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April 24, 2012 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Tor/Forge, the Science Fiction and Fantasy subsidiary of Macmillan, has announced that it is going DRM free on all of its ebooks. Mefi's own Charles Stross shares a presentation he recently made to executives at Macmillan that may have partially influenced this decision. Stross had previously predicted that publishers would need to go DRM free to prevent Amazon from gaining too much power in the ebook market.
posted by bove (74 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Basically "time to execute Plan B." (Plan A didn't work.)

I think this is a great move, and I hope this expands across Macmillan, and that other publishers follow suit.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:37 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Stross had previously predicted that publishers would need to go DRM free to prevent Amazon from gaining too much power in the ebook market.

Right, but then some were saying that they didn't think this was going to happen with the old-growth media execs.

So we get some subsidiary doing this. Toe in the water by Macmillan maybe, at best.
posted by circular at 12:38 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought Stross' discussion of how and why this move would work was spot on. I am one of the "voracious readers" that he talks about and so I am very happy that I will not have to worry about my collection of books being lost.
posted by bove at 12:40 PM on April 24, 2012


Baen Books <Mefi Previously> has been at it for a while not to mention their FREE books.
posted by pdxpogo at 12:42 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Toe Tor in the water by Macmillan

FTFY
posted by The Tensor at 12:43 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting, but will the experiment's results be generalizable? Wouldn't SF readers be considerably more likely to be DRM-sensitive consumers than the broader market?
posted by RogerB at 12:44 PM on April 24, 2012


Mefi's own Tor-published and Hugo-nominated jscalzi has posted some thoughts on the move on his blog Whatever, including an exchange he had with Tor Senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
posted by solotoro at 12:53 PM on April 24, 2012


A while back I started trying to work out what kind of forehead tattoo I'd need to register with Adobe to allow me to read my one or two Kobo book purchases on non-Kobo readers, and just got very depressed and took up drinking heavily instead. So hurray for this.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:54 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't really delved into ebooks yet, which is surprising because I'm generally an early adopter of digital media. I now refuse to buy games on disc because of digital distribution through Steam, GoG and Blizzard. I'm close to it for DVDs, but I will make the odd exception for certain shows I really enjoy. I don't mind the odd bit of DRM (Steam/Blizzard) as long as I feel the positives for me outweigh the negatives and it doesn't get in my way.

As far as ebooks go, I suppose not having a Kindle has stifled my adoption somewhat. Currently, when I want to read an ebook on my phone, sony ebook reader or iPad, I buy it from whichever site happens to have it for a reasonable price. Then I either load it into Calibre and try to transfer it to the device, or more often lately, I throw it onto my Dropbox account or an SD card.

Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to find what I want in one place. I tried to get a few books by Scalzi and Stross recently and needed to go to three different sites and spent two or three different types of currency. Certain sites would have one or two books in a series only. As I recall I still had to buy one in paperback. The whole thing feels like a mess. And maybe it is a bit of a mess because of all the different publishing agreements and rights holders.
posted by ODiV at 12:56 PM on April 24, 2012


Cool, now if they could offer digital books along with the hard copy, that would be great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:57 PM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


a copy of the King James Version Bible is not an acceptable substitute for "REAMDE" by Neal Stephenson

I can't take him seriously if he's just going to lie like that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:01 PM on April 24, 2012


Well, but if you go to the TOR website, they only link to Amazon, Apple, and B&N to sell their e-books.

Where do I go for these DRM-free e-books to subvert the Amazon/Apple hegemony?
posted by eugenen at 1:03 PM on April 24, 2012


As a young(ish) cog in the publishing industry who has been watching the digital fallout with mixed feelings, I've got to say that I'm pleased by this move. Most definitely a step in the right direction.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:03 PM on April 24, 2012


As Brandon Blatcher says, download codes would be a thing people are actually asking for. That or sensible pricing.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where do I go for these DRM-free e-books to subvert the Amazon/Apple hegemony?

They're probably waiting the the magic 'Instantly Turn off DRM" switch to be installed at the office.
posted by robertc at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool, now if they could offer digital books along with the hard copy, that would be great.

This is the thing that I want.

