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Old 02-09-2012, 12:14 PM   #1
DonaldL.
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It's time for a unified ebook format and the end of DRM

It's time for a unified ebook format and the end of DRM

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Imagine buying a car that locks you into one brand of fuel. A new BMW, for example, that only runs on BMW gas. There are plenty of BMW gas stations around, even a few in your neighborhood, so convenience isn't an issue. But if one of those other gas stations offers a discount, a membership program, or some other attractive marketing campaign, you can't participate. You're locked in with the BMW gas stations.

This could never happen, right? Consumers are too smart to buy into something like this. Or are they? After all, isn't that exactly what's happening in the ebook world? You buy a dedicated ebook reader like a Kindle or a NOOK and you're locked in to that company's content.
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:15 PM   #2
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:21 PM   #3
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:29 PM   #4
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Great article. I hope the parallels to the evolution of online music, from the neanderthal DRM to the more functional DRM-free state now, come through and book publishers pull their finger out.
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:32 PM   #5
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Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth...
HarryT, DonaldL, et al,

most all the publishers, the authors, the sellers, and the distributors believe wholeheartedly that not using DRM costs them money. You may believe what you want, but they don't agree with you. Yes you can find some in these groups agreeing with you for PR purposes, but come decision time, they vote their perceived bottom lines.

We are far away, almost in another Galaxy, from the old paper-books only days, when copying machines were scarce and cost at least 10 cents a page. The people that control these works and the DRM applicaion/(or not) think they are doing what they have to do to prevent copies of the works that they didn't authorize.

I can state personally that they can make a strong case to an author. The case is made on many levels if they spend the time talking to you. For the beginners, it is sometimes simply, "This is what we are going to do."
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:35 PM   #6
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most all the publishers, the authors, the sellers, and the distributors believe wholeheartedly that not using DRM costs them money. You may believe what you want, but they don't agree with you. Yes you can find some in these groups agreeing with you for PR purposes, but come decision time, they vote their perceived bottom lines.
You misunderstand me, I think. Yes, I'm well aware of this, and reasonable DRM (I consider Amazon's DRM to be reasonable) doesn't bother me in the slightest. Nor, I am convinced, does it bother the overwhelming majority of buyers. You buy a Kindle, you buy your books from Amazon, and if someone asks you if DRM bothers you, your answer is probably going to be "what's DRM?".
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:38 PM   #7
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:46 PM   #8
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An industry standard format would be a good thing. The tricky part is getting the companies to agree to which one. I can open up a .DOC file on any computer.

The publishing companies may want DRM, but that doesn't necessarily mean that DRM is a good thing. And it doesn't mean that readers shouldn't object.
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:49 PM   #9
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I believe that eventually the industry will settle on one standard format, but that day is a ways off. Too many people are making money off the current situation for it to change anytime soon.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the situation to sort itself out, there's something you can do for your own collection in the meantime. Using Calibre with the right plugins, it's trivial to strip the DRM and convert to whatever format you like. My general practice right now is to buy epubs, de-DRM them and then do a conversion to mobi, storing both the epub and mobi versions. It works the other way too, if you like to buy from Amazon.

That way you'll have books that will work on just about anything, and you won't be locked into any one particular vendor.
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Old 02-09-2012, 12:54 PM   #10
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You misunderstand me, I think. Yes, I'm well aware of this, and reasonable DRM (I consider Amazon's DRM to be reasonable) doesn't bother me in the slightest. Nor, I am convinced, does it bother the overwhelming majority of buyers. You buy a Kindle, you buy your books from Amazon, and if someone asks you if DRM bothers you, your answer is probably going to be "what's DRM?".
And the same was true for those in the itunes music ecosystem back in the day when music files where DRM'd. So why did the music industry move away from DRM? Because the industry came to the realization that DRM is part of what locked people into the itunes system and Apple had become an 800 pound gorilla dictating terms to them. To break that the industry sanctioned mp3 format files without DRM. There's a parallel with the book industry and the Kindle ecosystem. The question is, is the publishing industry smart enough to realize it?
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Old 02-09-2012, 01:13 PM   #11
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And the same was true for those in the itunes music ecosystem back in the day when music files where DRM'd. So why did the music industry move away from DRM? Because the industry came to the realization that DRM is part of what locked people into the itunes system and Apple had become an 800 pound gorilla dictating terms to them. To break that the industry sanctioned mp3 format files without DRM. There's a parallel with the book industry and the Kindle ecosystem. The question is, is the publishing industry smart enough to realize it?
I think the difference is that the publishers were successful in forcing Amazon to go to agency pricing, which the music industry was not able to do with Apple. As long as the publishers are able to dictate pricing, they're going to persist in the current way of doing things, at least for a while.
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Old 02-09-2012, 01:18 PM   #12
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I can state personally that they can make a strong case to an author. The case is made on many levels if they spend the time talking to you. For the beginners, it is sometimes simply, "This is what we are going to do."
If I was an author I would be more comfortable if the publisher told me they would perform a magic 'do not copy' incantation over my ebook file before they release it. An incantation is without a doubt superior to DRM schemes because like DRM it will do nothing to stop piracy, but unlike DRM it won't have the potential to irritate my paying customers if they decide to switch out their ebook reader hardware.
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Old 02-09-2012, 01:40 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by QuantumIguana View Post
An industry standard format would be a good thing. The tricky part is getting the companies to agree to which one. I can open up a .DOC file on any computer.

The publishing companies may want DRM, but that doesn't necessarily mean that DRM is a good thing. And it doesn't mean that readers shouldn't object.
Nearly true but try it with a docx on slightly older or non-wintel machines...
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Old 02-09-2012, 01:42 PM   #14
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And the same was true for those in the itunes music ecosystem back in the day when music files where DRM'd. So why did the music industry move away from DRM? Because the industry came to the realization that DRM is part of what locked people into the itunes system and Apple had become an 800 pound gorilla dictating terms to them. To break that the industry sanctioned mp3 format files without DRM. There's a parallel with the book industry and the Kindle ecosystem. The question is, is the publishing industry smart enough to realize it?
Wow, love the history rewrite...
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Old 02-09-2012, 01:44 PM   #15
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An industry standard format would be a good thing. The tricky part is getting the companies to agree to which one. I can open up a .DOC file on any computer.

The publishing companies may want DRM, but that doesn't necessarily mean that DRM is a good thing. And it doesn't mean that readers shouldn't object.
Relevant.

Also, there already is an industry standard -- EPUB. The only one not using it is Amazon. There's also a de facto industry standard DRM (Adobe ADEPT), though that's not technically standardized and EPUB allows for any arbitrary DRM scheme (thus why Barnes & Noble and Apple can use their own DRM schemes with their EPUB books).
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