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Old 04-11-2006, 12:42 PM   #1
NatCh
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e-book Packaging Question

I've mentioned this before in other forums, but I'd like to get community reaction to an idea I have. I've been thinking for a while, that a good way to approach the Intellectual Property Protection (I'll call it 'IPP') for e-books might be to tie them to physical tokens.

Please hear me out.

SD cards have the ability to implement the same copy protection use on DVD's (though I don't think anyone has yet done so), so it would apparently be possible to do some sort of media hardware based IPP for e-Books.

The question is, how would folks feel about buying their e-books in cheap, low capacity (<4M or some such) SD Cards (or similar), with some sort of IPP tied to the physical media?

This would allow trading/sharing/reselling books, just like paper. It would also allow storing bookmark and annotation information on the "book" itself, so it would travel to other e-readers with the book. Online sellers could allow a time-limited (i.e. one that would expire) download so you could start reading while they mailed you the physical "book." You could still have cover art and plot blurbs on the packaging for browsing at the local bookstore. Stores could even allow you to browse part of the content in the store, for those who like to read a random page to get an impression of the author's style.

I'm just thinking this would allow almost all the traditional prerogatives of owning paper books, fit my entire library in a shoebox, and go a long way toward protecting the content from the perspective of the publishers & authors (I know some industry types read these boards too, and I'd love to hear that perspective on the notion).

Thoughts?

Last edited by NatCh; 04-11-2006 at 12:48 PM.
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Old 04-11-2006, 01:02 PM   #2
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Great idea.

but imo for some people this will be like MD vs iPod

MD is great, but it can only store so much music. to have more, u'd have to carry tens or hundreds of MDs. for some/many people, this is too much hassle in the digital world.

iPod is great because it can store thousands of music in a small device, without the bother to change cds/MDs.

so to have 1000 books in 1000 SDcards is just not as convenient to have 1000 books in one memory card. (while convenience is one major sell point for ebooks; and in direct comparison: mp3s)

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Old 04-11-2006, 01:32 PM   #3
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The idea is sound, and it is a feasible soulution.

I'm not too keen on it however. the main reason is, that i'd hate to carry around lots of "easy-to-lose" SD cards. Having the book "ship" on an SD card is ok, but taking along a device and a couple of those flimsy cards...I could live with it, but I wouldn't like it.
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Old 04-11-2006, 01:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luag
Great idea.
iPod is great because it can store thousands of music in a small device, without the bother to change cds/MDs.

so to have 1000 books in 1000 SDcards is just not as convenient to have 1000 books in one memory card. (while convenience is one major sell point for ebooks; and in direct comparison: mp3s)
That is an excellent point, and I expect that the answer to which is more important is going to be different for different folks.

However, consider that mp3's are a bit different from books in that they only last for 2~4 minutes each, so an audiophile has a very strong need to carry thousands of mp3's around with him. Books, on the other hand, last a bit longer per "file," so the need to carry a huge number of them around at once may be low enough to offset that somewhat. Then there's the detail that SD cards themselves are really quite small, so you could carry even as many as a dozen or so fairly easily; particularly if the reader had storage slots build into its cover as my PalmPilot's case has.

Those who wish to carry around their entire libraries would be disappointed (or have to get a shoebox), but others might not be too bothered by that trade-off.
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Old 04-11-2006, 01:52 PM   #5
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DRM files is bad, on sd card or on simple file.

I don't have a pda with sd (just MS) and I don't think I'm alone on this.

Also imagine in 4-5 years, are you sure that the ebook you have on your sd card would be readable? Are you sure that sd card will exist ?

This is even worst thant actual drm, it attach you to a physical device even more.

Just look at the Baen mean of selling ebooks, do you think there is a lot of piracy on their cheap drm free ebooks?
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Old 04-11-2006, 01:55 PM   #6
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I can just see some readers hanging off the shelves by a chain in a bookstore, like earphones in a music shop, where you could pop in the SD card to have a browse... I think it's a good idea, if the reader can handle both files and cards you'd always be able to load plenty of other files (from Project Gutenberg, for example) on to your device, and as you say, carry several book cards with you with little effort. There would have to be a software available to make backup copies of your cards (using a licence key to enable copy?), or some way to protect yourself from loss of the same, in the same way you can photocopy your book, just in case your dog eats it (it's happened to me, sigh). I'd be worried the cost of the card would make the books expensive, though. How likely is that?

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Old 04-11-2006, 05:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaHuguet
I'd be worried the cost of the card would make the books expensive, though. How likely is that?
I can't say for sure, of course, but I saw a 1Gb card for <$50 in the store just the other day.

My reasoning runs something like this: if the entire works of Shakespeare can fit on a 3.5" floppy (1.44Mb), they ought to be able to cram a single book into less than 4 Mb (especially if the text itself is encoded in an all text markup language like the OpenReader standard), and I'd think such small cards would be cheap to make if there are high volume customers (such as publishers) ordering them....

Last edited by NatCh; 04-11-2006 at 05:31 PM.
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Old 04-11-2006, 05:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filip
I don't have a pda with sd (just MS) and I don't think I'm alone on this.

Also imagine in 4-5 years, are you sure that the ebook you have on your sd card would be readable? Are you sure that sd card will exist ?
I'm not trying to insist on SD cards, that was just to frame the discussion. I don't really care what the media is so long as it's fairly industry standard. (I don't think that MemoryStick comes anywhere nearly as close to being an industry standard as SD cards do )

That said, I very much see your point about longevity of the media or the file type, but that applies to any media, really. I do think SD Cards will be around for a while as they're used in a lot of things. They'll probably enjoy similar longevity to USB connectors -- i.e. untill something better comes along. And if it's in wide usage, it'll hang around longer -- new PC's still have serial & PS2 ports, for instance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by filip
DRM files is bad, on sd card or on simple file.
...
This is even worst thant actual drm, it attach you to a physical device even more.

