Audiobook DRM versus the patrons of the Cleveland Library

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40 Responses to “Audiobook DRM versus the patrons of the Cleveland Library”

  1. mgfarrelly says:

    As a librarian, I cannot agree with this more.

    Audiobooks are a gigantic boost to circulation, and having them in a format that’s easy to access is vital.

    CD Audiobooks for anything longer than a novella is kind of ridiculous and extremely costly. Longer books can run 20-30 cds, any one of which, if scratched or marred, means the whole thing has to be replaced. Publishers have dragged their feet in putting out MP3 cds, and even when they do the cost of purchase is often the same as a regular cd.

    And let us not speak of cassettes. At this point, handing a cassette to a teenager or young adult patron is like offering thema wax cylinder.

    Librarians want you to be able to get the book you want, in the format you desire. And this isn’t just preference, it’s also a matter of equal access for the visually impaired and people with learning differences like dyslexia. DRM protects companies who have already made a profit from making an additional profit and or pumping our cruddy malware to support their borked product.

    DRM has no Right @ your library

    • Revan343 says:

      15, and I have an old Walkman.
      (backup, in case my Sansa FUZE runs out of power)

      Putting musix on a cassette is a lot harder than a CD or mp3 player, though. XD

  2. libraryboi says:

    Comments on The Brad’s page state that it’s a comic and distortions need to be overlooked. But he is suggesting that it is harder than it really is and thus discourages people from trying. I have overdrive installed and never experienced the errors he documents. Why is it assumed that installing non-DRM software would be hassle-free? Those who resort to downloading illegally posted copies from torrent sites might as well just go to their local bookstore and steal it on CD so they can have the physical copy too.

    • querent says:

      “Those who resort to downloading illegally posted copies from torrent sites might as well just go to their local bookstore and steal it on CD so they can have the physical copy too.”

      Making a copy is not the same as theft. When I make a copy, no one has lost anything. To steal from a local bookstore is very different.

      I think artists and others in the industry should be supported. And I do support them. But I’m a poor grad-student. De facto, the industry hacks would have the poor denied access to music, etc. I’m not copying stuff that I would have paid for, had the copy not been available. I copy stuff I otherwise simply would not have. No one is made less by. I am made more.

      • Silence in the Stacks says:

        @querent As I said in one of my responses at the top, there is a big difference between the physical and virtual worlds where media is concerned. But the fact is that when someone creates a work and they intend to profit from it, the behavior of the customer needs to be controlled. Of course that is difficult enough to do in real life with people taking individual rights to an extreme. So the best we can accomplish is to find a way to tie the user’s selfishness into the motivation for doing the right thing.

        In the case of owning a copy of an audio book, the right thing is to pay for it. You don’t pay for it, you don’t get to own a copy. Plain and simple. In the case of borrowing one from the library, it’s more complicated. You need a mechanism to prevent the user from having the copy beyond a limited period of time. Because if you don’t, then the library becomes nothing more than another channel for piracy, which is not right.

        Let’s just imagine a world that would satisfy what you believe hurts no one: The publishing industry releases all audio book downloads without DRM. People with a sense of morality pay for their copy of the book. Let’s assume that’s 50% of the buying public (a rather high estimate if we’re thinking of reality).

        People who usually do the right thing but are maybe strapped for cash and really want a copy, find it through other channels. Perhaps they grab a copy from a relative or friend. Perhaps they download it via Bittorrent. The source does not matter, the fact is that they acquired the copy without paying for it. Let’s assume that they make up about 30% of the buying public. But then tack on the fact that maybe some of these people will give a copy of their copy to friends family or even strangers on the internet. You’ve now taken away that many more sales from the publisher and author.

        The remaining 20% are the unrepentant criminals who believe they are justified in pirating the material because it’s “too expensive” or it’s “unworthy of being paid for at any price”. These people freely copy the media everywhere and it propagated ad nauseum on the internet.

        How is a publishing business going to make money like that? How would they stay in business in the first place? Are we to assume that in the future authors and publishers should just adapt to the fact that people will steal their intellectual property so they may as well sell it to the eventual minority who will still pay for it? Why would anyone create anything at that point? There must be a balance between the free for all anarchy of no DRM at all and DRM that’s so draconian it makes media completely useless.

