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File Sharing > How does DRM affect the reading experience?

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message 1: by Brenna (new)

Brenna Lyons (BrennaLyons) | 93 comments Mod
People who follow the internet news will ask about the problem of e-piracy, BitTorrent, and so on. What are the pros and cons of secured formats? Sadly, the pros are few and the cons are many.

Does DRM/Digital Rights Management affect sales of e-books. Yes, they do…negatively. When one of the owners of Fictionwise was keynote speaker at EPICon in OK City, he stated the following. Secured formats cause ten times the number of customer service calls, when compared to unsecured formats. A customer who has a problem with a secured file is ten times less likely to purchase secured formats again.

In addition to problems opening the secured files and reading them, customer complaints about DRM include:

The inability to use a file they rightfully paid for on all devices they own personally. Secured formats are difficult or impossible to pass from device to device.

The inability to back up and safeguard those files, in anticipation of catastrophic loss.

The inability to cut or copy and paste from a resource book protected by DRM, when citing material in a scholarly study…or when using a recipe from an e-book version of a cookbook. Some might argue that you have to hand type in from a paper book, but the fact is the unique advantages of e-books are stripped away by DRM.

The inability to make the e-book into an audio book, which is important for vision impaired readers.

The inability to print and read on the go from paper.

The added expense of DRM, which is passed along to the reader, in the form of higher prices.

Some people in the industry believe that DRM is the only way to stop content piracy, but the truth is that DRM punishes honest purchasers, in a vain attempt to stop criminals. There is currently no DRM that cannot be broken. When a new form comes out, it is usually broken within a number of weeks and the hack…or the unlocked copy of the file is passed around.

Is piracy a problem? Yes…a major one, in some cases, but the DRM isn’t going to stop it. Further, it’s not just e-books that put up with pirates. Paper books are routinely scanned into recognition scanners and pirated as e-books. That’s why you can find e-book copies of Harry Potter, when Rowlings has repeatedly refused to release the books in e-book formats.

Thankfully, most indie presses do not use DRMd books, so readers don’t have to put up with the inconvenience and higher cost of secured formats, when dealing with indie press.

message 2: by Rowena, Group Owner (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
Guido got me thinking.

He is in favor of DRM at the moment.

I've also just been reading 9 pages of fascinating opinion (and a lot of fallacies) on Tenenbaum

Someone on Page 8 (I think) plaintively asked what he could legally do with his music, and I answered (Anonymously) that he could play it on his own equipment, for his own enjoyment...

Then I suggested that he read the incredibly long Agreement that we all have to sign before accepting any internet software upgrade or purchase.

Recently, too, someone mentioned that when one buys a Kindle ebook, Amazon skips all the copyright info and defaults to Page One of the novel.

It seems to me (and I'm probably not the first to think of this)....

Instead of DRM, there should be a simple contract with the reader. The reader has to click "I Agree" before the ebook opens.

All the agreement would have to say would be

"I respect the author's right to control the REPRODUCTION and DISTRIBUTION of this ebook, and I promise not to create copies of this book by email, upload, on CD or DVD or any other method; I understand that I do not have "ReSell" rights and agree not to sell or share this ebook, either as is, or in a collection."

message 3: by Guido (last edited Feb 27, 2010 12:00PM) (new)

Guido Henkel (guidohenkel) | 54 comments Mod
What most people do not know or realize is that there are DRMs that do work and are very unobtrusive. Anyone who's ever bought an application for their Verizon phone has been subjected to it without even knowing. It is part of BREW, the underlying operating system on these phones. The really amazing thing about it is that the BREW DRM has been pretty much unbroken to this date and it's been used for the past 8 years.

It works with a digital fingerprint of the device, combined with a signature by the phone carrier, in essence. It is a bit more complex like that under the hood, but to understand its working, that's what it is. When purchasing an app, a digital fingerprint of the device is created and sent to the carrier. The carrier then creates a unique signature for the application on that one device and installs it with the application.

If you copy the app to a different phone, the signature will show that the fingerprint is wrong and the app no longer works. Fiddling with the signature doesn't work either because no one knows how it is created, and finally jailbreaking the phone won't work either because it still won't affect the fingerprinting, as the device unique ID and let's say "cutomer ID" at the carrier uniquely identifies the device.

Amazon could have implemented something like this in the Kindle... and they should have, if you ask me, and so should the other eBook readers. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the hardware guys don't care enough about DRM - it is not their field of expertise - and the marketing guys don't push for it enough because the hardware guys never tell them what could and could not be done.

But, if every eBook reader device would have such a proper unique digital handshake, a large portion of the eBook piracy that is looming ahead of us in the years to come would have been avoided.

message 4: by Rowena, Group Owner (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
Guido, that is amazing.

I know nothing about DRM, apart from the resentment it has caused in clumsy applications.

I suppose BREW has a patent? Can one buy BREW stock? LOL!!! Should you suggest this to the White House Czar? I think so. Link on the What You Can Do discussion.

Sorry for the point-to-point, Guido!

message 5: by Guido (new)

Guido Henkel (guidohenkel) | 54 comments Mod
BREW is owned by Qualcomm, one of the largest cell phone chip makers in the market. So, yes, you can buy Qualcomm stock. The DRM is merely part of a much bigger thing they have going, but you know, thinking of it, maybe they should take a look at it and maybe spin it off, because it is so effective.

I will have to talk to them about this.

message 6: by Rowena, Group Owner (last edited Feb 28, 2010 04:44AM) (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
OK. Buying QCOMM.

