View Full Version : Is it time to subcategorize electronic books?


Barcey
11-21-2007, 07:34 PM
So here's something I was thinking about while walking the dog.

In the traditional paper book world there are well understood categories for books where the purchaser has an idea of the durability of the book and how it will fit in their library shelf. You can decide to buy paperback, trade or hardcover editions to best suit your needs.

For electronic books there is just a junkyard of terms that the average purchaser doesn't understand or their eyes glaze over. Is it time for the industry to subcategories the ebook category into descriptive standards that the general user can understand? I'm a techie so I tend to think in terms of volatile and nonvolatile so for lack of a better term I'll use those to describe what I'm thinking.

Non Volatile eBooks
Attributes
- transportable (ability to read on multiple readers)
- long term accessible

Requirements
- Open Standard format
- or proprietary format with a legal and vendor sanctioned method to convert to open standard in the future
- no DRM
- or legal and vendor sanctioned method to remove DRM in the future or convert to another DRM format

Examples: TXT, HTML, ePUB, non DRM PDF

Volatile eBooks
Attributes
- Bound to specific device (lifetime expected to be life of reading device)
- Bound to specific vendor (lifetime expected to be life of vendor in the ebooks market)
- non transportable

Requirements
- Closed or proprietary format
- DRM protected

Examples: Mobipocket, BBEB, LIT, Kindle, DRM PDF etc....

Self Destruct eBooks
Attributes
- Designed to become unreadable after a fixed period of time for rentals or library books

Examples: Timed PDF


What do others think? I know that vendors wouldn't be too interested in marketing their ebooks as "volatile" but that's kind of the point. Maybe companies would consider developing a conversion utility that would be freely available in the event they exit the market if it means they would be categorized as non volatile rather then volatile. I know it's poor terminolgy but maybe someone has better ideas.

nekokami
11-21-2007, 08:07 PM
Interesting thoughts. I like "ephemeral" instead of "volatile," but I think most people's eyes will glaze over at either term.

Maybe "unrestricted" and "restricted"?

DaleDe
11-21-2007, 08:26 PM
Interesting thoughts. I like "ephemeral" instead of "volatile," but I think most people's eyes will glaze over at either term.

Maybe "unrestricted" and "restricted"?

I believe most dealers, maybe all, already identify DRM books by that term. It should be enough I think. Libraries are automatically assumed to expire with checked out but if just downloaded they last forever. (or as long as the format is supported for the device)

Dale

Nate the great
11-21-2007, 08:28 PM
I like this idea, but I think we should use a word other than volatile. We need a word that has negative connotations. Users will connect the negative connotations of the category with the formats, and might use them less (which is how we pressure the vendors).

DaleDe
11-21-2007, 08:31 PM
I like this idea, but I think we should use a word other than volatile. We need a word that has negative connotations. Users will connect the negative connotations of the category with the formats, and might use them less (which is how we pressure the vendors).

By the way there is another category. Password protected. cbr/cbz files can be password protected (zip and rar). PDF files can be also. It is similar but not the same as DRM.

Dale

HarryT
11-22-2007, 04:24 AM
I like this idea, but I think we should use a word other than volatile. We need a word that has negative connotations. Users will connect the negative connotations of the category with the formats, and might use them less (which is how we pressure the vendors).

You seem to be implying that it's a "given" that DRM is a "bad thing". This is not a view which I share.

Books are not like music; you may well listen to a CD repeatedly over the years, but most people don't re-read most of their books - they just read them once. Books are generally bought to be read there and then, so all people really care about is that they can be read on their current reading device.

If a publisher or an author feels that they need to have DRM for "security" (even if that security is illusory) then DRM will give us eBooks which we would not otherwise have had, and that is, to my mind, a good thing.

It's far more about perception than reality. You might compare it with, say, street lighting. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that street lighting reduces crime, and yet if you ask almost anyone if they want good street lighting they'll say "yes" because it makes them feel safer.

DRM is like that on both sides of the argument. Many readers will say "I don't want DRM" even if they have no intention of ever re-reading a book. Many publishers will say "we won't publish without DRM" even if it has no real impact on eBook piracy.

My view is that DRM really doesn't matter one way or another. If you're not going to re-read a book it really doesn't matter if it's got DRM or not.

Barcey
11-22-2007, 07:29 AM
You seem to be implying that it's a "given" that DRM is a "bad thing". This is not a view which I share.


This is actually what I was thinking about when I made the post. We can disagree about whether DRM is a good thing or a bad thing but it's reality. When I think about someone like my mother entering this market though it just feels like there is no truth in advertising requirement. I'm pretty confident that with fates and fortunes 25% of the formats and DRM schemes we're talking about today will not be around in 5 years. Nobody can predict which ones though.

It would be nice if the industry could categorize the product so the average consumer understands this and isn't disappointed in 5 years. I understand that "volatile" isn't something the general consumer will latch on to but thought someone else might have another idea.

The other thought was could companies who insist they need the proprietary formats and DRM provide some sort of guarantee that if they're not around in 5 years a conversion utility would be available for convert forward to another format. Most companies would probably choose not to and if their books are clearly categorized with that life expectancy I don't have a problem with it.

Steven Lyle Jordan
11-22-2007, 08:35 AM
I like this idea, but I think we should use a word other than volatile. We need a word that has negative connotations.

"Volatile" isn't negative enough for you? Most people I know would be afraid a "volatile" book would eat their computer!

