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Net ForceTom Clancy has made millions off gadget-loving fans caught up in his technothrillers like the NetForce series, but when it comes to e-books, he’s a Luddite.

He is so paranoid of piracy that he won’t let his novels go electronic despite the huge global market this could help open up in time.

Clancy’s income vs. the industry’s

Along with heavy-handed DRM, the Tower of eBabel and the usual hardware challenges, lack of content is one reason why worldwide e-book sales have been just a fraction of Clancy’s income in some recent years.

“Customers of eReader.com are always requesting titles by J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and others which remain, by their choice, ‘not available in ebook form,’” says Mike Violano, vice president and general manager at eReader.com, owned by PowerByHand, in an article in LocalTechWire.com.

Time for readers to speak up? Perhaps e-bookstores like Violano’s should publish “Ten Most Wanted” lists of Luddites and encourage customers to pester the AWOL authors. These Ludds need to understand the truth. If e-Luddites don’t wise up, pirates will simply scan in paper copies, a trend that’s likely to grow as display technology improves. Get it, Tom? All you’ll do by withholding your books is to train e-book-loving fans to download you illegally since there’s no other alternative. Perhaps as Mr. Net Force, you’ll eventually be enough of a technomaven to understand this.

Beyond the issue of piracy arising to meet unmet needs, honest tech-hip readers may simply say learn to say “No” to e-Luddites like Clancy. The e-book industry can help by aggressively promoting “born digital” talents who respect the medium more than Mr. Net Force does.

eReader VP on DRM

Elsewhere in the article Violano talks about the need for publishers to compromise between reader convenience and the effectiveness of copyright protection. True! eReader’s protection scheme is easier on customers than most. “Every ebook is encrypted,” he writes, “and the unlock key is the credit card number the customer uses to purchase the title. This has proven to be a simple, elegent approach to the protection of content–and it is mighty effective since customers are not prone to post their credit card numbers on the message boards.” As Jenny Levine of the Shifted Librarian blog discovered, this method still can be murder on readers who, say, have moved on to different credit cards and no longer have the old numbers handy. Still, it is better than, say, Microsoft’s DRM atrocities.

Ideally Violano someday will see the light and go for a more refined and nonproprietary DRM scheme and an open format like OpenReader–a strategy that could help build confidence among buyers of e-books. His article, however, does a good job of pointing out some of the complexities of the DRM debate as acknowledged by the more enlightened participants from both sides.

Detail: Anyone know of a really good official Tom Clancy Web site? Does one exist? If not, how strange that Mr. Net Force should be so disdainful toward his fans. I did check out the sites mentioned in Wikipedia but could find none more helpful than the unofficial Tom Clancy FAQ.

 
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