04 January 2010

E-book Industry Gets E-diotic

Learning nothing from the decade-long series of missteps by the music industry, publishers want to repeat that history in all its stupidity:

Digital piracy, long confined to music and movies, is spreading to books. And as electronic reading devices such as Amazon's Kindle, the Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble's Nook, smartphones and Apple's much-anticipated "tablet" boost demand for e-books, experts say the problem may only get worse.

Gosh, the sky is falling.

"Textbooks are frequently pirated, but so are many other categories," said Ed McCoyd, director of digital policy at AAP. "We see piracy of professional content, such as medical books and technical guides; we see a lot of general fiction and non-fiction. So it really runs the gamut."

Er, you don't think that might be because the students are being price-gouged by academic publishers that know they have a captive audience?

And how's this for a solution?

Some publishers may try to minimize theft by delaying releases of e-books for several weeks after physical copies go on sale. Simon & Schuster recently did just that with Stephen King's novel, "Under the Dome," although the publisher says the decision was made to prevent cheaper e-versions from cannibalizing hardcover sales.

In other words, they are *forcing* people who might pay for a digital edition to turn to unauthorised copies: smart move.

And it seems old JK doesn't get it either:

Some authors have even gone as far as to shrug off e-book technology altogether. J.K Rowling has thus far refused to make any of her Harry Potter books available digitally because of piracy fears and a desire to see readers experience her books in print.

Well, I'm a big fan of analogue books too - indeed, I firmly believe it is how publishers will survive. But I wonder if JK has ever considered the point that reading digital versions is rather less pleasant than snuggling down with a physical book, and so once you've got people interested in the content - through digital versions - they might then go out and buy a dead tree version?

But no, instead we are going to get all the inane reasoning that we heard from the music publishers, all the stupid attempts to "lock down" texts, and the same flourishing of publishers despite all that.

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Martin Budden said...

Not all publishers are idiotic. O'Reilly
deserves honourable mention for its no-nonsense policy:

"When you buy an ebooks thru oreilly.com you get lifetime access to the book, and whenever possible we provide it to you in four, DRM-free file formats — PDF, .epub, Kindle-compatible .mobi, and Android .apk ebook — that you can use on the devices of your choice. Our ebook files are fully searchable, and you can cut-and-paste and print them. We also alert you when we've updated the files with corrections and additions."

zotz said...

I personally have long maintained that all dead-tree book need to come with a digital version either on cd in the back or via a download.

The dead-tree book is for reading, the digital is for searching and research.

all the best,

Free Music Push

Arne Babenhauserheide said...

We'll likely see "piracy" skyrocket, once they put in ever more restrictions.

After all, text is small and there's not a single filesharing network out there which can't (technically) handle all of the texts which get released every month.

Even better/worse: The encrypted and anonymous networks out there always had problems with really large files. Now the content industry wants to begin hunting down people who share small files which work perfectly well in the almost untraceable anonymous networks. I can almost hear them suffer...

But maybe they learned a little bit from the past and won't go repeating the "we shut down Napster - gosh, they went partly decentral. We mostly shut down edonkey - gosh they went less traceable (BitTorrent). We shut down Bearshare to kill the flourishing Gnutella - gosh they went to the free software LimeWire."

That circle can go on for quite some time, and the tech for the next step of filesharers who want to share small files is already in place: freenet and i2p (for example with i2phex for searching). It just isn't used that widely, yet, because people don't feel the need to switch up.

And text files don't even carry the risk of containing vira...

Somehow I think that this glaring error can't really be overlooked, but hell - what do they say about human stupidity? ...

PV said...

I saw a great potential solution in Slashdot's comments on this article: it involves serial publishing online to get people to buy the books. I detail it in my blog: http://dasublogbyprashanth.blogspot.com/2010/01/2010-january-3-national-security-and.html
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Unknown said...

Nothing ever changes.

Glyn Moody said...

@Martin: fair point - but there are bound to be exceptions...

Glyn Moody said...

@zotz: yes, agree absolutely: best of both worlds

Glyn Moody said...

@Arne: yes, that's a good point about file size - it's the only thing that's saved the film industry from the music industry's fate *so far*....

Glyn Moody said...

@PV: as you point out, this is actually an old idea. It's good in principle, but I think it may be harder to realise than it looks..