Wanted: Publishers who won’t treat me like a criminal
November 16, 2012 | 6:00 pm
By Joanna Cabot
I’ve been thinking for awhile about this. I balked because I worried that books would simply not be available without DRM, and that I would be missing out on the good stuff just to make a point. But then I realized that it’s been ages since I actually anticipated a book purchase. Sure, I would buy stuff when something interesting came my way and the price was right. But these were impulse buys. It wasn’t like there were a ton of new releases I was counting down the days toward.
And I realized, too, that the quality of most books coming from big publishing these days seem to have declined precipitously. I haven’t read a single DRM’ed e-book in the last year that hasn’t had errors—obvious, egregious failures of copyediting—bookmarked by the end. There are typos and formatting glitches galore, and if that wasn’t bad enough, the content has seemed overwhelmingly derivative and lowest-common-denominator.
Meanwhile, I’ve discovered a goldmine of ‘fairer trade’ e-books just waiting to be discovered by the masses: authors like Patricia Ryan and Diane Duane who are re-releasing backlist titles that were previously published commercially; seasoned pros like Blake Crouch and J.A. Konrath, who are going solo and selling straight to customers; publishers like Delphi Classics who are releasing attractive, very affordable and DRM-free anthologies for as little as $1.50 …
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What finally pushed me over the edge? It was the double-edged sword of the passage of Bill C-11, which criminalizes the circumvention of DRM (even if it’s done for non-infringing purposes), and the closure of the once-almighty Fictionwise. As a Canadian, I am not eligible for B&N’s offer to transfer Fictionwise-bought books to a Nook account, so I’m on my own if I want to save my 400-odd titles. And thanks to Bill C-11, that’s technically illegal now, anyway. That offends me on a profound moral level. I’ve spent my money to acquire these books legally. I did the right thing. They’re really going to tell me I’m the bad guy, after all that?
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Let me be honest here. I will say straight out that you don’t have to worry about me: My books are safe. They were safe before the law passed, and whatever tools I needed to make them safe date from before that time too. I haven’t done anything wrong … and my books are safe. But I very much resent this position they’re putting us in. Some people won’t know how to save their books. Some will, but—like me—will balk at having to ‘break the law’ to do it.
I know they’ve said they won’t come after people who break a digital lock for personal reasons. And as I blogged earlier, there are loopholes one could use if they were ever challenged. But the whole process of this—the need for furtiveness, for euphemism, for looking for the angle that will justify behavior that really isn’t morally wrong in the first place—it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. And I don’t like it. So, in my own small way, I am going to stick it to Big Publishing and vote with my wallet.
I’m fine with DRM if it’s only a rental. And I’ll continue to get Big Pub books from the public library, where it time-expires—and that’s fair enough, because you’re only borrowing. And I’ll likely use up my credit at Amazon on Kindle Deal of the Day books, where, for 99 cents, I’m okay with the thought of losing it someday. But for purchases—for books I intend to own and keep—I’m going to see what else is out there. I’m going to support authors and publishers who are doing the right thing, and who are trusting me to do the right thing too. I’ll pay for my content. I just want to be treated like a valued customer, and not a crook.
So. Who wants my business?
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