Look, I get it. Editing, formatting, and whatever else you do to the digital version to make it not suck (Joe Abercrombie, I'm looking at you and your horrible paragraph spacing) costs money. And I will gladly pay a reasonable amount for the e-book. But I'd much RATHER buy the regular book and pay an extra buck or two to start reading it right now.

And I've thought about it, and tried to figure out why? Why do I want the physical book? Ok, they smell nice, but whatever. And the e-version certainly fits in my pocket easier.

Part of it is that I (as a human) am a social creature. And my kindle doesn't let me be social with my books!
"Hey can I borrow that e-book?" "nope".
"There's someone reading a book on the subway, I'm just going to look over at the cover..." "nope".
"Hi, welcome to my house. Take a look at my bookshelf." "nope".

But also, books aren't tied up to my not-very-sturdy kindle and totally-a-real-company-but-hasn't-been-for-that-long amazon. Real books have lasting power, and so do un-copy-protected e-books.
posted by Phredward at 1:10 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Of course, then you might buy Harefoot FOR CHEAPER THAN THE EBOOK and use the download code, and they'd feel hard done by in some way.
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on April 24, 2012


Yah, if they offered download codes I'd just be filling my recycle box with books I bought and threw out to save money...
posted by Bovine Love at 1:21 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]




Good, I'm glad they did this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2012


Where do I go for these DRM-free e-books to subvert the Amazon/Apple hegemony?

You get in your time machine and spin the big dial about two or three months into the future.

From Scalzi's blog:
"...by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free...."

I wonder how long it will take Amazon to figure out a way to sell DRM-free books on the Kindle? They claimed that it was just 'too hard' when it was only a few authors (most notably Cory Doctorow) asking for it; maybe now they'll reconsider.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:32 PM on April 24, 2012


Interesting, but will the experiment's results be generalizable? Wouldn't SF readers be considerably more likely to be DRM-sensitive consumers than the broader market?
That's not the point. People in general might not think much about it, and anyway sci-fi readers are already buying tons of eBooks, with DRM.

What it enables is device portability. You buy a book on the Kindle Store, and you can read it on any e-book reader, or critically you can buy a book anywhere and read it on your Kindle.

That means, publishers don't need to rely on Amazon to sell their books. If a book is going to be DRM'd, it would only play on one "platform". So you release your book on the Nook, people with Kindle's can't read it.

Better for the consumer, well there are trade-offs for the publisher. But E-Book piracy is not really that big of an issue. If you look at, for example, textbooks (which are way over priced) the pirated copies are often just scans of the physical books anyway.

No one is going to bother pirating a 99¢ e-book that takes hours, or even tens of hours to read.

DRM really does nothing for publishers, it was just a way for Amazon to exploit paranoia on behalf of publishers in order to get a monopoly.

On the other hand, it will give authors more power over publishers as well. They'll be able to put their books up for sale on their own websites, and won't need publishers or even Amazon to sell them.
posted by delmoi at 1:34 PM on April 24, 2012


Where do I go for these DRM-free e-books to subvert the Amazon/Apple hegemony?

Probably Google.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:52 PM on April 24, 2012


I wonder how long it will take Amazon to figure out a way to sell DRM-free books on the Kindle? They claimed that it was just 'too hard' when it was only a few authors (most notably Cory Doctorow) asking for it; maybe now they'll reconsider.
There was an author in here earlier saying his books were DRM free. When you publish, you apparently have the option of not enabling it. Supposedly you can copy kindle books off your Kindle if it's not enabled.
posted by delmoi at 1:53 PM on April 24, 2012


It's as if restaurant owners (publishers) were so afraid of burglary that they let a lock-smith (Amazon) install a special lock on their front door and keep the only copy of the key. Result: customers have a hard time entering the restaurant, whose owner has to pay whatever the lock-smith feels like charging.

Good thing publishers are rethinking the strategy that led them to this mess.
posted by Triplanetary at 1:54 PM on April 24, 2012


Good thing publishers are rethinking the strategy that led them to this mess.

They didn't have a choice. If they don't go DRM free and Amazon The DoJ wins the suit against Apple, et. al., they've just become indentured to Amazon for all time -- or they get cut completely out of the Kindle market, which makes them, of course, sunk.

This flips that around. Suddenly, you don't need to have a Kindle or the Kindle app to read your Amazon books, so now, you're not beholden to Amazon to keep your books, and you can buy your ebooks wherever you want and use them however you want.

