Teaching us to be criminals.

I’m an owner of a Sony Reader, but this whole setup applies to just about any combination of eBook software and hardware out there. It’s frighteningly common; I’ve heard variations from a lot of people.

Step 1: Gosh, I’d like to read Title A and Title B on my fancy new eBook reader. I’m really happy with the library software I have. 1
Step 2: Oh, look. My device reads ePub. Both the Sony store and B&N support ePub. It’s an open standard! Yay!
Step 3: Wow. Title A is cheaper at Sony, and Title B is cheaper at B&N. Hooray for capitalism!
Step 4: Buy an eBook from each location.
Step 5: Find out that each one has a different DRM scheme, so no matter what library software you use, you can no longer access your entire library.
Step 6: Screw this! I paid money for those books!

And here’s where it gets bad for everybody. If “screw this” is followed by the person throwing the eReader to the side, then everyone loses. The customer loses, the sellers (and authors) lose, and it’s just silly. Or the reader turns to pirate sites, since everyone’s out to get them. Or (and it’s arguable if this is “bad”), the person searches for “remove DRM from Sony” and “remove DRM from B&N”, finds out how to do it with a few simple programs2, rips the DRM off and happily goes on buying eBooks where they’re sold and reading them.

Except in that last case, they’re violating federal law. Whoops.

Realistically, the DRM crap does not (and has never) really stopped pirates. The only thing it really does is try to trap you into buying from one supplier. That ain’t a free market, folks. That’s some poisonous crap that is there for someone to get extra profits. Not profit because they’re making a better product or giving better service. No, they want to be paid more because they’ve limited your choices.

This is pretty damn obvious to the average person. Oh well, we think, apparently the law is stupid. And so we merrily go and circumvent the law – either by haunting pirate sites (which I strongly discourage) or by buying eBooks and breaking the DMCA in order to read the stuff we bought the way we want to. We learn that the law isn’t really that important anyway – and that’s a bad thought process to encourage. But it’s exactly what these different DRM flavors end up doing. It doesn’t stop pirates – but makes people who are willing to pay money for the eBooks into criminals. Just so they can maybe suck some more cash out of you.

And that, my friends, is some seriously jacked-up manure.

1Personally, I like Calibre. It does everything I want it to do, little fuss, isn’t tied to a specific store, and converts from there and back again – which is great for reading text files and web pages on my eReader.
2If you were to look, you would probably find some pretty easy-to-use Python scripts. Though you might also find that the newest version of the B&N Reader changes the database format (and maybe the DRM?), but that’s only a temporary setback. If, of course, you were to do such a thing.

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