Personally, I think the "volatile" label should have neutral connotations, and the "non-volatile" label should have very positive connotations, to get the publishers and the public on board. Using words to scare them will likely only backfire. (Let them come up with their own scary nicknames for our labels... that's the best way to do it.)

Steven Lyle Jordan
11-22-2007, 08:38 AM
The other thought was could companies who insist they need the proprietary formats and DRM provide some sort of guarantee that if they're not around in 5 years a conversion utility would be available for convert forward to another format. Most companies would probably choose not to and if their books are clearly categorized with that life expectancy I don't have a problem with it.

Any company would "promise" that... but if they have problems, they're just going to go Chapter 11 and slink away, and if anyone questions their "promises," they'll just shrug and say, "Heh. Yeah. Sorry about that."

Nate the great
11-22-2007, 08:52 AM
"Volatile" isn't negative enough for you? Most people I know would be afraid a "volatile" book would eat their computer!

Personally, I think the "volatile" label should have neutral connotations, and the "non-volatile" label should have very positive connotations, to get the publishers and the public on board. Using words to scare them will likely only backfire. (Let them come up with their own scary nicknames for our labels... that's the best way to do it.)

How about an acronym instead of "volatile"? I like BOGA (Bend Over and Grab Ankles).

Steven Lyle Jordan
11-22-2007, 09:06 AM
How about an acronym instead of "volatile"? I like BOGA (Bend Over and Grab Ankles).

Ha ha! Thanks for playing, Nate!

You have to know, don't you, that there's nothing we could possibly do to "pressure" the vendors, short of bombing their stores?

If you can't find a way to work with them that will make them feel included and considered in the process, they'll just freeze it out.

slayda
11-22-2007, 09:41 AM
I like this idea, but I think we should use a word other than volatile. We need a word that has negative connotations. Users will connect the negative connotations of the category with the formats, and might use them less (which is how we pressure the vendors).

I vote for "Damn DRM"!

Barcey
11-22-2007, 11:51 AM
Any company would "promise" that... but if they have problems, they're just going to go Chapter 11 and slink away, and if anyone questions their "promises," they'll just shrug and say, "Heh. Yeah. Sorry about that."

I agree unless it was a certified and audit able process they'd have to meet. If a third party had to validate the tool worked and then it was held by a third party held the technology and would automatically release it under defined conditions. I'm dreaming though.

nekokami
11-22-2007, 11:58 AM
I wonder what percentage of people actually do re-read books, vs. not? Does anyone have some statistics from a reliable source? I know probably more people are in the "don't re-read" category, but I wonder what the proportion really is.

@HarryT, I like your analogy to streetlights and crime.

Steven Lyle Jordan
11-22-2007, 12:07 PM
I agree unless it was a certified and audit able process they'd have to meet. If a third party had to validate the tool worked and then it was held by a third party held the technology and would automatically release it under defined conditions. I'm dreaming though.

Yes, but it's a pretty dream... look, there's a unicorn over there in the meadow... ;) Seriously, no organization is going to take on that job.

I wonder what percentage of people actually do re-read books, vs. not? Does anyone have some statistics from a reliable source? I know probably more people are in the "don't re-read" category, but I wonder what the proportion really is.

I'd bet the percentage of re-readers is actually high... it's the number of books that's probably low. My guess would be that, of the many books people own over the years, there are just a few favorite books that the majority of people re-read, and the majority of their collection that they do not re-read.

Of course, when people collect and keep books, it's usually because they do re-read them regularly (that would be me, for instance). That's why I'm the kind of person who would want a reader if it could hold my entire library of books in perpetuity, and allow me to carry my library with me at all times.

The kind of people who collect books just to show others how many books they have, probably are not going to be reader fans, since a single reader isn't as impressive as a bookcase or library of books.

nekokami
11-22-2007, 12:10 PM
Right. I have the books to re-read, not to impress my friends.

Although, I do really enjoy being able to loan a book to a friend that I think they would like. It's an especially nice feeling to be able to introduce a friend to a new favorite, don't you think? And that's a lot harder with ebooks, sadly. :(

HarryT
11-22-2007, 12:36 PM
It's an especially nice feeling to be able to introduce a friend to a new favorite, don't you think? And that's a lot harder with ebooks, sadly. :(

Baen have a great "buy one, give one as a gift" deal for their webscriptions bundles. But Baen do so many things right!

Steven Lyle Jordan
11-22-2007, 12:45 PM
Although, I do really enjoy being able to loan a book to a friend that I think they would like. It's an especially nice feeling to be able to introduce a friend to a new favorite, don't you think? And that's a lot harder with ebooks, sadly. :(

Well, theoretically, lending e-books should be easier. And once more people are used to e-books, it will be.

Barcey
11-22-2007, 12:48 PM
Actually the acronym idea might work.

Read and trash edition (RAT)
Read and keep edition (RAK)

Read and toss would work as well but that might confuse our UK friends.:D

I agree that many people don't care if you can read it more then once. My mother doesn't understand why I buy books when you can get them for free at the library. I like to think I can read them again in the future but I'm realizing it's not likely to happen. Mainly I want to compensate the author.

I would like to have the option when I buy the book though as to the life expectancy of it (paperback vs hardcover idea). Some reference books I'd like to keep for a long time.

Steven Lyle Jordan
11-24-2007, 07:29 AM
Actually the acronym idea might work.

Read and trash edition (RAT)
Read and keep edition (RAK)

Read and toss would work as well but that might confuse our UK friends.:D

How about:

Read and Delete edition (RAD)
Read and Save edition (RAS)

To me, more accurate, and sounds a bit less caustic.