Tag Archives: the great drm debate

Friendly authors

I think my new cause is supporting authors who are actually open-minded.  I never had anything against writers who were defenders of “the old ways” – I completely understand when writers generally prefer typewriters or notebooks to laptops.  And even being opposed to the idea of the so-called revolution in reading brought on by the electronic book isn’t so bad.  (Even though I think authors are foolish to think they can prevent it from happening.  It’s happening… paper books may not disappear forever, but we know now that it’s not the only option.)

But instigating violence against forward-thinking people simply because one prefers traditional methods?  That grievously offends me.

That’s why I’m going to be keeping an eye out for writers who are notably supportive of the e-book.  I don’t necessarily mean that they have to be willing to hand out free digital copies of all their stuff.  I mean writers who are supportive of all their readers (two-way street, please), and recognizing that their readers still want to read their work but are asking to be able to read in the manner which pleases or conveniences them most.  It means making your works available in several formats and not complaining that bookstores are the only way in which you can interact with your readers because that’s just making excuses, and bad ones at that.

I would say that my current favourite Friendly Authors are:

  1. Neil Gaiman: partly because he’s my favourite contemporary author, but also because he seems to be the most accessible writer I’ve ever heard of.  For someone who’s so incredibly popular (pretty much world-wide), he’s really interactive on his award-winning journal and on Twitter too!  Now that’s a way to interact with your readers without clinging desperately to the brick-and-mortar institutions.
  2. Cory Doctorow: not because I’m particularly knowledgeable on his works (actually, I’ve read one… short story) but because I think he’s really quite brave to post Little Brother and some of his other works online for free.  He’s also a well-known supporter of more liberal copyright laws, filesharing, and the Creative Commons, and an opponent of DRM.  I promise to read at least Little Brother, in support of Doctorow.

And just now I’ve been reading about Bradley Denton, whose famous book Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede is being made into a movie starring Jon Heder.  Boingboing shared that Denton has posted a PDF of his book on his website in an effort to make his work more available to readers.  The link is in the article but Denton’s website doesn’t seem to be working at the moment (overloaded, maybe?) so I won’t link to it… but comments on the Boingboing article also share several other links which might work.

That’s all for now.  I feel like that was sufficient drama in the e-book world.  Now time to enjoy the weekend.

P.S. Yes, I’m still way behind on Infinite Jest (30%).  In my defense, my sisters having been borrowing my Kindle because there weren’t enough copies of their summer reading books at the library – Native Son and East of Eden.  Yet another Kindle WIN – no chance of all the library copies being loaned out.

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E-Book competition

Unless you haven’t been on the Internet for about nine months (and if that’s true, why are you reading my blog? Don’t you have slightly better things to do, like catch up on lolcats?) you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about the e-book industry.  If you haven’t noticed I’m pretty invested in the Amazon Kindle 2 since I’ve had it for about six months now.

David Pogue compared the new Barnes & Noble e-book program to that of Amazon and quite clearly concluded that Amazon is the much better deal, what with the much better selection of books, overall better pricing, and the fact that Amazon actually has a dedicated reader device out on the market right now.  Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, just now re-emerged in the e-book market and still hasn’t put out their device, the Plastic Logic reader.  Also, according to Pogue, B&N’s reading software (for BlackBerry, iPod/Touch, or PC/Mac) is confusing and difficult to navigate.  I haven’t used it so I can’t comment on it, but I’ve always loved how the Kindle is so easy to use.

To be fair, Amazon doesn’t have everything I want to read.  Prime example: the Harry Potter series.  I read the series at least once a year and it’d be nice to have my hardcovers in pristine condition on my bookshelf.  See? – I’d even pay to have the hardcovers AND e-book format.  Other books that are notably missing as of today: Catch-22, The World According to Garp, most of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works as well as those of Umberto Eco, all of Rand except for Anthem, and most of Orson Scott Card.  In some cases (such as Harry Potter), the author/publisher has outright refused to allow his/her/its works to be available in e-book format – and there’s not much we can do about that except continue to buy e-books in hopes that they’ll realize they’re losing sales.  In others, it’s simply a matter of ironing out the details and getting the rights worked out – for example, Tolkien’s works just became available for the Amazon Kindle a few months ago.  (It was April – I remember because I blogged about it.)

And of course there’s the issue of DRM restrictions.  So far Amazon has been a champion of it.  For the most part I haven’t had any strong opinions – if I had been one of the people who’d had 1984 deleted remotely from my Kindle, I’d probably be somewhat pleased because I’d have a refund to spend on another book – or to buy 1984 from a legitimate source!  And to be quite honest, I’m kind of siding with Amazon on this one, since it turns out the publisher that sold the redacted copies was never authorized to do so and was selling them illegally.

However, DRM-free literature (and other media) is undoubtedly important to a lot of people.  I figure I might one day want the ability to read my library on several different devices without having to buy the books in several different formats.  There is also a limit to the number of devices to which you can download the works you’ve purchased – n.b. not the number of times downloaded, but the number of devices.  So I suppose it means you can delete works off your Kindle and re-download indefinitely, but you can’t have 6 Kindles on an account (or several Kindles and some Kindle iPhone apps) and use them to share all the same books.  One guy found out the hard way, but at least we all know now.  It does suck, though, that he had to find out through what seems to be a difficult and stressful process.

Finally, there’s the idea that you can’t share your library.  Personally, I don’t share my library that much, except for a few romantic bestsellers with my mom.  I do think, though, that pretty soon Amazon will at least start to lift their restrictions, much like Apple eventually had to (let’s hope it happens faster this time though).  I think it’s much more an issue that Amazon insists on selling their books in the proprietary .azw format, which is only supported by the Kindle or the iPhone Kindle app.  In the last few days it’s come out that Sony is going to offer their books in the open ePub format, which is readable on most other e-book readers out there (but not the Kindle, if I understand correctly.) It’s also rumoured that Sony is coming out with a wireless capable device by year’s end – that’ll be interesting to see because one of Amazon’s biggest selling points for the Kindle (hey, it worked on me) was the ability to purchase books anywhere, instantly.

My guess is that Amazon will fold under pressure and offer books in an open format/without DRM, or they’ll come out with programs for more devices, such as the BlackBerry and PC/Mac.  It looks like the trend is really leaning towards more open formats – if we can learn from The People vs. The Music Industry.