Hmm. That actually looks like a huge "Fuck You" to Amazon from MacMillian.

Hmm.
posted by eriko at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where do I go for these DRM-free e-books to subvert the Amazon/Apple hegemony?
posted by eugenen at 3:03 PM on April 24


and

I wonder how long it will take Amazon to figure out a way to sell DRM-free books on the Kindle? They claimed that it was just 'too hard' when it was only a few authors (most notably Cory Doctorow) asking for it; maybe now they'll reconsider.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:32 PM on April 24


make me think y'all think Amazon doesn't currently sell DRM-free books. They do (my small press Upper Rubber Boot only offers DRM-free books and, sadly, most of my sales come from Amazon). Now that big publishers are starting to grow suspicious of DRM, maybe Amazon will change their tune and start requiring it if you want to use their platform (or maybe not, since so many self-publishers hate DRM and Amazon makes a lot of money off them), but currently it's up to the publisher whether or not their titles have DRM on them.

I had high hopes that Smashwords would give a true alternative to Amazon/Apple/B&N, but they require you to use their ebook-making doohickey in order to sell epub or mobi files through their site, which I object to on the grounds that most of what I do is poetry and their poetry formatting is awful, so I can only use them for pdfs. Goodreads is a decent alternative, but they only sell epub (so if you want to read it on a Kindle, you need to use calibre or something like it to turn it into a mobi file) and their site can be confusing to navigate.

In my dream world, a not-for-profit, maybe a literacy organization, would put together a not-for-profit alternative that does what Amazon does, without the worrisome business practices, and uses their share to fund their continuing operations.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2012


Personally, (and I maybe alone in this) I would even be willing to pay up to a few dollars more to by a book version that includes a download code for the ebook.

That said, as a bookstore employee, returns would be complicated by download codes. Maybe they could be stored in a sealed sleeve like with companion cds. If the seal is broken, no return.
posted by drezdn at 2:04 PM on April 24, 2012


Checking the O'Reilly website to see if they offer DRM-Free books, it looks like do offer ebooks for a slight fee when you purchase and register your print book. It's $5 a book, but that's a savings of at least $15 on most books.
posted by drezdn at 2:07 PM on April 24, 2012


Yeah, I'm not really seeing asking Amazon to turn off DRM as a big threat to Amazon - they'd probably just say "OK" and do it and eat whatever costs came along with that, secure in the knowlege that they are basically the iTunes or Steam of books and people will come to them regardless as it's convenient.

It's also not like device transferability is a big problem for Kindle books right now, what with the number of apps and readers available. The real wall is that Kindles don't (easily) read EPUB. Now, if this successfully makes that a reason to not get a Kindle then I'll be happy, because they'd go ahead and support it. Not holding my breath there.
posted by Artw at 2:09 PM on April 24, 2012


That said, as a bookstore employee, returns would be complicated by download codes. Maybe they could be stored in a sealed sleeve like with companion cds. If the seal is broken, no return.

Or on a scratch-off panel on the back cover; the same technology is already used on iTunes/Amazon gift cards.
posted by acb at 2:16 PM on April 24, 2012


I agree that Amazon probably doesn't care if the files have DRM or not. If Amazon sells DRM-free books, but they're stuck in the .mobi file format, it won't make much of a difference if it's DRM free or not because I'll still have to use Kindle to read it, so it's still tied to Amazon.

I can hope that Apple, Nook, Google Play and other e-readers make .mobi files readable in their software.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:25 PM on April 24, 2012


I think I'll just leave this here and leave it up to the readers to do what they will. Information just wants to br free.
posted by pdxpogo at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2012


I can hope that Apple, Nook, Google Play and other e-readers make .mobi files readable in their software.

Calibre can convert them easily. There are plug-ins that strip DRM as well.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:39 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now can someone please make an ebook browser application that doesn't suck as hard as calibre?
posted by aspo at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2012


But we shouldn't have to convert ebooks in order to enjoy the benefits of being DRM free. Especially if the same amount of effort could be used to strip the DRM in the first place.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:44 PM on April 24, 2012


It's pretty equivalent to iTunes selling AAC files instead of MP3. Inconvenient if your player doesn't handle it, so people move to players that do.
posted by smackfu at 2:54 PM on April 24, 2012


But we shouldn't have to convert ebooks in order to enjoy the benefits of being DRM free.

