“If it were my money, there’s no way I’d put up with this cr*p”, says young reader

images.jpgI just had to reprint this comment by Clytie Siddall. The comment was in response to Joanna’s article Publishers, rejoice!:

Today I spent some time hunting down in ebook the next few volumes of a series my teenage daughter had started. I’d bought the first volume (The Colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett) from Fictionwise in the halcyon international e-reading days before geolimitations were imposed. She read it this week, and was happily anticipating the next volume in the series.

I found the ebooks at Borders Australia, and bought them. The ensuing conversation:

Her: OK, so I just get this from your Bookshelf and open it in eReader.

Me: Unfortunately, no. I can’t get it from Fictionwise, and I can’t get it in that format.

Her: Why not?

Me: That’s a good question. I’ve been looking for the answer for several months now. You know I’ve got a dozen different readers on my iPhone?

Her: Yes, but… I thought I wouldn’t have to go through all that cr*p.

Me: You and the rest of the reading public. Borders have it in ePub–

Her: So I can open it in Stanza!

Me: Um, no.

Her: Why not? Stanza does ePub.

Me: Yes, but these books have DRM.
She gives me a disgusted, iTunes-generation look

Me: It is doable, sorta. You need to download the desktop reader, and the iPhone reader, and log in to my account at Borders…

After half an hour of setup, we’re still waiting for the books to download

Her: If it were my money, there’s no way I’d put up with this cr*p.
(She gives up and starts playing video games)

There you are, publishers: one keen reader and customer of the future.

28 Comments on “If it were my money, there’s no way I’d put up with this cr*p”, says young reader

  1. This really becomes an ethical decision. Some would argue and depending what country you live in, that since you have purchased the books, you could legally format shift your books and find non-drm copies on the internet via a google search (this is legal where I live). Then you won’t have to go through the trouble that you currently are suffering. This is just another example of DRM hurting honest customers. DRM clearly doesn’t stop piracy since it takes google 0.16 seconds to show you a torrent with every discworld book by Terry Pratchett.

  2. I don’t mind DRM too much, since it’s so easy to remove (which begs the question why have it in the first place…).

    By stripping the DRM and using calibre for conversion, you really shouldn’t need a dozen different reading apps–just 2, one for epub and amazon’s app.

  3. I agree DRM is confusing the market and probably hurting sales due to what you describe…BUT authors need to be paid for their efforts, and we need to have SOME way of ensuring SOME protection for that. Still, that said, by startign with one reader , for example B&N, you get locked in to buying the books from them, and let’s face it isn’t that what they want? So my wiofe uses the NOOK and I use the iPhone, we share one B&N account, and it works just fine that way. Manipulating it all to use Stanza becomes just a waste of time.

    The point of EBooks is less cost than paper, NO PAPER to carry around, ease of purchase, compactness etc. etc. So far, all vendors meet that criteria. I just wish we could get over exclusivity tying us to devices, and spend the time on competitiveness among book vendors instead. Maybe some day….maybe not in my lifetime though.

  4. For most ordinary readers stripping the DRM is not the easiest thing to do but doing a google search and download loading torrents or links is by far easier. Yet another example why DRM actually encourages piracy.

    Again it makes me wonder if publishers actually want to sell books as they make it so dammed hard to nut one sometimes sometimes.

  5. For most ordinary readers stripping the DRM is not the easiest thing to do but doing a google search and download loading torrents or links is by far easier. Yet another example why DRM actually encourages piracy.

    Again it makes me wonder if publishers actually want to sell books as they make it so dammed hard to buy one sometimes.

  6. If anyone thinks that pi$$ing around with DRM and file formats is something that mainstream readers will be prepared to do, then they are nuts.
    This story demonstrates that eBooks are simply not ready for mainstream. Only early adopter geeky types like us are prepared to get into this market and mess around with files and file types etc. and if nothing is done to change that, then I could see some sales plateauing in 2011. Only when this nonsense is sorted will average users, average mums and office girls, bus drivers and aunties and uncles be prepared to abandon paper to move to eBooks.

