Think about this for a moment. If you buy a book, hardcover, paperback, hell, a comic book, you can trade it, re-sell, give it away, put it on a shelf and hope it becomes a collector’s item, or tear it apart and use it to start a fire in winter – though I would recommend using the Federal Register or some of the 90 pounds of catalogs you get in the mail every week and not a Sherlock Holmes First Edition. Whatever you choose to do with the book, it is yours to dispose of as you wish. Now, buy that SAME BOOK as an ebook with DRM protection and suddenly, it isn’t your’s. You can’t just move it from device to device. You can’t give it away. You sure as hell can’t trade or sell it. Should your device crash, you can lose it and have a hell of a time trying to get the rights back to read a book you bought and paid for!
What’s wrong with this picture? The same thing that has been plaguing the music industry for some time now. How to balance consumer rights vs. seller/artists rights to an income stream. The DRM solution is very heavily weighted against the consumer. Electronic files are wonderfully compact and easy to transport. Ask any iPod owner how great it is to have a huge music library on a small handheld device. Until that device malfunctions and the several thousand dollars of music you so carefully selected and complied can’t be accessed. The same thing is happening with the cute little ebook readers. You only sort of own these electronic files and you can only legally access them on the specific device they were licensed to – unless you want to break the law and strip the DRM off.
Now I’m pretty sure you can get your 14 year old computer geek to strip the DRM for you, but even if you don’t have a handy teenage wiz available, there’s plenty of online help. So why not take a page from Nike and “Just Do It”? Well, people like me have a real ethical problem with it even though I am totally opposed to DRM and think it infringes on MY rights of ownership. Unfortunately, the law is not on my side and with my luck, I’d be the one person the publishers bring action against to set an example and throw the fear of ruinous legal fees at consumers in general.
Others far more knowledgeable than I have hashed this out at some length on blogs and on various techie sites. I’m just one of the poor schmucks caught in this stupid ‘convenience vs. ownership’ problem. So far, I have REFUSED to buy any dedicated device. (Sorry Amazon and Sony) My ebooks are 90% pdf files without DRM and the handful of others I have as ebooks are on my laptop and can be read with free software – but they are validated files. I’m just unwilling to invest in more than a few bucks for that kind of book. I do make damn good use of Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion on paperbacks and my discount card and addition coupons at Barnes and Nobel. Yes, it’s a pain hauling books on vacation, but at least I can leave them for the next person to enjoy.
The very clever ladies on Dear Author have a list of publishers that do not use DRM on their ebooks. Some of these publishers have more than just romance available. Take a look at the list with weblinks by clicking here.
It is an unfortunate fact of publishing life that many authors simply cannot get published except by small presses and then often as ebooks only. It’s where our next generation of writers are getting their start. Christine Warren got her start at Ellora’s Cave and now is a very popular mainstream writer with St Martin’s. She would never have had that chance without EC’s help. Yeah, there’s a lot of junk and ‘erotic’ crap that only those into super kink could like, but there are some real good writers too. Be daring and give a few a try. And be sure to buy DRM free whenever possible!!!!!!!!!