        While you might feel that you’ve made yourself a little better by gaining access to something you didn’t pay for, that doesn’t change the fact that the publisher and the author didn’t get the money they rightly deserve from you. In the long run you are still stealing and there is no moral justification for it.

        • funkyderek says:

          @Silence in the Stacks:

          If instead of going to the library and jumping through hoops and involving a librarian who knows less about the technology than I do, and wasting hours of my time and theirs to borrow a book for free, who exactly does it hurt if I circumvent the tedium of that process and download a torrent instead? After listening to the book I will delete it, I won’t be lending it on to anyone else and I would never have paid for it anyway.
          A huge number of paper books are lent, by libraries and by individuals. Neither the publisher nor the author make any money on these transactions. They sell one copy of a book and maybe fifty people read it.
          Books also get sold second-hand. Again, the author and publisher only get paid once even though multiple people read the book.
          In fact, you’ll probably find that one of the main reasons people buy new books is because they like owning books. I know I do. My shelves are groaning under the weight of books I have read only once and will never read again.
          But now I have an e-book reader. Publishers want me to buy their e-books. But what do I get when I do? I don’t get anything I can put on my shelf, anything that can absorb and diffuse the memories associated with where and when I read them, nothing that makes buying any better than borrowing. And if I can borrow for free anyway, doesn’t it make sense to choose the easiest route to doing so?

          • Silence in the Stacks says:

            @funkyderek Everyone is doing it, so that makes it OK? It’s too much of a hassle to get a job, go to work, earn money, open a bank account, set up direct deposit, and use a debit card to make a purchase at Walmart. It’s far easier to just walk in and take things off the shelves, and find a way to sneak out with the goods so no one notices. If no one notices, who does that hurt? Besides, that’s only two steps instead of the previous five or six that going legit involves. What’s wrong with that picture?

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Silence in the Stacks,

            You’re repeating yourself. If you have anything new to add, feel free.

          • funkyderek says:

            You’re missing the point. Stealing something from Walmart does hurt somebody. It mightn’t hurt them very much but it does genuinely hurt them in a tangible and measurable way. If I steal a loaf of bread from Walmart, they have lost the value of one loaf of bread. If I download a copy of a book that I would never have bought, then nobody has lost anything. Or if they have, it is exactly – EXACTLY – the same as if I downloaded an identical copy of the book from a library. In fact, I have saved the library and the publisher the time and effort involved in managing the copy, a small cost to be sure, but these things add up.

  3. Anonymous says:

    @Silence in the stacks. I take issue with one of your points:-

    Publishers need to make money to stay in business

    Why?

    We don’t need publishers anymore. Artists, authors and musicians are able to sell directly to the public, and so the need for a publisher is diminishing. Admittedly this hasn’t really taken off quite yet, but it will only grow more and more as more of the world gets connected.

    Publishers, recording companies, movie distributors, news media. They are all in the same boat. The traditional artist->publisher->consumer chain is breaking down and it has them running scared. This is why we see the sudden upsurge in copyright awareness, with bills like the UK’s digital economy bill and the US’s ACTA being brought in to appease big government donors rather than to actually let the technology and culture grow naturally. Culture and creativity is noth something that can be commodified anymore, and the publishers just can’t accept it.

    This will be their downfall. let them die, we don’t need them anymore.

    • Silence in the Stacks says:

      @anonymous poster who takes issue with “Publishers need to make money to stay in business”. In the direct from artist to consumer business model you have to make the assumption that the artist is a business person and has the savvy to navigate all the things that come with marketing and distribution of an original work. This is a flawed assumption. The majority of very talented artists are rarely well skilled at self promotion or the business end. Some are but they’re a rarity. This is where that model falls down. Like it or not, a middle man is needed who can take great works and convince people to buy them.

      Conversely, there are a lot of people out there who think they are very talented and simply aren’t. I suggest you look for T Baby and Chuggo on Youtube. These are people who very few would consider to be artists and regardless of whether they self published or had someone taking care of it for them, they’d garner very little from the venture other than notoriety for being talentless.

