Why do downloads make Amazon go crazy?

Discuss

34 Responses to “Why do downloads make Amazon go crazy?”

  1. RealCatholicMen says:

    T ch pnt CM md, ls thnk th qstn s, “Why ds DRM mk sm ppl g crzy?”

    -bks ffr dffrnt srvc. Y gt n sly strbl nd trnsprtbl bk whch cnnt b cpd r rsld nd whch ds nt rqr th chppng dwn f trs t cnstrct nd csts lss thn ppr bk.

    ls thnk bk thrs hv mr t fr thn mscns, f thy wnt t mk lvng ff f msc, nd ths r mr nclnd t wnt t s thr wrk prtctd.

    f g t prt by nd dwnld vrythng tht Mby vr md, h cld prbbly stll gt rch by trng th cntry dng cncrts. n fct, h mght gt vn rchr thrgh cncrts f hs msc s fr nd ths h hs mr ptntl cncrt grs.

    f g t prt by nd dwnld vrythng tht Nl Gmn vr wrt, h dsn’t rlly hv n ltrnt vn t ffr m, shrt f gvng p n nvls nd swtchng t plys.

    Bt hy, wh m t tlk n ths ss, rght? Wll hr’s qt frm smn mr qlfd thn m: < hrf="http://jrnl.nlgmn.cm/2007/11/m-n-mnl.html">Nl Gmn hmslf –
    ” dn’t thnk vryn hs rght t dgtlly cpy nd dstrbt bks thy bght t thrs, ny mr thn thnk thy hv rght t, sy, phtcpy nd dstrbt my bks, r t prnt thr wn cps nd sll r gv thm wy. ‘m ll fr thrs gvng stff wy f thy wnt t, bt thrs r, t lst crrntly, llwd t dcd n wht wy thy wnt thr bks md vlbl n th mrktplc.”

    nd dn’t thnk thr’s nythng spclly wrng wth mzn spprtng n thr’s blty t chs hw thy pblsh thr wrks. ‘m sr f Nl Gmn wnts t rls n -bk frm f Nvrwhr wth n DRM n t, mzn sn’t gng t stp hm. S pprntly, h DS wnt DRM n Nvrwhr. Ds tht mk hm th bd gy, thn? Nbdy’s skng “Why d dwnlds mk Nl Gmn g crzy”. Myb t’s nt s crzy.

  2. Tarmle says:

    Ultimately, Amazon occupies the same position that the recording industry held in the 90s: committed to the concept of physicals in the face of impending digital. They are sitting there watching their business environment evolving rapidly and drastically and only making the slightest twitches in the direction of changing their methods.

    Once true open source eReaders hit the market, and someone contributes plans for a Lego book scanner to Make, I fully expect this company to start raving about so-called pirates like an ergotic dog chewing on stones. They’ve felt secure for all these years behind their fortress walls of paper and plastic and are obviously unwilling entertain the concept of a world in which all that material is suddenly worthless.

    And so we will see more DRM and more lobbying for laws against circumvention, against innovation and invention, more corporate Luddism. And all of it emerging from the vain and destructive delusion that they can somehow halt or even reverse technological and cultural progress, or at the very least can carry over a system of distribution into an environment for which it is no longer fit. Commercially the information they are selling now will soon be barely worth the electricity used to transmit it.

    Using the device you are reading this with, and despite the content industries’ best efforts, all that media is infinitely available, endlessly reproducible, and globally distributable, at virtually no cost.

    There is no business in reproduction or distribution any more.

    Sell now.

  3. Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

    I can’t possibly be as funny about it as Teresa’s lengthy fantasia above, but as someone who’s been on the fringes of all this stuff, it’s not my impression that the impetus for DRM on the Kindle e-books came from some unified front of publishers. As Teresa says, publishers are of many minds on that issue.

  4. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    It’s reasonable of Neil to not want people to distribute their own editions of his work. It’s reasonable of Plasmator to not want an edition that will only be readable as long as the Amazon supports it.

    And since you’ve brought up Neil Gaiman’s work: I think it’s reasonable to want e-books to accommodate graphic novels, symbols, dingbats, colored or shaded text, visually complex nonstandard formats, aesch eth thorn and yogh, and other features found in hardcopy books. I am not content to have integral information stripped out of previously published works because Amazon doesn’t own the formats in which they can be displayed.