Being able to convert is one of the benefits of being DRM free. Industry standardization on a single format would be nice, but two is manageable. It'll be interesting to see what Amazon does if more publishers follow suit, though.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:55 PM on April 24, 2012


Of course, why Amazon might care is that they're on the verge of edging the old kindle format out in favour of the more EPUB like KF8, which I;m not sure comes in DRM-free flavour.
posted by Artw at 2:56 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a smart move that I will be throwing money at.
posted by Zed at 3:28 PM on April 24, 2012


This is good news and I can easily believe that Our Very Own cstross's presentation had something to do with it; it certainly convinced me. Under the old model the publishers were effectively saying "Hey, we don't want our customers to own these books - so will you please own our customers instead?"

What they really should do is figure out a way to let people trade in their purchased DRM books for DRM-free ones - each of which would have a link to a publisher-owned website.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:00 PM on April 24, 2012


As kind of a digression, I've done some light research and don't see any compelling reason for both .mobi and .epub files to exist at all..... it seems like everyone but Amazon likes .epub. Is there an actual reason for this? Is either filetype notably superior? Or is the .epub preference just the network effect?
posted by Malor at 4:37 PM on April 24, 2012


EPUB is basically HTML, and allows for more formatting - which may or may not be a good thing depending on who you ask. EPUB usually ends up being bigger than MOBI, but since we are generally dealing with small filesizes here anyway that may not be a huge problem.
posted by Artw at 4:41 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Serious question - do any of these formats at all offer any meaningful advantage over PDFs?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:02 PM on April 24, 2012


PDFs are bulky and do not reflow - basically they suck.
posted by Artw at 5:06 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Aren't PDF's stuck with a single font size / type and background color? Not easy to read on a smartphone.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:07 PM on April 24, 2012


At this point PDF isn't even a standard in any meaningful sense; it's basically all of postscript plus arbitrary extensions pulled out of Adobe's many orifices over thears and on top of that, it's a container for any content type anyone at Adobe found convenient at the time. There's a reason that even Adobe can't make a stable PDF reader. I suspect it may be provably impossible to make a stable PDF reader.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:09 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


("overthears" == "over the years")
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:09 PM on April 24, 2012


If you try to read PDFs on a small screen, the type is microscopic. They just don't work very well on ereaders.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:15 PM on April 24, 2012


Plus once you've zoomed in, depending on the reader and layout, scrolling can be painful and slow.

A lot of RPG material is only available in PDF, and it all has a lot of background graphics and funny formatting, and in the end I usually end up just printing it - which is really what PDFs are for anyway.
posted by Artw at 5:34 PM on April 24, 2012


PDFs are cumbersome but software for reading and annotating them is presently quite more advanced than other eBook readers. Two pieces of software I rely on include the open-source Skim and the iOS/Android app iAnnotate.

Using these pieces of software, I can use export my annotations to XML and then manipulate the individual annotations in software like Eastgate Systems' Tinderbox, which allows for export to any format you damn well please.

The de-DRMing of eBooks will make it much easier (read possible) for users to choose which software they'd like to use to generate information from their eBooks.
posted by mistersquid at 5:38 PM on April 24, 2012


Serious question - do any of these formats at all offer any meaningful advantage over PDFs?

Absolutely. PDFs are designed to display exactly the same everywhere. They do this by having a fixed page size, fixed font sizes, etc, with no resizing possible without horrible hacks. PDFs have basically no business being on an e-reader, and the only reason people try so hard to make it work is the sheer amount of PDFs already out there.

Whereas ePub, Mobi, etc., are designed to let the device lay out the text, so that the font size and page layout can be changed, making them a lot more flexible.
posted by jcreigh at 5:39 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, once these formats are liberated/deDRM'ed, it's easy enough to have a style template to format PDFs specific to a target device.

For example, take a .MOBI file, convert it to RTF/HTML, open it up in a wordprocessor, format the file for your intended device (tablet, phone, laptop, desktop, paper if you must), print it to PDF, use your PDF reader to mark it up and transfer those annotations to a different piece of software.

