Kindle with Books
Kindle with Books

Kindle with BooksWhy, oh why, do we need DRM! My first real run in with this copy protection scheme was with music. Then there are all of the issues surrounding films, including DVDs, Blu-Rays and now digital copies. Lately though the things that’s really bugging me are ebooks!

It’s getting really frustrating that this extra layer of complication seems to tacked onto everything. Not only does it restrict how you use the product that you have legitimately purchased but it also lowers the level of enjoyment you get out of a product.

Take DVDs for example. How many times have you had to sit through the copy protection lecture, that you can’t even skip past, at the start of every DVD? Just to rub salt in the wound, the people that don’t bother to actually part with their cash and just get a dodgy copy from a mate end up getting a better experience as they probably don’t have to sit through it!!!

Unfortunately ebooks are also currently encumbered with DRM, tying you in to the company you buy the book from. Take the Kindle for example. The only place you can buy ebooks for the Kindle is from Amazon. Or is it? Is this all about to change…

Film Frustrations

It just doesn’t make sense that the law abiding citizens out there, that are willing to pay full price for something in the hope of getting the best quality film experience end up getting punished. All you get is a constant barrage of messages warning you that you are criminal if you make a copy of something that you have parted with your hard earned cash for…

If you pay for a film why shouldn’t you be able to watch it on your computer, mobile device or even watch it in two rooms at the same time by streaming it via a couple of Apple TVs?

There is, of course, an option to buy movies on iTunes, which does allow you to do all of those things, but it doesn’t really make much of a difference in the long run though as you are just switching to another DRM format. If you move away from iTunes in the future then you are stuck… All of the content you have purchased stays with iTunes…

Will you still be able to get an Apple TV in 5 years? Who knows? There is already a newer version of the Apple TV than mine…

I am in the process of decluttering and recently came across boxes full of videos. It seems wrong to just throw them all away. At some point money was spent to purchase all of those original films. Now I know it is possible to copy those videos into digital copies but that is frowned upon… They have literally no value so what other choice is there?

I am a quality freak so if there is a really good film then I would be willing to purchase a higher quality version anyway—I bought some films on DVD that I already owned on video for example and one or two Blu-Rays that I have owned on DVD—but I would at least like the option to legally copy the average films to a format that I could watch today. I’ve paid for the film after all and I’m not even sure the only video player I have left still works…

The quality of Blu-Ray is a huge step up from DVD but I’ve pretty much stopped buying films altogether because I know that within a short amount of time the film will be unplayable. It may be 2 years or it may be 10 years but I’ve had enough of throwing my money away on content that will become obsolete anyway.

The only option left is to rent a film. That’s basically what you are doing anyway the only difference is when you rent, you get the film for a shorter amount of time but it also costs a lot less…

Greed is not a nice trait. If the movie industry has become so greedy that they are happy to alienate their customers, then that’s up to them. I certainly don’t plan on spending much on films in the near future due to all the copy protection they insist on including…

Music Magic

Now, from my point of view, music is the major success story.

When I was looking into selecting a licensing scheme for my work I talked a bit about DRM and how I had started buying music again. MP3’s won the DRM battle and so at last you knew for sure that when you bought a song, not only would you be able to play it on any device but it would also still work 10 years from now.

There is always the possibility that there may be some leaps and bounds in the music industry going forward and there may be some fancy new technology that adds to the listening experience. It would then be up to you if you are happy to continue to listen to MP3s or maybe replace some of your favourite songs with the latest technological incarnation…

That is the beauty of non DRM encumbered content, it leaves the choice up to the owner of the song. It also makes it much easier to buy from different places. If the end product is the same no matter where you buy it from then there is nothing to force you to buy from the same place every time. Competition can only be a good thing for the consumer…

I can also happily announce that I buy a lot more music that I used to. If I hear a song a few times that really catches my attention then it’s just so easy to log on to Amazon, or any other site, and purchase that song. Especially as songs are usually under a quid.

What About Ebooks?

Physical books are the ultimate in unprotected content. You can read the book however you want, pass it on to a friend to read, photocopy passages you find interesting and even sell the book on. There is nothing to stop you disseminating the book and scanning all of the pages to get the book into a digital format. This is a bit of a gray area though as Google, amongst other people, started to do this but hit some legal issues. Even so it certainly isn’t looked down upon like copying a DVD onto your computer…

I suppose part of the issue is that it’s quite a time intensive job to scan a whole book whereas ripping a DVD takes minutes. It is much easier to just buy an ebook instead. This makes books the perfect target for digitising…

The majority of books are just plain text and so are very easy to get onto an e-reader of some kind. Not only are they very flexible, allowing for different fonts and sizes, selectable and even changeable while reading, but also the books themselves tend to be very small, storage wise.

So far so good everything sounds great. That’s when DRM rears it’s ugly heaad…

Both Shirley and I have a Kindle each. We also share an iPad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just buy a copy of a book and then we could both read it, whenever we liked, on any of our devices…

If you buy a physical paper book then you can just pick it up and read it whenever you feel like it. Unless the book gets destroyed somehow then you can guarantee that it will still be readable way into the future. The same is not true when you encumber digital copies with DRM.

With the way technology moves who’s to say Kindles will even still exist in a couple of years time…

Amazon are currently bringing out new models all the time. Currently there is the Kindle and the Kindle Fire along with the soon to be released Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire HD.

I can understand where the idea of copy protection comes from. The big difference between physical and digital products if that it is much easier to copy the digital version. With a physical book only one person can have it at any one time. You can pass it on to all of your friends but they have to take it in turns…

If you had the urge you could just pass a digital file on to everyone you know, at the same time. That is what the publishers are afraid of but is that ever likely to really happen? Everyones tastes vary. Do you really want people to know that you are reading Shades of Grey?

If the price is right and the process is as easy as buying music then why wouldn’t you just buy a copy of a book you want when it first comes to your attention, for whatever reason? Unfortunately, as with films, the stance was taken that everyone wants to rip off the publishers. So DRM was added to stop any copying, or even sharing, at all!

This means that as Shirley and I both own Kindles the only way for one of us to read a book the other has purchased is to actually swap devices…

This isn’t as easy as swapping a physical book though, as the Kindle holds loads of books so the moment you finish one you can start another. That means you have to wait until the other person has finished reading their current book and only then can you exchange devices temporarily, assuming you both have books that the other wants to read…

As an added frustration we both use our Kindles differently. Shirley prefers to read hers in landscape format (side on) with a much larger font than me. So after swapping devices we have to set them up to use our preferred settings.

Once finished you then have to wait until the other has also finished before we swap back, resetting all of the device settings back to your personal preferences.

To me this seems utterly ridiculous!

And that’s just between devices of the same type. There is no chance of viewing a Kindle ebook natively on the iPad. Of course there is currently an App you can download to get your Kindle content onto the iPad but there is no guarantee that the app will always be available…

Conclusions

I have money that I would happily spend on books and films each month but with DRM I think I’d rather just save my money instead. It could well be the case that by the time I come to watch the film or read the book then I may not be able to…

The tide may well be changing though. There seems to be some progress towards DRM free content. This will hopefully lead to books that you can guarantee to be able to read well into the future, and on any device no matter which way technology goes…

Some examples of early adopters are Tor-Forge books from Macmillan (see announcement for more details), O’Reilly and Calibre.

Let me know what you think on the subject below. Are you happy to pay for content that is DRM encrypted?

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Image: Pete O’Shea

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