  5. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Hi, Patrick!

  6. Mdrips says:

    I’m ready for Mark’s first book based on the adventures of the evil Dr. Murdoch and his tunneling machine. Great writing!

    In regard to Amazon, I love them and spend WAY TOO MUCH MONEY on their site. I may need to join an Amazon 12 step program.

    As to the DRM thing, their MP3 site is great and the Unload site (where the Satanic DRM files lurk) is ok too. I don’t care much for DRM but as I have a Kindle on order (told you I was an Amazon addict) I can live with Amazon’s processes.

  7. Chris Schmidt says:

    Perhaps the best way to handle these problems is to come up with a legal definition for “buy” vs “rent”. “Renting” implies that the item is not yours, you have only purchased the right to use it in a certain way for an amount of time.

    Requiring sellers to use proper terminology could instantly raise awareness among consumers, silence many critics, and encourage DRM-free business models.

    If the government can require companies to label food properly and those medicine ads to list side effects, why can’t they require DRM’d crap to be clearly marked as well?

  8. RealCatholicMen says:

    wld thnk th crrnt frmts hv mr t d wth th lmttns f th Kndl thn mzn’s blty t wn thr frmts. n -rdr cpbl f rndrng, sy, Tm Mgzn n fll glry wld b grt, bt bt t wld cst whl lt mr. Kndl s nly 4 shds f gry nd rltvly mdcr rsltn fr $400.

    thnk grphc nvls wll b hrdr t cmmt t -bk frmt, thgh, vn f th rdr ws tchnclly cpbl. ‘m lkng t Sndmn bk n my hnd nd tryng t mgn hw y’d gt t nt n -bk. Y’d hv t thr rsz t snc th scrn s smllr thn th pgs (bd), llw th -bk t scrll (dsn’t snd plsnt) r y’d bsclly hv t rfrmt th whl bk pg by pg, ccntng fr th sz f th rdr s tht t fts jst rght. Th mssv fll pg sprds tht Sndmn ds btwn chptrs wld prbbly b srsly dmnshd by cmmttng t t n -bk.

    *cld* s ftr whr -rdrs tnd t cm n stndrd sz nd grphc nvls gt md spcfclly wth ths dmnsns n mnd, thgh. f th Kndl ctchs n, wldn’t b srprsd t s sm ntrpd rtsts strt prdcng sbscrptn wbcmc wth rsltn, sz nd clr dpth md spcfclly fr th Kndl.

    Sy, tht’s dmn gd d.

    Qck, smn tch m hw t drw…

  9. coweater says:

    Other silly things they do with music downloads:

    Require amazon software to download a whole album bot not single tracks.

    Gift balances aren’t valid for downloadable purchases.

  10. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Kyle, can we perhaps avoid terms like “feign” and “yammering”?

  11. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    RCM, there’s no reason that machine can’t read .jpg files. And color isn’t four-color; it’s red-letter days, and other significant use of second color.

    A standard-size comics page fits nicely onto a 6×9″ hardcover page. It takes some reduction, but the aspect ratio is fine.

  12. lsukoubi says:

    Oddly enough the Kindle ad on Amazon’s mainpage shows it browsing what website? That’s right. BoingBoing.

  13. Kyle Armbruster says:

    From the article:

    “Even Amazon’s much-vaunted MP3 store comes with terms of service that prevent lending and reselling.”

    Cory, you are always on about this. You can’t “lend” a file. You can only distribute it. You can’t “resell” it; you can only charge for an unauthorized copy of a copy!

    Why would they ever allow these things?

    That being said, there’s nothing stopping you from doing it, and many people will, and no one will really care. They really just want to make sure you’re not distributing en masse.

    You know these things; you just feign shock and hope that people don’t notice that what you’re complaining about is perfectly reasonable.

    Amazon sells MP3s with no DRM. Thank you, Amazon. I can copy them around for my personal use all I want and they won’t get in my way. That’s all I’ve ever asked for. That’s all I’ve ever really had a right to ask for.

    All this yammering on about how digital goods are different from physical when it serves your argument, and then turning around and saying they’re the same when that position is more useful. It’s preposterous.