  7. Publishers want to force the river to run uphill, past where they’ve built their expensive mill, and they’re getting very annoyed at how it continues to run downhill despite their posturing. Creating smaller, cheaper mills downstream would be admitting defeat, you see, and we can’t have that.

    What is doubly, triply annoying is that they’ve already seen how this model works, with the music industry. People want their entertainment in formats that are easy to buy, easy to work with and that work on a multitude of devices, and when that isn’t available entertainment is remarkably easy to get illegally.

    Publishers, find out what your customers want and make it easy for them to get. Don’t tell them what they want and refuse to sell it any other way, unless you also own stock in major torrent sites.

  8. 1000% C.A. !!

  9. The biggest mistake the music industry made, that the publishing industry is now making, was their arrogant attitude combined with clearly jacked up pricing which created a sense of entitlement in their consumers and made downloading music seem to be a reasonable alternative.

    If you asked the average music buyer, 20 years ago, if it was OK to steal free copies of music, he or she would have rightly answered it was theft and unfair to the companies. Now it’s nearly expected, a minor bad habit on a level with laughing too loudly or talking during movie trailers. When you get examples of ebook problems like the one above — and I’ve run into plenty of them myself — is it any wonder people download them from pirate sites instead?

  10. And the publishing industry keeps running around screaming that they aren’t going to make the same mistakes as the music industry while making the same mistakes (plus new ones) that the music industry made.

    Get your product quickly, easily, and affordable priced into the hands of your consumers and they will pay for it.

  11. It really is hard to understand. The reason is of course that people inside an industry, close to the product and inside the system, develop a distorted vision of their place in the market and the place of their product. They distort everything they learn in a way that becomes skewed and biased. It is quite common unfortunately. This is one of the reasons successful major industries will bring in executives from completely different industries from time to time. What publishers need is an injection of outside people who can see the bigger picture and bring other commercial experience to the game.

  12. Or how about geographical restrictions? Margaret Atwood lives down the street from my parents, that’s how local she is. And Kobo, the Canadian bookseller, will only sell her books to Americans. They will not take my Canadian money for it. I did some searching on Inkmesh and finally found a store who both carried the title I wanted, and was willing to sell it to Canadian me. And it was Waterstones in the UK! How is that for irony?

  13. I’m glad to hear someone else comment about this problem. I was beginning to think I was the only person that objected to this. All these ebook dealers are happy to sell you an ebook but only if you buy their ereader device or use their ereader software….argh how many ereader programs does one person have to download???? I like to shop around for the best price for my books. If I purchase a book it should be mine to read on whatever device or with whatever software program I want to use. I haven’t resorted to trying to learn how to strip DRM yet but I’m starting to think about it! If Google can lead me to free copies of books it can surely lead me to “how to” directions.

  14. Correct me if I am wrong .. but all of this geographical thing is mainly driven by writers restricting the regions they sell to their publishers or split between multiple publishers in order to leverage higher earnings and fees. Another area writers need to pay more attention to in future.

  15. Since when did cr*p become a dirty word?

    This is why two formats are still necessary: .epub for library books and etc. and Kindle for everything else.

  16. Howard: there are a number of reasons for geographical restrictions. In many cases, authors worked separate deals with publishers in different countries simply because that was what it took to get their books available in the different countries. In the past, publishers generally only supplied distributors who generally only supplied bookstores, and they were all within some geographic area. Aside from the book clubs, “books by mail” was pretty much unheard-of before Amazon.

    Some countries have import duties and/or restrictions on importation of books. Canada, for instance. These countries may be seeking to protect their own publishing businesses, to protect their cultural heritage against a flood of American culture, or both. Amazon worked a deal earlier this year to allow them to sell directly to Canada; prior to that, Canadians were actually buying from Canada Post when they bought books from amazon.ca.

