUB does not guarantee no DRM. Apple sells DRM'd ePub, and so do B&N and Sony.

    2) MOBI (which is what Kindle uses) is really just as open as ePUB (it's also packaged HTML). There are a bunch of other formats like this - e.g. LIT, or Sony's LRF. You can use e.g. Calibre to convert them to ePUB or other format of your choice, provided DRM is stripped first.

    From a purely pragmatical point of view, just buy books in formats for which DRM stripping tools are readily available at the moment. Today, this means Kindle, or any of the stores that use Adobe ePUB DRM. Don't bother with iBooks.

  • Baen does it right (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:01PM (#35202400)

    I've always claimed that Jim Baen (R.I.P.) and Baen books got it right. They realized WAY back that DRM is a losing proposition. (The most cogent comment was that publishers have faced "free" competition for years. They are called libraries. If people WANT to read free - they will. So why bother with the expense of DRM?)

    They set up the Baen Free library as "free sampler" of their ebooks - in various formats, all without DRM.
    And then they discovered that the as authors put stuff into the free library - the value of their OTHER back catalog books increased - due to additional exposure.

    So now Baen sells their ebook - in various formats, all without DRM.

  • by rafial ( 4671 ) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:06PM (#35202452) Homepage

    If you look around, you can find stuff, usually from the smaller stores, or direct from smaller publishers. For Science Fiction & Fantasy, Baen offers quite a lot of books through their Webscriptions service (although I think newer stuff is now getting funneled into the "rental" market and thus not showing up on Webscriptions). Daniel Keyes Moran just started to publish the back catalog of several of his SF writer buddies in open formats. I've also found open books on places like Fictionwise (you have to read carefully to determine which books are being sold in open formats and which come encrusted).

    Pragmatic Programmers sells all their technical books direct in open formats. Role playing game books from most publishers can now be found in unrestricted formats from It's pretty much only the popular fiction market (and the large sellers) that are locked into customer hostile practices.

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:16PM (#35202564)

    That their out-of-print books from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, that are currently making them ZERO money, could be sold for $2-$5 as pdfs

    This is unlikely to happen.

    Having dealt with academic publishers I've found them to be the most ignorant bunch of incompetent rent-seekers imaginable, whose entire business model is fortunately doomed. I once tried to find a copy of an out-of-print book that I wanted to use for part of a class I was teaching. I asked the publisher if they knew where any were available, and also for permission for photocopying limited sections of any copy I did find for teaching purposes (fewer than 10 students, but I figured I may as well play nice.)

    I got a nastygram back refusing permission to make copies, and also asking me to inform them if I found a copy because they didn't actually have a copy anywhere. They had "ownership" of the copyright, but not the actual text! This raises any number of fun questions, the first one being: how can they know if I've violated their copyright if they aren't in possession of the text?

    As it turns out it was all moot because I never did find a complete copy, but its still the most egregiously stupid thing I've ever heard from the bloodsucking, parasitic, rent-seeking academic publishing industry.

  • by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:17PM (#35202566)

    You can get a hardback AND get a digital copy of not only that book, but most of the other books by the same author, if you buy from Baen. Not for all of their authors, and not for all of their books, but certainly for Weber, Ringo, Flint and Steve White - see [] for a full listing of the CDs.

    They also have a very extensive free library with eBooks. Their eBooks are published free of DRM and in different formats. Seriously, I can't recommend them enough, in the face of what the larger publishers are doing. If you buy from anywhere - make it from them. Oh, did you know they also have a CD published with a selection from the Gutenberg site (as a coproduction with the site)? Really, great publishers in that respect.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky