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Old 10-04-2009, 07:15 PM   #1
Dave W
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eBook vs paper book analogy

I've been reading all the copyright threads and the ones about the Amazon/Kindle fiasco. There has been a lot of back and forth about what you really buy when you buy an eBook. One poster said that you only buy a license and don't really own the book. I strongly disagree with that unless there is a license that you must read and agree to with each book you purchase that is similar to what you do when installing software. I believe that what should be the case, if it is not, is that my ebook purchase should be exactly like a paper book purchase. That is, when I am through with it, I can lend or give it to a friend to read. I can even sell it at a flea market or give it to my local library. The technology is there to prevent me from making copies of my book to distribute to multiple friends at the same time. There should be only one copy of my book circulating at any given time. That's the way paper works.

Now let me tell everyone why that is my wish if not a reality. As ebook readers become more popular, I may want to give books as gifts to friends and relatives at Christmas or other occasions. I think that gift certificates are tacky. I want to gift the real thing. With a paper book, I buy one over the internet or a local book store, take it home, wrap it, then give it. Why can't I do likewise with an ebook? I own a Sony 600 reader which accepts memory cards. Why can't a publisher sell a card with a book or series of books burned into the flash memory? I envision this packaged similarly to paper books with the cover artwork on the package and including the infomational text that is usually on the cover or paper jacket of the book. The flash memory would be protected in a way that prevents it from being copied. Of course, hackers could probably defeat the protection, but then paper books can also be copied or scanned. So the paper vs ebook analogy still stands.

Do others on this site have similar thoughts? As with music, I suppose that the publishers see more profit if they force everyone who wants to read a book to buy it themselves. However, with the right marketing stategy, I'm not sure that's true. In the early days of video games (think Atari), the more protection applied to a game cartridge, the quicker it appeared on the hacker websites. The pirates wanted the bragging rights of having cracked the codes. Also, in the days of vinyl records and cassette tapes, it was easy to copy music, but most people perferred to have an original copy just to get the album cover. So, I'm not at all convinced that restrictive use of ebooks is the best policy. In any case, I'd really like to be able to buy ebooks the same way that I can paper books.

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Old 10-04-2009, 07:32 PM   #2
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I agree entirely, at a bare minimum I want the same benefits I would receive when purchasing a paperbook when I purchase an ebook.

Some computer game companies have similar kinds of rights management. For example 'Steam' software allows you to log into their server and play a game you own from anywhere. The limitation is that you cannot have 2 instances of the game running at the same time, so you can't share your username/password so 2 people get to play the game simultaneously.

Now the problem with that kind of DRM arrangement is that it requires constant communication with a central database via the internet. That means that if you cannot connect to the internet to authenticate you cannot use the book. The internet is 'pretty much' everywhere nowadays, but not everywhere.

Therefore her is the system I propse: you 'checkout' your books for your devices, and check them back in via the internet. The book remains on your reader (if you so desire) but only 1 instance of the book can be checked out (active) at a time. If you have internet at your house you can easily check the book in, and ring up your grandmother and she can check it out and you have lent it to her. She can then go somewhere without internet and still use the book.

Ideally the book will work on numerous devices, so any ebook or computer device can check out/check in the book. So I can download some software and checkout a book on my laptop. You could make it default to checking the book in when you close it. Really the other kinds of complex DRM are just a pain, this method gives us the same paper book rights and should keep publishers happy.

Edit: Of course the ugly part of this scenario is when a publisher running the authentication system goes out of business what happens to our checked in books?

Last edited by fugazied; 10-04-2009 at 07:37 PM.
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Old 10-04-2009, 08:54 PM   #3
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The obvious reason is that an electronic copy is _another_ copy of the item, not necessarily the original item, as with a paper book. There is no practical way, other than DRM, to restrict you from making multiple copies of a digital file and giving them away, while keeping the original.
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Old 10-04-2009, 09:08 PM   #4
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Even if you could buy a ebook on a card it would make a lousy gift.
Its just physically dull and does not represent the book like a paper-book represents its content.
Maybe they could make some nice looking packaging for ebooks, but that possibility is far in the future.
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Old 10-04-2009, 10:43 PM   #5
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Thanks for the inputs

Susan, I am not suggesting that DRM be dropped. The technology exists to allow what I am suggesting and still allow only one copy of a purchased work to exist. This is especially easy with expansion memory cards such as the Sony PRS-600 accepts. I have a Sony Mini-disk player recorder and Sony has done this with it. Music must be checked in and out of your computer in such a way that only one copy can exist - either on the computer or on a mini-disk. I can check the music onto a mini-disk and give that to a friend to listen to. I believe that they could check it into their computer (not sure of that), but that would cause a check out from the mini-disk and it could not then be returned to me. It might require an update to the reader's firmware, but that is simple, too. Fugazie's suggestions would be needed for the Kindle to offer this ability because it doesn't accept memory cards. Although, it could probably be implemented like the mini-disk and allow the book to be burned to a CD or written to a flash drive as a check-in/check-out procedure.

