where the writers are
Avast! E-book piracy, part two - better fools.

There's that great tongue in cheek saying, and I think it applies wonderfully to the idea of DRM, that "fool proof plans just make for better fools."

When it comes to E-book piracy, one of the ideas publishers have come up with is the DRM. DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) is more easily understood as a kind of format specific file (ie: your kindle book in kindle format) that is locked from being tampered with and from being played with a different device - which unfortunately includes your own devices, if you have more than one (it's the digital equivalent of saying you can read your physical paper book at home, but you can't leave the house with it, if you can bear my clunky and not quite perfect analogy). It makes the file impossible to copy or pass along from one device to another - so that'll absolutely impede pirates from passing it along.

Makes sense, right?


Here's where I'm coming from with this attitude: the only person you're punishing here is your legitimate client, by making it harder for that client to get the book they'd like to actually purchase. There are few things as annoying for someone who reads e-books as having an e-reader and finding out that - for the purpose of this one particular book you'd like to read - you bought the wrong e-reader. Kindle format only - it's an Amazon Exclusive!

Yeah, that's not a feature, that's an annoyance.

Meanwhile, the pirates out there download some easy software, crack the DRM, and convert the file to the .epub format your e-reader will read, and upload it to a torrent somewhere.

What's the lesson the publisher is teaching the client? "I won't supply this to you the way you want it. The pirates will."

Now, I won't put all the blame on the publishers here - sometimes they're pressured by the big boy e-tailers (though they can also create and sell books directly from their publisher sites, which is awesome). The device manufacturers and the e-tailers are just as guilty here. Everyone wants an exclusive product to sell. In most business models, that's even a good idea. But with a digital product that someone can easily hack and then make available for every platform, limiting the platforms you can legitimately use the product with? Very bad move.

It's also one more expense in the making of an e-book (okay, make that book in .epub. Now make it in kindle format. Now make it a pdf. Now make it in the Sony format. Now... It's like being back in the days of laserdisc, VHS, and Betamax).

I actually went with buying a Kobo because they seemed to be the device most attuned to being "open." They read .epub and .pdf, and for the most part, everything I've wanted to find I've found from somewhere (legitimate) in one of those formats. There's been one book I wanted to read that I could only get from amazon in their kindle format (which pissed me off). But I'm a reader, and I like to support my authors, so I got the Kindle App for my iPad and iPhone - just for that one book - and read it that way. I didn't enjoy using my backlit screen to read the book, but I loved the book.

But it definitely made me think twice. If I'd had the saavy, I might have cracked that file - after buying it, mind you - and turned it into an .epub, but I'm not that saavy, and like I said, the Kindle app, though not brilliant, was good enough for reading one book.

I do get why publishers and e-tailers want to make it impossible to copy an e-book. I even agree. The middle ground I'd love them to find - but I don't think there's a technological equivalent - is to be able to move the file, not copy it, just move it. If that worked, you could loan the book to a pal just like you can with a physical book. "You should totally read this!" is a mainstay of the book culture.

DRM, on the other hand, is the unwelcome idiot neighbor. It just pisses of the (legitimate) customers. And I'm willing to bet it barely offers a cresting wave for the e-book pirate. Will making the formats easy and DRM free hurt sales and increase piracy?

Not according to TOR. The ultimate goal they're apparently aiming for is to make the customer happy. And let's be honest - a happy customer comes back, and purchases again. Legitimately.