Seriously, although I don't like DRM from what I've heard of it, if BREW is well tolerated by phone users, QCOMM ought to talk to AAPL and BRG (Borders Group) and Barnes and Noble whose ticker symbol I forget. Also to NCR (used to be National Cash Register) who are talking about going in for booths in which customers can download music to CD onside.

message 7: by Zetta (new)

Zetta (zettab) | 7 comments Mod
I like the idea of a "simple" contract too. Straight, to the point, and first thing they see so no one can say it was hidden.

The question would be 1)how to keep track of those who "agree", and 2)someone/something would have to see that it can't be cracked--like Kindle's DRM.

But I like the idea behind the eBay VERO improvement where it could be legally imposed on these torrent sites that they have to have a record of the current (c) holder and a "report this" or whatever on every page/download and risk losing everything if they don't comply.

message 8: by Guido (last edited Feb 28, 2010 03:14PM) (new)

Guido Henkel (guidohenkel) | 54 comments Mod
The contract is actually superfluous. It already exists in an implied fashion as we have copyright laws in place that disallow copying and sharing.

The problem is not that people are not aware of the fact that they are doing something wrong, it is that they don't care. Putting an agreement in front of them does absolutely nothing to deter them, it's like the FBI warning on movies that nobody reads. In fact, all these agreements and notices do is get in the way. Again, all you're doing is penalizing those who actually do play fair and never pirate works because you still force them to see and acknowledge the agreement.

I'm just not a big fan of the approach that one bad apple should spoil the experience for everyone, when in fact it should be the other way around.

message 9: by Zetta (new)

Zetta (zettab) | 7 comments Mod
People don't read contracts that are long and full of legalease. Eyes glaze over, people fast forward. Whether the read it or not, the fact that it is short, in plain language, and clearly visible is the point.

Yes, many people just don't care. If they choose to ignore it, they can't say "they weren't warned" or "didn't understand."

There are laws in place. I just wish they were enforced on those who blatantly break them and not watered down by the time the judgement comes in.

message 10: by Rowena, Group Owner (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
The discussion on Monday's Richard Curtis blog seems to be focused on how much everyone hates DRM, and how DRM creates piracy.

message 11: by Rowena, Group Owner (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
Zetta wrote: ".... the fact that it is short, in plain language, and clearly visible ..."

I heard, Zetta, that the copyright warning is not clearly visible on e-books on Kindle. It would be interesting to learn whether other retailers manipulate e-books so that they start on page one of the story, and skip the front matter.

If it is true, I'm astounded that publishers haven't objected to what is, in effect, censorship of an important part of the publishers' implied contract with the reader.

message 12: by Guido (new)

Guido Henkel (guidohenkel) | 54 comments Mod
It is true. If you open a book on the Kindle it immediately jumps to the beginning of the text, skipping over the cover and the front matter. You actually have manually go back to see it.

One way round that might be to put the legal stuff in the back, but yes, I think I need to send a note to Amazon about that.

message 13: by Rowena, Group Owner (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
I think that every author whose publisher has placed books with Kindle needs to send a note to their publisher.

I'm about to send Madris DePasteur (who is wonderful) of New Concepts Publishing a note about Mating Net

It takes a bit of brainstorming to help one think of such action!

message 14: by Rowena, Group Owner (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
Did it.

Every author who reads this should take a moment to notify their own editor or publiusher.

message 15: by Guido (last edited Mar 02, 2010 02:39PM) (new)

Guido Henkel (guidohenkel) | 54 comments Mod
Just in case anyone's interested, I have just sent an email to Amazon ( on the subject, and thought I'd post it here as a blue-print, in case anyone wants to take it as a template.

"It has come to my attention that with its current firmware version, upon opening an eBook, the Kindle completely skips the cover as well the legal front matter found in books. As an author and publisher of eBooks am not too happy about this default behavior of the device, because these things are there for a reason.

Not only does the cover artwork help set the mood for the book, the people creating books do have a right to get their names seen and recognized. It is the reason why there are credits in book, just as there are opening credits in movies.

In addition, there are various legal aspects that you completely override here. eBooks are prone to being pirated and the legal matter in the front of the book reminds people that it is not simply unethical but rather illegal to copy and distribute copies of these books. Again, by way of comparison, there is a reason why DVDs have a forced FBI warning in front of their feature presentations.

I understand that this behavior has probably been implemented to make the Kindle experience as pleasant as possible, and as such it is certainly laudable, but I would like to ask you to reconsider it in order to also accommodate the needs and wishes of the authors and publishers, as well as to avoid potential legal liabilities that may result from this default behavior."

message 16: by Guido (last edited Mar 03, 2010 10:46AM) (new)

Guido Henkel (guidohenkel) | 54 comments Mod
I received a response from Amazon this morning already, regarding the above mentioned email - and it turned out very differently than I expected. They say, they are aware of the issue and are working to fix it.

Evidently the problem stems not so much from the Kindle firmware but from the mobi format. Apparently the mobi format has a meta data tag that is called "Start Reading Location" that identifies the beginning of the book.
Certain software packages that create mobi files, apparently set that pointer to the incorrect location, skipping the front matter. To avoid the problem, Amazon recommends to either use KindleGen to create the mobi file, or to upload your Kindle files in HTML format instead.

As I said I was very surprised by the answer, as it shows that Amazon is clearly concerned about the issue as much as we are.

message 17: by Rowena, Group Owner (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
Thank you for sharing this, Guido.

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