  17. Thanks Doug. My understanding was, though, that the major driver was writer’s agents who would sign contracts with Publishers for the minimum region/country required to get published and hold back the rest or sell it to another publisher in the hope to maximising earnings. So a publisher would sign a writer up for, say the UK-Ire-US only because it would minimise the advance – and later if the book was successful the agent would come back and negotiate wider regions, or sell it to another publisher.
    Can you put me right on this ? (btw this is not intended as a condemnation of writers or agents, only an explanation)

  18. Howard, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a factor in some cases. Most of our publishers today are multinational conglomerates, but that’s a relatively recent development. Even fifteen years ago most publishers, distributors, and booksellers were national in scope. Signing with different publishers was probably more necessity than strategy.

  19. We’ve had 2 iPads in the house the last several months. We have downloaded and enjoyed dozens of eBooks. Total cost: $0.00. All of the books are classics made available under the Project Gutenberg.

    We refuse to buy eBooks until the nonsense of the disparate DRG mess, higher prices, regional restrictions, and sharing restrictions remain. Why should I pay more for the same content of a paperback, and add to life’s complexities by making yet one more task more complicated than need be?

    Until the pub industry gets its act together, I will keep buying paperbacks and continue to burden the publishers with all of the overhead they incur to keep delivering me that printed book.

  20. “For most ordinary readers stripping the DRM is not the easiest thing to do but doing a google search and download loading torrents or links is by far easier. Yet another example why DRM actually encourages piracy.”

    Exactly right, Ania. Trying to get rid of DRM is really confusing. Finding multiple pirate sites with the same book just a click away is very, very easy. And once those resources are discovered, pirating because of DRM and/or high prices will become the default method of getting ebooks for a significant portion of ereaders who may never go back to paying for them. Publishers need to back off on both.

  21. Doug, yes until not so long ago, country by country publishing rights “sort of” made sense because mailing costs were so high. That go agents accustomed to negotiating per-country contracts (each with a new advance). Many agents today don’t want to give up the old system despite the advent of ebooks.

    The “Big Six” conglomerate publishers add to the problem – they are built around having different operating units for each major market; each unit has rights to a new title in its market, but often the units follow different release schedules, so a new book by, say, Lee Child may be available in print and ebook in the US, print only in Canada, and not yet in either format in Australia. That is a brilliant recipe for piracy.

    I fear the book industry is doing a stellar job of replicating the music experience. It is not just the publishers; as mentioned, agents are equally culpable, and then you have authors demanding DRM be made stronger with more penalties (Turow), or refusing to allow digital versions (until very recently, Rowling). To top it all off, the US government, fronting the RIAA mob, is threatening sanctions against countries that do not enact DMCA-like legislation and is “encouraging” more use of US DRM software.

    Trying to get almost anyone in the business of books to accept the idea that DRM is bad for the consumer and that the Internet knows no borders is like trying to push water uphill with a sieve.

  22. If anyone thinks that pi$$ing around with DRM and file formats is something that mainstream readers will be prepared to do, then they are nuts.

    Which is why Kindle wins.

  23. Sounds like a good argument for writers to remain independent. I make my books DRM free and available around the world to the best of my abilities. (Though I accidentally DRMed my first Amazon Kindle book because I didn’t realize it was automatic unless you opted out.)

    Control in a digital book world is a futile effort. You might as well try to control the Internet. Let the readers have it.

    Scott Nicholson

  24. This is not news. The most successful eBook publisher in terms of profit and lack of piracy remains Webscriptions.net.

    They sell genre fiction (SF&F and some Horror) and represent Baen Books as well as a few smaller houses.

    Everything they sell is DRM-free and available in multiple sane formats including plain HTML. Even the pricing is sane at $6 per book for most titles. The most expensive titles are $15 for an E-Arc, generally for major releases and available 3-4 months before the books hit the shelves (These are ARC’s in truth and are not proofread).

  25. Malcolm Northrup // August 29, 2010 at 3:08 pm //

    Even for those who could de-DRM their books(not me), it’s often just too much trouble. Seems strange to me that some App Developer hasn’t simply pulled all the 6 or so things you need to do for de-DRM into a free program like calibre. This would make a gigantic change in ebooks.

    Perhaps even more, why doesn’t Amazon simply offer AZW as Mobi files without DRM. Seems to me that would instantly make Amazon the world leader permanently. A program like calibre could then convert to many types. I’m obviously missing something or they would have done this.

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