    DRM is bullshit. It forces honest people to do dishonest things to enjoy their purchases in totally sane manners. We all agree on that. But making money off of your work is not bullshit, and that’s what these people are trying to protect, albeit ham-handedly.

  14. supagold says:

    INCORRECT, INCORRECT, INCORRECT!

    Good article, but the government wasn’t looking for any kind of terrorist when it was “fishing” for purchase histories of those 24,000 people.

    http://www.news.com/8301-13578_3-9824635-38.html

    They were trying to prosecute a Madison city gov’t employee for tax evasion. Still not a good reason to subpoena purchase histories, but also not a good reason for a knee-jerk “TERRORISM!” reaction…

  15. george57l says:

    Kyle says “Amazon sells MP3s with no DRM.”

    Ummm, GRM anybody? (geographical rights management)

    (Yes, I know, I sound like a scratched record – see my previous post)

    Wait until they put GPS in this e-kindling device and it stops you reading your “book” as you cross a border! I simply can’t imagine why the “anti-pirate, we’re so dumb we can’t imagine a new business model beyond suing our customers” brigade haven’t tried to have GPS put in hardware yet. Oh – yes I can – if they hired someone to come up with this idea they’ve already admitted they are so dumb they wouldn’t know if he/she was telling them the truth!

    Anyone fancy a combined GPS/DVD player with MPAA DVD region control?

    :-)

    (Ok – sorry – too far off-topic)

  16. mark says:

    Well I’m not a lawyer so this is largely speculation, but I would assume that part of the reason that the kindle books they sell are infected with DRM is that Amazon had to negotiate new contracts with publishers to get them to use their service. Publishers, having yet to experience the customer backlash that the record companies are finally starting to react to, still think of DRM as a clever and effective way to control their data. While a publisher would basically have to tear down and rebuild the entire legal nature of ownership to prevent amazon from selling used copies of books, it is super easy for a publisher to say that they will not participate in Amazon’s downloading service unless some crazy DRM schema is followed.
    One can only hope that as snafus inevitably arise and infuriate customers that the backlash will slowly percolate through the vast and sluggish corporate nervous system, causing said publishers to react in helpful ways. Of course they usually react in spectacularly unhelpful ways at first, but in the fullness of time a natural selection process should allow the sensible executives or corporations to survive more readily. After all, as the poster is well aware, it is not impossible to distribute books digitally without the backing of a publishing corporation founded in the dawn of time by members of the ancient and mystic order of typesetters.

  17. gadfly says:

    Isn’t it a bit unfair to be calling Amazon such harsh names when just weeks ago their mp3 download service was almost universally hailed for its prices and lack of DRM? Compared to almost everyone else, Amazon didn’t drink the DRM kool-aid on mp3s, and as a result, their mp3 downloads are really pretty great. I understand that subtlety doesn’t play so well in a 500-word(ish?) column, but ouch. If this is how we thank retailers for offering mp3s the way every commentator keeps saying we want them, why should they bother?

  18. kuanes says:

    I think Mark just nailed Dan Brown’s next book (mystic order of typesetters).

    The Gutenberg Code?

  19. cj_ says:

    “If this is how we thank retailers for offering mp3s the way every commentator keeps saying we want them, why should they bother?”

    To make money?

  20. Cory Doctorow says:

    Mark, did you read the article? The whole point is, why is it that Amazon, who fight rightsholders and the government when real goods are on the line (see the article for examples) are such lightweights when negotiating for terms for digital goods?

  21. techiepage says:

    “If this is how we thank retailers for offering mp3s the way every commentator keeps saying we want them, why should they bother?”

    To make money?

  22. plasmator says:

    Well said. I’m in the market for a digital reader. Despite my love of (and huge wishlist on) amazon.com, I’m not even considering the kindle.

    I want control of the content I purchase. Recent events, such as the expiration of the DRM on purchased Major League Baseball videos and purchased Google videos make me very hesitant to purchase other content that can be changed or expired at will by some remote licensing authority. The concept that they would be allowed to edit my books without my knowledge or consent strikes too many dark Orwellian chords for my comfort. There’s no need to ban books when you can just disable (in whole or in part) the ones you don’t think people should read.

