DRMed Kindle e-books vs. unshackled music in standard MP3 format: When will the media ask about the obvious?
April 6, 2008 | 9:00 pm
Should the New York Times and the rest of the media be asking Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos some harder-hitting questions? Uppity thoughts like that are coursing through my mind after seeing a yawner of headline, Amazon accelerates its move to digital—appearing over Brad Stone‘s story scheduled for tomorrow’s Times. What else is new?
While mostly about music- and video-related efforts, the Stone article quotes an Amazon executive named Ian Freed as saying that the company wants to get the Kindle e-reader “fully in stock as quickly as possible.” Freed, Amazon’s VP in charge of the Kindle, also makes clear that although the device is primarily for text, the company isn’t forgetting the K machine’s capabilities for playing MP3s and Audible e-books.
OK, great, but why isn’t the Times pressing Amazon on the obvious? Why is Amazon so keen on nonDRMed music while steadfastly “protecting” e-books in the Kindle format in rather obnoxious ways? Is it because Amazon views DRM less as protection for publishers than as protection for the proprietary Kindle and Mobipocket formats? Yes, Kindle and Mobipocket files can come in nonencrypted forms. But tell that to Amazon! Surely not every publisher wants books in DRMed eBabel—just talk to the gang at Baen about the Kindle, for example. Why can’t Amazon open a store for nonDRMed books that could be displayed on a variety of cellphones, PDAs and other devices beyond the Kindle, or Mobi-usable gizmos? So what if big publishers don’t go along? If I recall right, didn’t Amazon originally expect that only indie record labels would offer their wares for the MP3 store? Just as importantly, why isn’t Amazon letting the Kindle natively render books in the IDPF‘s .epub standard that Amazon gave the world the impression it would support?
Amazon too haughty to answer questions from mere bloggers
Come on, New York Times. Let’s ask the essential questions that Jeff Bezos and others associated with this arrogant giant would be too haughty to answer from mere bloggers. Don’t think these issues count? Just remember how the Times quoted Steven Kessel—Amazon’s senior vice president for worldwide digital media, who reports to Bezos–as saying:
“We wake up every day thinking about digital. Jeff once said he couldn’t imagine anything more important than reinventing the book. I think that sums it up really well, if you think about that across all our media products.”
Forget about the rest of the book industry or tech competitors, eh? Jeff and colleagues are to do the reinvention, and right now it looks as if the Times doesn’t give a squat about Amazon’s format or DRM policies in regard to e-books. While the above quote from Kessel is hardly surprising—rather boring, in fact—it’s a reminder of the need for the media to zero in on the obvious disconnect between Amazon’s treatment of e-books and music.
Journalistically, is this Weapons of Mass Destruction II? Not in importance, certainly. But do I see a similar pattern—the Times and other major media not reporting aggressively enough.
I’d pursue the matter myself as a paid blogger for Publishers Weekly, except that PW first suspended my E-Book Report, then mysteriously zapped archives for my blog along with two others. Cause-effect beyond standard corporate politics? I don’t know, other than that it’s weird, weird, weird that PW removed pages where ads could have gone. I’d love to know more details about possible business relationships between PW and Amazon, which regularly uses books blurbs from the magazine’s reviews. Any license fees involved, and how much? No accusations of quid pro quo here, no proof of wrongdoing on anyone’s part right now. I’d just appreciate knowing the full context. Like the Pentagon, Amazon controls “access” by beat reporters and tries to manipulate the media—surprise of surprise, Jeff’s PR crew declined my repeated request for a Kindle review unit, and a flack named Heather Huntoon actually hung up on me!—and along with the Times and the rest of the press, PW bears watching for its own good.
And meanwhile…a few more details on the Kindle…
Perfectly in line with quotes to the Times, Steven Kessel’s Linked-In profile tells us:
“Yes, we are HIRING for Kindle:
*** software engineers
*** program managers
*** product managers”
No charge, Steven, for the free want ad.
Reminder: No jihad against Amazon (where I’ve probably spent thousands over the years) or the Times (source of many informative and pleasurable hours of e-reading). I simply disappointed in Amazon’s actions in the e-book and POD areas and in the failure of the Times and other influential media to cover these issues in depth, except for the five months during which I could address them in PW’s online edition.