Finally, I agree that just gifting a memory card would be dull, but I had in mind packaging that looked like a real book, but had a memory card inside. The package would look like a paperback book cover and the back of the package would have the normal text that you find on the back of a paperback book. I know that the market would have to grow far beyond where it is now for this to be practical, but I can dream, can't I? Perhaps a publisher of ebooks will read this thread and decide to offer such books. SD cards have gotten very cheap. USB or Flash drives are even given away to promote products. So the price of such a book should not be more than the price of a paperback and copy protection can be built-in.

Please chime in on this thread. The discussion should be interesting.

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Old 10-04-2009, 10:56 PM   #6
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I remember way back Palm selling books on SD cards. Don't remember if DRM was involved or what the books were. Don't remember how popular it was. I have one around here somewhere.

I'm sure as ebooks gain popularity you might see something like this, especially with traditionally pbook stores like B&N getting into things. What would be more likely would be a card (similar to a greeting card) with the books cover art, with a redemption code in it which would probably make the DRM aspects easier to handle.

Last edited by AnemicOak; 10-04-2009 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 10-05-2009, 12:25 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schmolch View Post
Even if you could buy a ebook on a card it would make a lousy gift.
Its just physically dull and does not represent the book like a paper-book represents its content.
Maybe they could make some nice looking packaging for ebooks, but that possibility is far in the future.
It's just a pain in the ass designing cover art to put on an SD card label.

I'm often amused by worries about reproducibility. In my opinion, the fault is really with the payment systems, which are structured around finite product quantities. It's amazing how much work companies will go to in order to defend their payment systems. They try to cripple forward-moving markets in hopes of keeping a predictable old financial model.
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Old 10-05-2009, 04:46 AM   #8
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Ebooks on SD cards

I once (a long time ago) bought an encyclopedia Britanica for my Dell Axiom at a Staples on a SD card. It came in a nice package with all the details and the card had Encyclopedia Britanica and their symbol on it. I would have been more than happy to have received it as a present. The same way I would an ebook. If I wanted to, I could have shared the encyclopedia with whom ever I chose just by loaning/giving him the SD card, just like a real book. I remember I did try copying it and that it had some basic DRM. I didn't try very hard, it was more just in case I lost or damaged the original. I believe ebooks would do well in this style but would need to come in mutiple formats to make them useful.

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Old 10-05-2009, 07:08 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darylbrayman View Post
I once (a long time ago) bought an encyclopedia Britanica for my Dell Axiom at a Staples on a SD card. It came in a nice package with all the details and the card had Encyclopedia Britanica and their symbol on it. I would have been more than happy to have received it as a present. The same way I would an ebook. If I wanted to, I could have shared the encyclopedia with whom ever I chose just by loaning/giving him the SD card, just like a real book. I remember I did try copying it and that it had some basic DRM. I didn't try very hard, it was more just in case I lost or damaged the original. I believe ebooks would do well in this style but would need to come in mutiple formats to make them useful.

Regards, Daryl
It reminds me of when I first picked up one of those old clunky green-screen Nintendo GameBoys. I looked at the cartridge and thought, "holy crap, you could put books on these". I'm sure I'm not the only one to have thought of that. Having a physical container for the books, even if it's something simple like a gameboy cartridge or an sd card, definitely adds something to what I perceive as "value". I've considered taking old old SD cards with pitiful storage (8-32mb, what they used to bundle with some of my previous cameras), toss on a few custom books, and give them as minor gifts, possibly stuck inside a good paperback or hardcover book.

Those little SD cards are much nicer in the back of a paperback than a big ol' cd.
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Old 10-05-2009, 09:08 AM   #10
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For reference, SD=Secure Digital. The SD specification was an expansion of the MMC spec. One of the additions was a built-in hardware DRM mechanism. The intent was to fill up a HUGE 64 Mb card (cue irony) with a hardware protected library of books or music and sell it. It never caught on, but it's still there.