Just look at the Baen mean of selling ebooks, do you think there is a lot of piracy on their cheap drm free ebooks?
I also agree that DRM-less would be best, however, I don't think the publishers and authors would necessarily agree (BAEN is unusually enlightened here, which is why most of my non-Public Domain e-books are BAEN -- and can you really 'pirate' the stuff they give away free with permission to distribute?). I'm just seeking some kind of middle ground that would meet the needs of the consumer and still let the sellers make a living on their work, that's all. I'm trying to think of it more as a way to make stealing the work more difficult, while at the same time keeping the prices low enough to make stealing it unattractive, and the IPP unobtrusive enough to not interfere with the use of the product by the consumer any more than a paper book would.

Realistically, I don't think that we'll get fully DRM-less e-books for quite some time. I'm hoping to find a way to accellerate the full scale entry of e-books into the marketplace alongside the paper variety. If I had to physically have a card of some kind in order to read what I otherwise would have to physically have a hunk of paper to read, I could live with that, personally, but then, I've gotten used to the idea.
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Old 04-11-2006, 06:12 PM   #9
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but I saw a 1Gb card for <$50 in the store just the other day.
Phew! That's what I thought, you see, if they're selling downloadable e-books for 7 dollars (sometimes more, occasionally less), adding the price of a card, even if it's a small one, plus shipping and distribution of those cards, might well make e-books more expensive than paperbacks... not a good start for the market to take off. I mean, I might still buy some, for example, for the simple fact that I find it very difficult to get hold of English books where I live (Spain), but I'd have to cut down on the amount, that's for sure.

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Old 04-11-2006, 06:31 PM   #10
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Ah, but you're not considering the cost of printing a paper book, which I believe is a fair chunk of the cost of making them, and bulk shipping costs should be lower too, with the weight reduction....

If anyone has some better idea how much of a book's cost is printing, please share.
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Old 04-11-2006, 06:40 PM   #11
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I think the actual cost of the card would be pretty low if they mass-produce them...you can get 1GB CF cards here for around 30Euro (and those aren't even noname cards) so it should be fairly easy to make them cheap...but it is of course a cost-factor.
Where i see the problem is the whole design idea. You can't just sell a bunch of unmakred cards. You'll have some sort of mini-cover design on each one...and a big box to put it in...and a plastic wrapper to put around that...and lost of pictures and text on the package and on the booklet that they will also want to add...and then you need to pay for the paper, pay for the ink, pay for the designers that layout the whole thing and do the cover picture, then add the price for the cards, DRM, profits all round....well...you can see where this is going...

I'm sure it wouldn't be quite that bad...but look at chocolate...buy a box and then make two heaps...one of chocolate and one of packaging...^^
or computer hardware...look at what they do with those insane retail packages...you can hardly find the product in there most of the time...I only every buy retail when i can't find bulkware....with retail never know what to throw away and what to keep...

Computer games went the right way recently with those DVD-style cases that contain everything you need...but that's just one thing...marketing wants to make differnt products different...and if they aren't so different you have to make the boxes different to show the different...
now I'm differing...or am I dithering???
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Old 04-11-2006, 09:19 PM   #12
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I guess the medium itself inexplicably aids or impedes duplication, and consequently aids or impedes convenience for the consumer.

Having the SD card medium would make sense to those who want something tangible (albeit physically small) for their money. For the lifespan of this card, the book would be useable, and could duplicate the funtionality of a book, except for the reading part.

But it has its downsides as brought up succintly by Luag!

I personally would choose digital format that can be moved around as opposed to one stuck in a card.
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Old 04-11-2006, 10:20 PM   #13
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I personally think DRM is a passing fad in the industry and it will probably go mostly extinct within 10 years. DRM tends to just piss the consumers off too much and causes people to not buy a product. This has been seen with audio CDs. It is only going to be worse if people start buying things they can't copy, or that will disappear or potentially be unusable in 5-10 years. DRM also inhibits fair use far more than is even remotely reasonable. Lastly, any DRM made will eventually be cracked, rendering it useless.

And heck, what does DRM really stop anyhow? Studies show that people who download pirated files largely are influenced to buy more than they otherwise would. There is almost no evidence that piracy has harmed the industry; instead the industry has just blamed piracy on its own failings. Eventually the industry will adopt to the new higher tech market, and hopefully that will involved it churning out less crap (which is one of the reasons why some industries pursuing DRM have actually done bad). Right now industries pursuing DRM are acting like consumers are idiots, but they aren't idiots and the consumer knows that if he doesn't pay for a product, then he is unlikely to get more of that kind of product in the future. This is certainly part of why everyone I know that pirates tends to buy the software they pirate--the exception being if the software is garbage, but that stuff shouldn't do well anyhow.

In short, there is no good reason to have DRM and plenty of reasons not to. Sure, there will be some files that are used by more than one person, and there will be the occasional freeloader who hardly buys anything. These are more the exception than the rule.
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Old 09-06-2006, 12:02 PM   #14
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When thinking about the cost of printing - dont forget the cost of storage and distribution also. When printing you have to pick a print run size, then perhaps a second edition if the book sells well or pay for pulping it it doesn't - a dirt cheap disposable medium would be preferable, so the idea is sound
a possible alternative however, just as there are second hand book shops - there could also be second hand ebook shops without a physical medium IF there was a standard DRM based on say device hardware that could be "sold" or de and re registered by an audited online seller, rather than a publisher - perhaps even a charity seller- I've bought some good reads in Oxfam before now :-)
Publishers or sellers could even provide a service if you wanted to transfer or give an ebook to a friend ... this all assumes online access of course!
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