    I have lots of books and records that belonged to my grandfather. Under the Amazon model, those books and records would have simply vanished back into Amazon’s vault when he passed away. Amazon would keep a copy, but I couldn’t read, watch, or listen to the books, movies, and music that helped shape his life.

    DRM is “legalized” theft. I do my best not to purchase products crippled with DRM. The transition from “owned” to “tenuously and temporarily licensed” is just too far to fall.

    I appreciate those of you who give so much voice to these concerns.

  23. CVR says:

    Cory, you and a million other people use “showstopper” as a synonym for “deal breaker”.

    It’s an interesting instance of a word starting out with one meaning and ending up with an opposite meaning.

    I’m still hanging on to the definition of showstopper as something wonderful, a performance so powerful that the resulting applause literally stops the show? In technology circles, it seems to only mean something so horrible that it scuttles a transaction.

    I guess this is grammar day on BoingBoing, in light of the comments on today’s RIAA thread on the misuse of “begs the question” (which I was completely ignorant of!).

  24. Wyrmwoud says:

    I can’t quite agree with you on Amazon Unbox, but then I don’t use it on my PC, I use it on my Tivo. It has definitely changed my viewing habits, and I enjoy it immensely. I should point out that I never purchase anything from Amazon Unbox, I only rent them. So far only movies, although occasionally they’ve had free items (I was able to watch Chuck and Bionic Woman well ahead of their premieres, which I think was great… although BW kind of sucked).

    I’ve only purchased one movie, Hot Fuzz, but I deleted that myself not long afterwards. If I’d liked the movie more, I might have been pissed if I found out I couldn’t burn it to disc after “purchasing” it, but I’m finding my habits changing as far as movie purchases go. I was an early DVD adopter, and so have amassed a rather large collection, which is frankly an albatross in this day and age. If I miss a Hollywood blockbuster in the summer, I know I can pay four bucks and rent it on my Tivo as soon (or almost as soon) as it’s released. True, I only have 24 hours to watch it once I’ve started, but I’m fine with that; it’s like when I would rent from Blockbuster (in the cave man era).

    As far as purchases… well, I’m staying away from them, and after reading your article I’m glad I did. But for anybody with a Tivo, Amazon Unbox is pretty sweet.

  25. Niteowl says:

    I think the reason that Amazon folded like a plucky morning weather-man walking into a gale-force storm is that they have to appease the publishers. Mark is spot on, IMHO. It’s not unlike how Apple had to do all sorts of monkey-business (and not the good kind) with iTunes to get the record companies to open their catalog.

    Frankly, I don’t think the publishers will remove DRM until the consumers shown them the way with the stick, as has happened to the record companies. Ridiculously crippled goods do not a good business make.

  26. george57l says:

    Christoper J Olsen said
    “…Amazon just opened a DRM-free MP3 store that is by and large a lot cheaper than iTunes…how exactly is that ‘dumb’?”

    Well it isn’t dumb IF you can explain why possessing a US address/credit card somehow magically enables some DRM-free binary digits to be deliverable, but not having a US address/credit card renders those same DRM-free binary digits somehow undeliverable.

    Sounds a bit like these particular bits are not “free” of something (whatever it is) that is a bit like DRM in character. Heading straight back to dumbness, surely?

  27. Skwid says:

    I’ve been wondering the same thing as Gadfly. Saying that Amazon is uncapable of being sane whenever the product is a download is just unfair. Hell, even before they opened their Downloadable MP3 store, they’ve offered hundreds (thousands, maybe?) of free downloads in DRM MP3 format for years, now. Yeah, sure, 99% of them weren’t worth keeping, but I’ve picked up some great songs that way!

  28. IWood says:

    The first and only time I downloaded a digital version of a physical book from Amazon (D. Wegner’s “White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts”), the file was crippled: it only let me print out one page at a time. I had already *ordered* the physical book, but I wanted to start it immediately. I thought I’d print out a chapter or two to tote around with me until the book came. Silly me.

    I wrote Amazon and told that the file was useless to me. They refunded my purchase almost immediately. It was only $3.99, but still: I bought the damn thing, and wanted to be able to do what I wanted with the data I purchased.

    Still, I suppose it’s for the best. There is a vast black market for counterfeit psychology texts. I could’ve printed the whole book out, made photocopies, and sold thousands of copies of it.

