If you want to skip to the heart of my complaint scroll down until you see the horizontal line break. Having said that… I’ve never been a fan of DRM or digital rights management as I’m an IT geek and tend to have a lot of devices that I use, and I like to take my content with me. This battle was fought in the music industry back in 2007 when Steve Jobs wrote an open letter to consumers and advocated them to push for DRM free music: http://www.apple.com/fr/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/
Needless to say consumers as a whole are like me and want to be able to take that song they bought and play it on an Android, Windows Phone, iPhone, or <gasp> a BlackBerry. We don’t want to have to re-buy all of our content when we switch devices. That same battle hasn’t however been fought in the e-books industry.
As of today if you purchase e-books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble those books are protected with DRM. This is awful for a number of reasons:
- Vendor Lock In
- Ask any economics professor if consumers are rational and factor price heavily in to a purchasing decision and you’ll hear one consistent answer: YES… Now if you buy in to that one platform and have all of your content there, but a competitor has the same item for $10 less will you switch? That Barnes and Noble e-book won’t work on my Kindle and I don’t want to buy a Nook so I may be stuck paying the extra $10. If that content was DRM free that wouldn’t be an issue.
- Hardware Limitations
- If I buy from X can I use this on device Y? With DRM locking you down you are at the mercy of the publisher to fully support that platform
- Licensing Limitations
- If I purchase this e-book will I be able to use it on all of my devices? Will there be an artificial limit as to how many devices can use it? Does it only work with the publishers application? Typically these answers aren’t great:
- Publishers can limit the number of downloads you receive:
- “Subscription content can only be downloaded to one Kindle at a time and cannot be accessed from Kindle for iPhone.”
- Reading Limitations
- If I’m relying on the vendors software does it have all the options I want? If there wasn’t DRM in the mix we would see more open competition between software companies to add new features to their reading applications. For example can I freely copy and paste content from one ebook to another application? Doh – DRM’d.
- Archival Limitations
- Have you ever seen old news paper articles cut out and saved for personal reasons? You better hope that publisher and the platform you bought in to is still around and that DRM is still working. At one point I had an Audible.com subscription and just wanted to save a WSJ Daily News recap for when my kids were born so they could listen to what was going on in the world that day. It was DRM’d and I just gave up on the idea. My kids wouldn’t have my username and password to login, the license probably wouldn’t work by the time they grew up and were even curious, and it quickly became clear it wasn’t worth the effort. Why couldn’t that have just been a MP3 that would play everywhere?
- Not to mention questions about previously purchased content disappearing if you cancel should never even come up (regardless of outcome):
I’m sure I could go on, but I should probably cover the issue that possessed me to go on this tangent…
Yesterday (9/10/2012) I wanted to purchase an e-book for one of my MBA courses, which ironically enough covers economics: http://amzn.com/B005K24ATK
This paperback is selling for the low price of $157.95 and is a nice light 736 pages of content. As much as I’d love to lug that around with me and hold that book up in bed as I read at night I decided I’d buy the Kindle edition. It was only $112.69 so I’d immediately save $45.26, I could read it on more devices, and I wouldn’t have to lug a heavy book a class. Sounds like an easy choice, right?
That publisher has restricted that book to only work on the following devices:
Don’t ask me why the Kindle Paperwhite is showing up in the list when I haven’t received it yet (and its display wouldn’t support a print replica e-book). Meaning I had to go out and download a Windows 7 Kindle PC application for my Windows 8 PC. The publisher won’t allow me to use an Android tablet which is just as capable as an iPad to read a book like this, I can’t use my HP TouchPad tablet, I can’t use their web based Cloud Reader application, and I can’t use the Kindle application that’s in the Windows 8 store.
I’m fully aware that this a publisher limitation, but Amazon needs to be accountable for this as well. Jeff Bezos is a visionary/genius and I have no doubt that he had to use DRM to establish the industry. Now that he has been wildly successful and there is a strong e-book marketplace it’s time that consumers once again demand that they receive DRM free content when they hand over their hard earned money. It happened in the music industry and I look forward to it eventually happening here as well. After all is to really too much to ask that I can read my legally purchased ebooks on the tablet of my choosing while laying down in bed?