Tag Archives: bullshit

Amazon, Censorship, and DRM

I freaking hate DRM. Hate hate hate. DRM absolutely affects my buying decisions. Absolutely. I’ve been an ebook fan for a while now. My device was pretty expensive, because the technology was newer when I bought it, but before agency pricing I was able to save enough money on my book-buying habit to make it worth the price, because back then you could get a lot of good deals on ebooks. (And you still can, if you stick to cheap, DRM-free indie reads.) What really made the decision for me to embrace ebooks at the time was how much I love getting digital books from the library. So my choice of ereader was the one that worked with the library’s DRM.

I’m going to want a new device down the line. I’m already looking. But in purchasing a device, I want to concentrate on device quality and features–not the quality of the store to which the device is virtually tethered. A main reason I don’t buy DRM-encumbered books is because I want to be sure my library is as future-protected as possible, and that I’ll be able to read all of those books on my next ereader.

There may be some of you who are confused about what I’m saying here, so let me pause to explain. But do keep in mind that I’m not a technician and I don’t play one on TV, so my understanding and explanation may be technically flawed. An ebook is a file. When you purchase an ebook with DRM, that file is locked by the DRM. You need to have a program that contains your (or your device’s) individual license in order to unlock that file and enjoy your purchase. That program and information is contained in your device, and you may or may not also have that on your personal computer as well. As long as the DRM encumbers your purchase, you will need to rely on that program and license info any time you want to experience the media you bought. Depending on how much you buy, that can start to require a lot of faith on your part. Faith that your license will always be honored.

And the fact is, a lot of people just don’t think about or care about actually owning what they buy. But I’m not one of those. Books have never been throwaway purchases for me, and I don’t have a different attitude toward ebooks. All my ebooks get saved to my hard drive, backed up, and the selection I want to keep on the device gets side-loaded (moved from PC to device by cable) on and off.

So guess what’s not going to happen to my DRM-free books. And here’s where the inspiration for today’s post comes from: I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and find that the willy-nilly Amazon censorship committee has dicked with my personal library. Unless I very much mistake how the world works, if it’s DRM-free and I’ve backed it up, they can’t take it away from me. And, of course, I can convert it to any format I want, to read it on whatever device I choose to purchase going forward.

It’s my money and my purchase. I deserve that security and that freedom to be able to own what I buy. And my readers deserve it.

All the DRM has been cracked. The amount of effort it takes for a pirate to strip a book of DRM and fileshare it is about as much effort as it takes you and me to check our email. Yes, DRM will prevent casual sharing. It will prevent Sally from telling Jane, “OMG, I just read the greatest book. Read it nooowwww,” and attaching the file, in the same way she, and probably you, have lent out paperbacks in the past. And yes, I agree that there are no controls on the number of copies the enthusiastic Sally can fileshare, and that’s a problem inherent in digital media.

But at the end of the day, I trust Sally, my reader, more than I trust the corporate entities that are currently screwing around, back-room dealing in DRM to control my purchases and spending. And I’d kind of rather be a little dicked over by Sally’s enthusiasm than dick her– and my other readers, scrupulously honest readers– over by not allowing her to take my book with her to her next device purchase or to find it no longer available to her when the retailer from which she purchased it decides to remove her access.

Want an example of the controlling bullshit going on with DRM? Sony Reader reads EPUB, and DRM’d content for the Sony is “protected” by Adobe. Wow, same with NOOK! So that means Sony owners have a whole new store to shop! Um…no. Notice how Sony’s not on the list of supported devices. Why? It makes no sense. Same file format, same program for licensed content. What’s the deal? I NEVER got a straight answer out of B&N customer service. At first I think they wanted to talk about the wireless stuff. Um, I don’t CARE abut the wireless stuff, my device is pre-wireless. Why can’t I just purchase the content, open it in Adobe Digital Editions, and side-load it? And I actually think that customer service just wasn’t educated enough to answer my questions.

A lot of Googling finally informed me that just because both devices go through Adobe Digital Editions, doesn’t mean it’s the same DRM. I read somewhere that NOOK DRM is a variation on the previous Adobe DRM, and that’s why it won’t work for the Sony Reader. Why? Or maybe because they’re following Amazon’s model: if you want to shop our store, you’re going to have to buy our reader (we’re just not even going to talk about smartphone or PC apps because who wants that?). Maybe because everyone else who’s been dealing with Adobe got together and pressured Adobe: No! Don’t let them have the same DRM as us or we’ll lose all our ebook customers to B&N! Who knows?

But what’s any of that got to do with piracy?


Indies have the choice to DRM or not to DRM with some retailers. Many DRM without even thinking about it. Oh yes, protect me from the dreaded pirates! when it’s got so little to do with piracy and so much to do with controlling the market. We can’t always control what happens to our uploaded content at all retailers (I’m sure Hush Money is DRM-encumbered at Kobo, Sony, and Apple, for example), but we can give our customers choices.

My readers don’t deserve to be encumbered by bullshit DRM, and I won’t choose it.

PS. Everyone who commented yesterday was a winner. I’ll send those prizes out today. Thanks, guys!



Filed under rant