The primary benefit of this process for me was that I was able to annotate texts, mark passages, and quote text and make it available for my teaching and my research. I also made much of this information available (to students) on the web.
posted by mistersquid at 5:44 PM on April 24, 2012


>Hmm. That actually looks like a huge "Fuck You" to Amazon from MacMillian. <

Kudos. You get it. Although as many have noted, it was already posited that this had to happen. They are just being very proactive in waving the middle finger.
posted by twidget at 5:52 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always convert the PDFs to my reader with Calibre.
PDFs are great on a big screen, a lot less so on a reader.
posted by twidget at 5:54 PM on April 24, 2012


A good pdf that has been properly OCRed and linked is quite good, but a bad pdf is the worst.
posted by fuq at 6:38 PM on April 24, 2012


I didn't really follow the politics behind digital music essentially going DRM-free a few years back, so I'd like the hivemind's input on something. Do you think DRM on e-books is at all analogous to DRM on music? And even if it turns out that we get the same end result, will it happen for different underlying reasons?
posted by jcreigh at 6:51 PM on April 24, 2012


Well, it happened faster in music, because you could already buy the exact same product without DRM, losslessly compressed. It was called a CD. And people had been through a couple of generations of players, and were realizing that DRMed files were designed to bite them in the ass.... the Microsoft PlaysForSure DRM comes to mind, which wouldn't work on Microsoft's own player, the Zune. The fustercluck finally got deep enough that people were switching over to the DRM-free Amazon MP3 store, in preference to iTunes, and I believe that's much of why iTunes dropped its DRM.

On the ebook side, I see this first tentative change as being driven more by publisher revolt than by customers, because most customers are still on their first reader, and haven't yet tried to switch brands. So they don't yet realize they're getting shafted with locked files. Many of them have been quite angry about the high prices, but I think the DRM issue would have taken a couple more years to become really pressing.

In other words, I think it would have happened for the same reasons that it happened in the music industry, just not yet. This is an earlier shift, being driven by the book publishing industry, which may, just possibly, be smarter than the RIAA.
posted by Malor at 7:52 PM on April 24, 2012


Actually I think dropping DRM on music was not initiated by Apple, but by the labels. By having DRM the customer was locked into Apple. By having the biggest seller of music locked to the customers, the labels were also locked into Apple. Although Jobs favoured being DRM free, I think it was he really loved music and wanted the companies to survive and, quite frankly, being welded to Apple was not their best option. Ultimately, it would likely backfire on Apple as well.

It took the music companies a while to realized that if a single vendor controlled the players and media, they were kinda screwed. Looks like MacMillan has figured this out too, especially when that whole control-prices through a third party thing didn't work out as planned.

This is, I think, good for consumers and the publishers who will be able to leverage Amazons and Apples hardware without being held hostage to their business model. I think it gives a better chance of settling on a sustainable, but reasonable, price.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:11 PM on April 24, 2012


Heh. For everyone bitching about the DOJ. Isn't it far better for the consumer that DRM be removed then publishing companies collude to price-fix?
But we shouldn't have to convert ebooks in order to enjoy the benefits of being DRM free. Especially if the same amount of effort could be used to strip the DRM in the first place.
That's like saying you should be able to play CDs in your tapedeck. Not everyone needs to use the same technology. In theory, conversion can be done on the fly when you transfer your files over.

No DRM does not mean files magically transfer themselves without you doing any work.

Also people, it is possible to reflow some PDFs. Not all of them, of course because in some cases a PDF might just be images from a scan.
I didn't really follow the politics behind digital music essentially going DRM-free a few years back, so I'd like the hivemind's input on something. Do you think DRM on e-books is at all analogous to DRM on music? And even if it turns out that we get the same end result, will it happen for different underlying reasons?
I think one of the major reasons why DRM was pulled from music players was that it just didn't work. You couldn't take music and put it on any device. Microsoft came out with a system called "PlaysForSure" and then they came out with the Zune, which couldn't play audio with that protection, and had it's own.

The other big difference was that mp3s really started out in the form of piracy, so tons of people had access to tons of music without stores. The crappy DRM just made people try to stay away from it. With eBooks, they really got started in a major way through the Kindle Store. So the lack of compatibility out there isn't as big of a problem, everyone is using the same device.

