Tag Archives: IP

Digital EBooks going bad

Publishers wonder why consumers balk at Digital Rights Management in new media? An article in the NYT highlights that publisher HarperCollins sets the "life time" to ebooks in libraries to 26 loans. After which they expire and become sunk costs for the library.

As someone who benefited from books buried in University libraries that have been lying there for a century and that have certainly passed more than 26 pairs of hands, I find that I am appalled by artificial restrictions like these, which are obviously designed to increase turnover at the expense of taking customers control over assets they bought. When I own a book, I want to own it as long as it keeps together (or until I decide that I don’t need that book anymore). Unlike DVDs which can only be played in a certain region, I can read my books all over the world. I own books that I have inherited from my Grandfather, something which apparently would not be legal with much DRM’d media).

Digital content is more fragile than physical assets anyway: hard disks crash, backup disks disappear or become unreadable, and technology moves on (what am I supposed to do with my 5 1/4" backup floppies again?). And now, you want me to artificially shorten the life time of those as well? Plus, DRM’ed media require by definition proprietary software that checks and enforces these. Which most of the time means, that people that use Linux (like me) are out of luck reading the books. And once the viewing software stops being supported, your book gets worthless too. That doesn’t even need to be Windows 3.1 software, no. It suffices that online DRM servers go down, such as the media DRM servers at Microsoft, Walmart, or Yahoo, the Major League baseball, ebooks using Overdrive, or computer games from Ubisoft have been doing.

This increases the power of publishers to do things as deleting bought ebooks from your devices, as had happened with Amazon deleting `Orwell’s 1984 (of all books) from Kindle devices..