  29. DefMech says:

    Cory, if you’re friends with Jeff Bezos, why don’t you ask him yourself? Seems like the easiest way to get to the bottom of all this.

  30. Pablissimo says:

    @cvr: Surely you mean “of which I was completely ignorant”?
    Sorry sorry. Someone had to though, didn’t they?

  31. Christopher J Olsen says:

    “But for all that, it has to be said: Whenever Amazon tries to sell a digital download, it turns into one of the dumbest companies on the web.”

    Uh…Amazon just opened a DRM-free MP3 store that is by and large a lot cheaper than iTunes…how exactly is that ‘dumb’?

  32. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    The publishing industry almost never works the way you think it does. It’s not just an unintuitive system. It’s a bunch of interdependent interacting systems that are all unintuitive in different ways.

    Mark (1):

    Well I’m not a lawyer so this is largely speculation,

    See above. It applies as much to lawyers as to anyone else, unless they’re lawyers who normally work with the publishing industry.

    but I would assume that part of the reason that the kindle books they sell are infected with DRM is that Amazon had to negotiate new contracts with publishers to get them to use their service.

    No. That one’s an easy call. If that’s the way it happened, the DRM would vary from publisher to publisher. It doesn’t.

    Two useful facts in this discussion: First, there are far more book publishers than there are music publishers. Second, the amount of power a given publisher has will of course vary; but big booksellers tend to have a lot of clout.

    Publishers, having yet to experience the customer backlash that the record companies are finally starting to react to, still think of DRM as a clever and effective way to control their data.

    Opinions vary even within publishing houses. No two publishers have the same take on DRM. Some wouldn’t put out e-editions no matter how heavily DRM’d they were. Others think DRM is useless and pointless.

    The kind of customer backlash we’re seeing in the music industry is not necessarily going to happen in trade book publishing. The book industry has stretched itself thin trying to put as many good books into print as they can, and if possible keep them in print. They haven’t gouged consumers on prices, the way the music industry did with CDs. Most books have very narrow profit margins (if they make money at all), and the book industry overall has low profits and low salaries to match.

    While a publisher would basically have to tear down and rebuild the entire legal nature of ownership to prevent amazon from selling used copies of books,

    Mostly they just bleated in protest, then gave up.

    it is super easy for a publisher to say that they will not participate in Amazon’s downloading service unless some crazy DRM schema is followed.

    It’s easier than you think: they tell Amazon what to do, and Amazon says no. Believe me, this DRM schema is Amazon’s, not the publishers’.

    One can only hope that as snafus inevitably arise and infuriate customers that the backlash will slowly percolate through the vast and sluggish corporate nervous system, causing said publishers to react in helpful ways.

    If copies sell and publishers make a profit on the deal, more books will be offered and more publishers will participate. This is normal industry procedure. It’s how the audiobooks end of things has grown.

    Of course they usually react in spectacularly unhelpful ways at first,

    You must be thinking of the music industry.

    but in the fullness of time a natural selection process should allow the sensible executives or corporations to survive more readily.

    Again: if books sell and publishers profit, the rest of the industry will follow. This has been true of innovations in publishing since roughly the sixteenth century, if not earlier.

    After all, as the poster is well aware, it is not impossible to distribute books digitally without the backing of a publishing corporation founded in the dawn of time by members of the ancient and mystic order of typesetters.

    Way wrong. The publishing industry has grown out of bookselling. Not only do typesetters not run things, but it’s been a long time since mainstream publishers eveb did their own typesetting. (Except for Doubleday, which doesn’t do it either, but stopped much more recently than any other major house.)

    It’s a complicated industry.

    Plasmator (7), that’s the single biggest reason I’m not in the market for a Kindle. I’ve seen too many proprietary formats come and go. I’m not going to tie my current bookbuying to one.

    Mark again (14): Authors’ Guild =/= publishers. Also, when were you last at The Strand? They’re getting out of the used-book business, except for high-priced or very recent titles.

    Even if they tried to somehow organize a some kind of collective bargaining/negotiation on behalf of the publishing companies they really had no significant chance as Amazon sales are at this point one of the cornerstones of their financial projections for their existing business, so they couldn’t really play hardball.