Apple did have a kindle-like position with iTunes and DRM. Their system worked so long as you stayed in the closed iTunes ecosystem. And the publishers did realize they were getting shafted. But at the same time, there was a lot of demand from consumers for DRM free music. I don't really see too much complaining on behalf of users for DRM free ebooks. Most people are pretty happy with their Kindle.
posted by delmoi at 8:57 PM on April 24, 2012


jabberjaw: "But we shouldn't have to convert ebooks in order to enjoy the benefits of being DRM free. Especially if the same amount of effort could be used to strip the DRM in the first place."

PUBLISHERS WE ARE TALKING TO YOU. You want an alternative to amazon? Make an ebook library program for books that is a joy, bundle it with a cross-platform mobile applications that syncs reading positions across devices, allows saving snippets of text, bookmarks and page tagging.

Oh... Amazon has all of this figured out already (except the DRM part)? Amazing that I continue to give them my money.
posted by stratastar at 9:01 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh... Amazon has all of this figured out already (except the DRM part)? Amazing that I continue to give them my money.
Amazon's system works fine with non-DRM content.

But here's the thing: If you had some kind of system like you're talking about that didn't have DRM what would happen if you wanted to transfer a file to a device that was owned by another person?

If you can't do it, then how can you say it's DRM free? If you can do it then isn't there a huge risk that books could spread 'virally'? Rather then saying "hey, check out this book!" and the person buys it - people would just send each-other copies of the file, the way they lend books now.

It's hard to believe that publishers really want true freedom from DRM. I think what you'll see instead is a sort of "soft" DRM. Like the NYT's "payfence" or content on youtube. It won't be difficult for a technical user to bypass (Use an incognito session to read as many NYT articles as you want, and you can use various download tools to get videos off youtube).

But they're not going to want to make it easy to copy files from device to device freely, rather you'll see a "sync" that lets you keep files you own on devices you've registered to yourself, but not let you send those files to other users.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 PM on April 24, 2012


The nook actually does let you share ebooks with other users, except my understanding is it works just like lending a book... When they borrow it, you can't access it. It's only on certain books.
posted by drezdn at 9:38 PM on April 24, 2012


Rather then saying "hey, check out this book!" and the person buys it - people would just send each-other copies of the file, the way they lend books now.

Um, delmoi? People do that already. DRM is the tiniest of speedbumps.
posted by Malor at 10:26 PM on April 24, 2012


In mass market, DRM is a lot more then a tiny speed bump.

Also, "..there was a lot of demand from consumers for DRM free music.". If by "consumers' you mean a tiny segment of the market who actually did more then click buy and then listen to their ipods/iphones then sure. I think "a lot" probably rates under 1%. They have sold over 10 BILLION songs. Sure some of those people wanted to give their songs to friends, but only the tiniest percentage gives a shit about buying music on Amazon and figuring out how to get it on their iPods (which they could do anyway), and only a vanishingly small percentage cared about getting music from Apple and putting it on their non-iPods, seeing as almost not one owns/owned a music player other then an iPod after the first couple of years (well before the disappearance of DRM in music). They whole consumers want DRM free music thing is an echo chamber effect.

It is easy to forget that music and books are truly mass market. The majority of people they want to buy this stuff (and who are buying it) are barely able to manage where they store their files (and aren't very interested in it). They are a very very very long way from people who even use a discussion board.
posted by Bovine Love at 3:56 AM on April 25, 2012


It's only on certain books.

Yeah, the Kindle has the same, but unfortunately "certain books" seems to mean "none of the books I've ever purchased". I think Amazon / B&N announces these features but the publishers aren't on-board (because every lent book is a lost sale, right?!) so only small publishers do it, or certain books where Amazon makes a special deal to use them as an example.
posted by smackfu at 5:46 AM on April 25, 2012


Um, delmoi? People do that already. DRM is the tiniest of speedbumps.
"People" may do it, but what would happen if every single person were able to do it? I think you're vastly over-estimating how good the average person would be at DRM stripping.
posted by delmoi at 6:16 AM on April 25, 2012


so only small publishers do it, or certain books where Amazon makes a special deal to use them as an example.

Looking through which books offer lendme on the Nook it does seem like a decent number of books from major publishers offer it. The entire Hunger Games series is available, for example and the Percy Jackson series, both which are pretty big right now.

