The biggest reason this is news is that it really shouldn’t be news, but it’s a Sunday so why not? On BoingBoing, Mark Frauenfelder complains that that Apple won’t let him download the iBooks e-books he’s already bought and paid for. Apparently there was some snarl about getting the right Apple IDs set up on his particular devices, and he’s ended up with the wrong Apple ID on his iPhone. That photo of a smiling Frauenfelder was not taken at the time.
With Apple, it’s not a simple matter of just switching to the right Apple ID and re-downloading the content. “You can download past purchases on this device with just one Apple ID every 90 days,” the error message on Frauenfelder’s iPhone complacently proclaims. “This device can be used with another Apple ID in 37 days.” Fraunfelder declares he will never buy another e-book from Apple.
I’m honestly surprised he didn’t know better than to buy e-books from Apple in the first place. (One of the commenters under the article smirks, “It’s gotta be a sinking feeling knowing that Cory [Doctorow] will never let you hear the end of this.”) Even leaving aside the way it’s much harder to crack iBooks DRM than most other e-book vendors, you get a lot less flexibility from iBooks even if you don’t want to do that. iBooks can only be read on Apple devices, while most other e-book stores have apps for every platform and some have their own e-ink hardware readers besides.
But I suppose this just goes to show that the thing about Apple is that it’s really, really slick. If you’re the sort of person who is inclined to pay a few hundred bucks every couple of years or so to buy the latest Apple hardware so you can keep running the latest Apple operating systems and software, perhaps you let them lull you into complacency and don’t think much of buying your media from there, too. Just as Amazon makes it easy to buy stuff from them, Apple makes it easy if you’re using Apple already. Then you get rudely awakened somewhere down the road.
Say what you will about Amazon’s walled garden, at least it’s just a software garden and they don’t try to lock you into one particular set of hardware. If you buy an e-book from Amazon, you can be pretty sure it will function on anything with a Kindle application. And even though Amazon does still use its own DRM (where the publishers insist), you generally don’t have to worry about getting locked out of your content for 90 days because you used the wrong login.