    Don’t overstate Amazon’s clout. They’ve got a middling amount of it, but it’s not like they’re Barnes & Noble.

    However, the real reason that publishers couldn’t band together to negotiate with Amazon is that doing so would constitute Conspiracy in Restraint of Trade, and the feds would be on them like a duck on a bug.

    Contrastingly, digital book distribution is at this point a non-business.

    Small but definitely growing, though it’s still nowhere near as big as audiobooks.

    It represents no significant revenue source to them, and is not seriously projected as one in the short term.

    The book industry looks further ahead than the music industry. They’d look even further ahead if prognostication at that range did any good.

    As a result they can negotiate with some seriousness.

    No. Let me repeat: that DRM scheme is Amazon’s. The book industry didn’t invent it.

    What you have here is a counterfactual work of fiction. I’m not condemning it; I’m just categorizing it.

    Consider the two following scenarios:
    Scenario the first: Edward Cleverboy, a junior executive walks into the office of Jane Friedman, CEO of HarperCollins (thanks again wp!). “We’ve hit a bit of a snafu in our negotiations with Bezos.” he says. “I told him that we can’t do business with them if they keep reselling old books. He said ‘okay. we’ll reduce our orders for this month by 50%. See you in a few weeks.’”

    Amazon doesn’t get its HarperCollins titles from HarperCollins; it gets them from Ingram. HarperCollins will ship Ingram whatever it asks for, and Ingram will sell the books wherever it pleases.

    At his point Jane’s eyes widen in horror as the foundations of the building tremble and eventually split open. Rupert Murdoch then comes storming out of his subterranean tunneling machine dispatched from his secret Australian base and proceeds to tear out Edward’s heart using only his bare hands.

    That part is true. Rupert Murdoch really does tear hearts out with his bare hands. He laughs while he’s doing it, too. Senior editors faint, and baby publicists and production assistants huddle together in the corners to hide their eyes and whimper.

    Then, pausing only to remind Jane that he will have her family killed if she fails to make the quarter’s numbers,

    The year’s numbers, more likely. Publishing earnings emerge out of cloud of uncertainty that’s slow to dissipate.

    he dives back into his tunneler and disappears in a cloud of asbestos dust.

    Radioactive asbestos dust.

    Radioactive asbestos dust mixed with aerosolized pig brains.

    Radioactive asbestos dust mixed with aerosolized pig brains and ground-up GM food crops, while smoking a cigar, twirling his moustache, and saying “Har har!”

    Scenario the Second: Frederic Mouthbreather, another junior executive, walks into Jane’s (newly repaired) office. ‘Those Amazon guys want to distribute our books digitally without a technology that allows us complete and total control over how they are used!’ he reports, amusedly.

    Do please note that Amazon’s DRM scheme gives Amazon, not the publishers, control of their content.

    “‘I told them that it’s a dealbreaker for us. They said they’ll get back to me in a few weeks.’ At this point Jane looks up thoughtfully and replies ‘Whatever. Bezos will have to sell millions of those gizmos to make this thing work. By the time that becomes a real business I’ll be long since retired. Just try not to do anything that hurts our existing business. If I make any kind of new decision that is noticeably a mistake Murdoch will use his earthquake machine to destroy my hometown.’”

    Wrong. You have confused Rupert Murdoch with Leonard Riggio. He’s really scary.

    Say, do you think we can sell novelizations of family guy episodes in 7-elevens?”

    Only if they can sell them in bookstores first; and what she’d actually say would be something like, “Do you think Family Guy novelizations would perform well in mass market?”

    Now admittedly I know nothing about how the publishing industry actually works,

    That’s okay. This work of fiction will be much livelier if you work straight from your imagination.

    nor do I have specific information indicating that Rupert Murdoch is a megalomaniacal subterranean warlord who uses brutal intimidation and ingenious technology to pursue his eldritch and menacing goals.

    I’ll vouch for that! However, Leonard Riggio is still scarier than Murdoch. And if you need a multi-tentacled international organization for some future episode, try Bertelsmann.

    However I do think that these scenarios do illustrate the motivations and beliefs behind a lot of corporate decisionmaking, and how things shook out the way they did.

    It’s nothing like the real thing, but it is a lot of fun. See also MDrips’ reaction at comment #16.

