Does DRM Prevent Piracy?

Back in April 2012, Tor books decided to abandon DRM schemes and begin releasing all of its books DRM-free. A year later, in 2013, Tor summed up its approach to piracy and the results after a year (emphasis added),

But DRM-protected titles are still subject to piracy, and we believe a great majority of readers are just as against piracy as publishers are, understanding that piracy impacts on an author’s ability to earn an income from their creative work. As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year.

The move has been a hugely positive one for us, it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern—and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community. And a year on we’re still pleased that we took this step with the imprint and continue to publish all of Tor UK’s titles DRM-free.

At least one company gets it.

Why Don’t Printed Books Come with DigitalCopies?

Alexander Telander wonders why printed books don’t come with ebook versions as well. After all, even the movie industry has seen the light on this,

Take for example the recent release of the movie Moonrise Kingdom. The special Blu-ray edition includes a copy of the movie in Blu-ray, a copy on regular DVD, a digital copy that can be downloaded with a code, and even an Ultraviolet copy allowing you to be able to access the movie in the cloud to stream and download onto tablets, smartphones, computers and TVs.

Of course both Digital Copy and Ultraviolet streaming are polluted by DRM. The license for the Ultraviolet copy only guarantees access for one year after purchase, and both options place severe limitations on which devices and under what conditions you can watch the movie.

Leaving that aside, at least the movie industry is paying some sort of lip service to the idea that when you buy a physical product you might also want a file or streaming option that should just come with the movie. Why don’t publishers do the same thing?

As Telander writes,

Included with each print copy of the book is a sealed code in the back of the book for a copy of the ebook version. When the customer gets home, he or she can choose to start reading the print book edition, or decide to leave it for a spouse or offspring or even a friend to enjoy. The customer then takes out the sealed code in the back of the book, goes to the directed publishing website and enters the code to download the ebook version of the book to his or her tablet, smartphone or ereading device of choice.

I’ve been arguing for years that publishers should do something like this, but for the most part the publishing industry seems to have been enthralled with the idea of blindly repeating the mistakes of the music and movie industries. There have been a number of small efforts among niche publishers to actually provide digital copies of books with printed books, overall the failure of the publishing industry to do so has been a huge mistake.

Why don’t they do this? Telander notes that a typical family is not going to buy multiple copies of a DVD or a book for everyone in the house who might be interested. Rather, a typical family is going to buy a copy of a book and then one person is going to read it and pass it on to the next person, etc. As Telander argues, even a DRMed ebook that let me buy Harry Potter once and let everyone in my household read it would probably be fairly popular; in the long run, it would likely increase book sales.

But that’s not how publishers tend to see it. Rather, when my wife shares her Harry Potter novels with my son, all publishers seem to see is a lost sale. Don’t forget that back in 2002, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers both attacked Amazon because of the retailer’s practice of linking consumers with sellers of used copies of a book from that book’s product page. The Authors Guild even asked authors to stop linking to from their websites.

Similarly, the Authors Guild in 2009 railed against the Amazon Kindle’s text-to-speech feature because it created a “derivative work” for which authors were not compensated for.

It is because of such stupid short-sightedness that we can’t have nice things like an digital copy with every printed book, but of course in a few seconds of search I can grab a torrent of every physical book I purchase.

Open Source Alternative to Kindle-Style Syncing?

Over the past year or so I’ve been buying a lot of books through Amazon’s Kindle store. The selection is great and removing Amazon’s crappy DRM — so I’m not locked into Amazon’s model — is extremely easy.

Here’s the thing, though — the Kindle app is actually pretty good. I especially like how Amazon syncs the last page I’m reading between multiple devices. Being able to go from my laptops to my phone to my iPod to my Android devices and instantly pick up where I left off is awesome.

At home I run Calibre in server mode so I can easily download/transfer any of the thousands of book I own in Epub or PDF format, but there’s no live syncing of where the reader is in a book.

Anyone know of an open source solution that accomplishes this sort of syncing? I’m guessing PDF is a lost cause, but surely this is possible with Epub. Has anyone created an open source system that will sync last page read across multiple devices with Epub formatted ebooks?

Why It Is Better to Pirate Rather Than Buy

Teleread has a look at an all too typical case of what happens to people who are honest enough to actually put their hard earned money down and pay for ebooks crippled by DRM.

Then I bought an iPad, and suddenly reading eBooks began to crowd out my paper book reading. I wasn’t alone. By Fall 2010 there were new reading apps coming out every few weeks to target the excited iReading populace. I happily downloaded all of them and tried each one out, looking for the perfect eReading experience. Then I ran into a problem.

My iPhone wouldn’t let me authorize any new apps that utilized Adobe’s DRM. I had run out of the allotted authorizations. By March of this year, I began to contact Adobe to fix the situation, but each web case was “withdrawn”, which is to say “dismissed without solving”. I called tech support on multiple numbers and each time I was told that they only supported Adobe Digital Editions via the web. Some helped me open a case for Tier2 support, yet each of those web cases was withdrawn.


. . .


I had to delete the app and reinstall it. As I feared, this caused problems when reauthorizing with Adobe. I got the dreaded “Adobe Activation Request Error 2004”. I was locked out of  my library book. I started calling Adobe again, getting the usual runaround. The one time I thought I finally got help was when a tech  said he would happily reset my account, but just reset my password instead. Today I got another “Withdrawn”. Adobe would not reset my activation account for love nor money.

I think it is clear what is going on here — The Pirate Bay has clearly infiltrated content and software companies. They don’t want satisfied, paying customers. Rather, they want to create such an awful experience for average consumers that everyone gives up and just torrents everything.

It’s sad, really.