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Old 10-05-2009, 11:06 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dave W View Post
One poster said that you only buy a license and don't really own the book.
That is false.

Quote:
I strongly disagree with that unless there is a license that you must read and agree to with each book you purchase that is similar to what you do when installing software.
Actually, that isn't true either. Courts (at least in the US) have already ruled that if you are not expected to return the material, then it is a sale. Regardless of what the site you are purchasing it from says. It doesn't matter if they call it a "license", if they are selling you the material with the understanding that it is yours to keep, then it is a sale and you own that copy. If they tell you up front that it has to be returned or is only valid for a limited time (which they don't), then it would be a license.

According to the way that every eBook seller I've ever seen advertises their products, the customer owns the product.

Quote:
I believe that what should be the case, if it is not, is that my ebook purchase should be exactly like a paper book purchase. That is, when I am through with it, I can lend or give it to a friend to read. I can even sell it at a flea market or give it to my local library.
According to copyright law, you can. The only thing preventing such use is DRM.

Quote:
The technology is there to prevent me from making copies of my book to distribute to multiple friends at the same time. There should be only one copy of my book circulating at any given time. That's the way paper works.
Unfortunately, DRM goes beyond just preventing multiple copies. It also prevents fair use and the right of first sale, which would otherwise be legal. DRM does a lot more than attempt to protect copyright.
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Old 10-05-2009, 09:53 PM   #12
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Thanks, Shaggy

Your comments just reinforce what I am saying, or at least thinking. I didn't mean to imply that software licenses deny ownership, but just limit what that ownership includes. For example, you can only use it on one computer, even if you own several and are the only user. That may not be enforceable, but it is part of the license agreement that you agree to before the software will install. My contention is that ebooks are not software, but merely a different way of publishing a book. So when I buy the ebook, I want to be free to do with that book everything that I could do with a paper book. If DRM is more restrictive, the publishers are "cutting off their noses to spite their faces" to use an old phrase. I really believe that, as long as the restrictions don't go too far, ebooks will catch on and people will do more reading (and buying books) than they do now with paper books. When the publisher prevents you from giving, loaning, or sharing the book, that publisher is actually reducing his market, not increasing it. Also, there is much more incentive for enterprising hackers to break the DRM and distribute illegal copies. After all, it is easy to copy or scan a paper book, but how many will go to that trouble when books sell for a reasonable price or you can borrow a copy from the local library? The same goes for ebooks.

I realize that I'm on my soapbox here, but I hope that if enough of us talk about this, the publishers will take notice. At least I hope so.

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Old 10-05-2009, 10:10 PM   #13
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Actually, DRM allows 4-6 copies, depending on the system, if I remember correctly. That is better than what pbooks offer. I hope we slowly move to an EPub standard, then the books can be used on virtually any device without removing DRM. That would be great as a preliminary step before everything can be sold DRM free.
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Old 10-05-2009, 10:46 PM   #14
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Actually, DRM allows 4-6 copies, depending on the system, if I remember correctly. That is better than what pbooks offer. I hope we slowly move to an EPub standard, then the books can be used on virtually any device without removing DRM. That would be great as a preliminary step before everything can be sold DRM free.
"But the cage, it so pretty! And it offers protection from predators. It's better than being free!"

Your ability to lend out your paper book is based more than anything else on the way the physical universe works.

Your ability to lend out your DRM'd eBook is based on how Sony's CEO felt after reading the last quarterly sales report.

- Ahi
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Old 10-05-2009, 10:54 PM   #15
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"But the cage, it so pretty! And it offers protection from predators. It's better than being free!"

Your ability to lend out your paper book is based more than anything else on the way the physical universe works.

Your ability to lend out your DRM'd eBook is based on how Sony's CEO felt after reading the last quarterly sales report.

- Ahi
That cage comment seems to describe Apple hardware users much more than Epub users. You should read on, I said this was a stepping stone to a DRM free world. Of course, I would prefer DRM free books and full resale rights. That won't happen very soon, so Epub seems to be the best interim solution to me. Just pointing out that you can lend DRMed ebooks, and that usage rights for lending are more generous than for pbooks. We should alsways be fair. Anyway, it was not my intent to start yet another thread of why we have DRM!

Besides, for all practical purposes Epub is DRM free, if you so desire.

And you can authorize 5 devices with Sony LRX, even though Sony's CEO has been feeling VERY bad after every quarterly sales report for almost 2 years, now.

Last edited by HansTWN; 10-05-2009 at 11:01 PM.
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