    Wow. That was a slightly longer post than I intended it to be and I’m late for a lunch date. So I’m not going to check it for typos and whatnot. Sorry if I repeated some sentences.

    Don’t worry about it. I removed all your duplicate sentences and replaced them with sentences randomly borrowed from comments in other threads. I think it works. Don’t you?

    Tarmle (15), Amazon is nowhere near that stupid. That’s why this DRM snafu comes as such a surprise.

  33. cm says:

    I think a better question might be why does DRM make people go crazy? There’s no fairness issue here–no one has a “right” to purchase electronic content. It’s a free market transaction.

    Paper books offer a set of services (you can read them, loan them, resell them) or put them on your bookshelf and look at the spines. You’re either willing or not willing to pay for those services. There are a great number of things that I’d like to have but am unable or unwilling to pay for. :)

    Electronic books offer a slightly different set of services (you can download them, store huge amounts of information in a small format, search them). You can’t copy them or view them on a different device in some cases. Sometimes you can only view them for a limited amount of time. Buy them or don’t buy them, it’s your choice–but nobody’s rights are being infringed if Amazon doesn’t chose to include all the same rights or services that you get with a paper book. It’s not like they’re suddenly applying DRM to the paper books on your bookshelves….

  34. mark says:

    Cory, I did read the article, I think I just have a different perspective on the issue. When real goods were on the line Amazon was defending against people who didn’t have a leg to stand on. My understanding was that the Authors guild was trying to enjoin or dissuade Amazon from reselling, or at least brokering the resale of used books. A few stops on the 6 train and I can stop by the strand bookstore, which has been doing this since 1927 (thanks wikipedia!). From a regulatory point of view the only hope they had of prevailing there would be if they had video of all the supreme court members beating Santa Claus to death. Even if they tried to somehow organize a some kind of collective bargaining/negotiation on behalf of the publishing companies they really had no significant chance as Amazon sales are at this point one of the cornerstones of their financial projections for their existing business, so they couldn’t really play hardball.
    Contrastingly, digital book distribution is at this point a non-business. It represents no significant revenue source to them, and is not seriously projected as one in the short term. As a result they can negotiate with some seriousness. Consider the two following scenarios:
    Scenario the first: Edward Cleverboy, a junior executive walks into the office of Jane Friedman, CEO of HarperCollins (thanks again wp!). “We’ve hit a bit of a snafu in our negotiations with Bezos.” he says. “I told him that we can’t do business with them if they keep reselling old books. He said ‘okay. we’ll reduce our orders for this month by 50%. See you in a few weeks.’” At his point Jane’s eyes widen in horror as the foundations of the building tremble and eventually split open. Rupert Murdoch then comes storming out of his subterranean tunneling machine dispatched from his secret Australian base and proceeds to tear out Edward’s heart using only his bare hands. Then, pausing only to remind Jane that he will have her family killed if she fails to make the quarter’s numbers, he dives back into his tunneler and disappears in a cloud of asbestos dust.
    Scenario the Second: Frederic Mouthbreather, another junior executive, walks into Jane’s (newly repaired) office. “Those Amazon guys want to distribute our books digitally without a technology that allows us complete and total control over how they are used!” he reports, amusedly. “I told them that it’s a dealbreaker for us. They said they’ll get back to me in a few weeks.” At this point Jane looks up thoughtfully and replies “Whatever. Bezos will have to sell millions of those gizmos to make this thing work. By the time that becomes a real business I’ll be long since retired. Just try not to do anything that hurts our existing business. If I make any kind of new decision that is noticeably a mistake Murdoch will use his earthquake machine to destroy my hometown. Say, do you think we can sell novelizations of family guy episodes in 7-elevens?”

    Now admittedly I know nothing about how the publishing industry actually works, nor do I have specific information indicating that Rupert Murdoch is a megalomaniacal subterranean warlord who uses brutal intimidation and ingenious technology to pursue his eldritch and menacing goals. However I do think that these scenarios do illustrate the motivations and beliefs behind a lot of corporate decisionmaking, and how things shook out the way they did.

    Wow. That was a slightly longer post than I intended it to be and I’m late for a lunch date. So I’m not going to check it for typos and whatnot. Sorry if I repeated some sentences.

Leave a Reply