That said, you can only lend out a book once.
posted by drezdn at 6:21 AM on April 25, 2012


Also, "..there was a lot of demand from consumers for DRM free music.". If by "consumers' you mean a tiny segment of the market who actually did more then click buy and then listen to their ipods/iphones then sure. I think "a lot" probably rates under 1%. They have sold over 10 BILLION songs.
Apple sold over 10 billion songs. I specifically talked about Apple as an exception. Also, 10 billion songs in 10 years at 99 ¢ each isn't all that much compared to the business they were doing with CDs. Not by a longshot. Remember, each CD sold for $8-$14. A billion songs equivalent to maybe 100 million CDs? In 2005 they sold 300 million CDs in the US, 750 million in the top 20 nations. In one year.

Anyway, like I said. The problem wasn't with Apple and iTunes, it was with everyone else. No one wanted to buy DRM'd music for players other then the iPod. So that meant the music industry had to either ditch DRM or be permanently locked into Apple.

You don't see the same problem with eBooks, as far as i can tell. People are fine buying a book on Nook or whatever.

Maybe it has something to do with how books are consumed. At least personally, I rarely re-read a book. So if I lose it to DRM that would be annoying, but not the end of the world. Losing music due to DRM failure or device failure or whatever would be well, it would also be annoying but to a far greater extent. And it's definitely happened with various schemes and licensing servers and the like.

Another part of it is that people trust Apple and Amazon to support their products indefinitely. That wasn't the case with non Apple DRM'd music players. It doesn't seem to be as big of a problem with non AMZN e-readers.

posted by delmoi at 6:49 AM on April 25, 2012


Clearly there is the same problem with eBooks, that was the whole point of the publishers complaint, that Amazon was dominating the sales, same as Apple.

I still don't get where all this consumer demand for DRM free is. I can find a ton of complaints from computer-saavy people, but the rest of the world barely knows what it is, or not at all. You tell them, oh, the books you bought on Amazon can't be put on your and they'll be "oh, ok". Not to mention, you can get your kindle books on your iPad anyway, helping Amazon further cement their grip.

I really think trying to spin the retreat from DRM on books or music as remotely being because of consumer demand doesn't have much evidence.

posted by Bovine Love at 6:57 AM on April 25, 2012


I still don't get where all this consumer demand for DRM free is.
Like I said, customers might not have understood the concept of DRM completely, but they did get that if they got music from somewhere other then iTunes, it was going to huge pain in the ass to get it to play. On the other hand, they understood that if they got an MP3 off the internet, it really would "Play for Sure" on pretty much any device.

So, when Amazon started selling DRM free music, they called an MP3 Store, and it was pretty successful. People knew "MP3" meant "I can play this wherever". It was as quick, easy, and convenient to use as piracy and it actually had a better selection then major torrent sites like piratebay.

Customers probably don't care so much about "DRM" as a concept, what they care about is whether or not their stuff will work. With the Kindle, you have almost as much guarentee that your stuff will work as with an MP3 file (So long as you have a Kindle, a Windows PC, Linux PC, Mac, iOS device or Android device - which is basically everyone)

The same thing was true of iTunes if you have an iOS device.

But the problem is, if you want to sell DRM'd books today, you have to sell through Amazon. If you want to sell DRM'd music, iTunes is really the only choice. So really DRM didn't chain the customer to the publisher, what it ended up doing was chaining the publisher to the hardware maker.

To a lesser extent, it also created a lock-in effect for customers who wanted to buy legitimate content, because they can't easily move from one 'store' to another. With Kindle, they can use any device, but they can't use books they get from B&N and get the same features as with Kindle.

On the other hand, if they get a DRM free book from B&N or wherever, they can upload it to their Kindles or Amazon cloud libraries or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 7:25 AM on April 25, 2012


I don't think we are communicating.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:20 AM on April 25, 2012


UK too... Tor UK E-book Titles to Go DRM-Free
posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on April 25, 2012


MetaFilter: very proactive in waving the middle finger.


And in case I haven't pointed this out before, Daniel Keyes Moran has a new-ish web store set up to sell his own books and those of others: http://fsand.com/Store.aspx

I bought one of his books And It Went Just Fine. Actually, I did a friend a favor and as payment I had him buy the book and email it to me. I had asked the author beforehand about how to have someone buy me a book and he was just fine with this method. (I pinkie-swore not to share it.)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:29 PM on April 25, 2012


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