      If publishers were to disappear because they can no longer make money, you’ll get a lot more T Baby and Chuggo to choose from and far less really great artists. This applies to any art form. The rare artists who can pull it all off themselves will dominate. But the truly great artists who can’t design a good website or afford to have someone do it will be lost in a sea of garbage. The marketing and distribution can’t be handled by the majority of artists. It simply can’t.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Two things I’d say to mgfarrelly

    1. Library Editions on CD cost more, but from most publishers come with free replacement of CD’s for a limited time or lifetime of the product (in fact one company even replaces the cases for life as well)

    2. The MP3 CD is DRM free works with darn near everything and is quite easy to use. Also it tends to be cheaper than a digital download or conventional CD based audiobook.
    Take Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
    http://library.brillianceaudio.com/product.asp?AuthorId=1345&Titleid=25937
    Library CD is $92.97 while the MP3 CD is $39.97
    The MP3 CD is less than half the price

    Yea, DRM sucks but I don’t think it’s going to be going away from overdrive anytime soon.

  5. Karlos says:

    If Libraries boycotted this stuff they wouldn’t get any downloadable audio/ebooks at all unfortunately.

    The model for this sort of thing allows the vendor/publisher to “sell” (in the most limited instance) a _single_ electronic “book” licence (at probably more than a physical book price) to your local cash poor Library.

    The Library then have to submit to DRM to avoid getting burned by copyright laws (and publishers) by only allowing _one_ “copy” of it to be used by _one_ person at _one_ time.

    Sorta defeats the purpose of electronic copies doesn’t it? and hinders any “universal” access to information.

    Well at least the Libraries are trying to get new formats out there free to the public. I just worry that the provision of free, authoritative, and culturally important works will turn into pay-per-view if we don’t support the public libraries.

    DRM is broken anyway – anyone with any nous can “keep” their copy.

    • Cory Doctorow says:

      Library orgs like EIFL have a long and successful history of negotiating better terms from publishers on electronic collection acquisitions. I think that, taken collectively, libraries are simply too important to the publishers’ business to be ignored or abused. If libraries stand up to this bullying, they can and will win.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree somewhat – what I think is overlooked is that the publishing industry has changed the rules of engagement with libraries- and possibly broken the law.

        To my mind, they are breaking a century old commitment to intellectual freedom and are breaching the trust of a long-standing customer – the public library. It is beyond being difficult to use – they simply aren’t making all books available – you can’t buy a one off ebook or eaudiobook and make it available to library customers. They simply don’t provide you with a model to do this. As a result they are disadvantaging those who cannot afford to pay – it’s a burgeoning paywall that will further deepening the canyon between those who can afford technology and those who can not.

        Collective agreements may muscle in some change – but there is more going on here.

        Libraries should band together and develop an e-publishing model that is inclusive, simpler, makes authors and artists wealthier and essentially kills the old school publishing world as they cling to their antiquation.

        This is an opportunity for the library world to change the publishing world so that intellectual freedom is a guarantee for generations to come.

  6. murrayhenson says:

    Lady Katey said, “dual-boot of archaic software- things don’t work.”

    I don’t know what OS the author is using but no where does he say that it’s a dual-boot setup. I happen to use Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) and boot Windows via Sun’s VirtualBox software. It works just fine but it’s still irritating to have to use it… and I would be even more irritated if I had to use it for something like an audiobook from a LIBRARY. Libraries aren’t supposed to make it difficult to borrow stuff.

    I would have done exactly what the author did: try it the legal way and if I can’t make it work in a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of effort… then f*ck it and grab a torrent. Too inconvenient to do it legally? Then do it illegally. One would think they’d learn; they’ve supposedly lost a lot of money trying to get everyone to do it their way.

    • jere7my says:

      I would have done exactly what the author did: try it the legal way and if I can’t make it work in a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of effort… then f*ck it and grab a torrent.

      The author mentions in the comments that he did not in fact torrent the audiobook, because torrenting is too slow.

  7. jere7my says:

    The artist admits in the comments that he left a few steps out of the torrenting step for the sake of humor — specifically, the “wait several hours” step. I sometimes torrent a TV show if my DVR borked up, but before I do I always look around to see if it’s available officially, because torrenting is just…so…slow. And then it’s sometimes missing audio, or full of artifacts, or in Italian, and I have to download it again. He’s also using an older OS, and doesn’t say anything about the hassle of installing torrenting software.

    As someone in the comments points out, he’s comparing worst-case to best-case — which is fine if you want to make a funny, satirical comic, but not so fine if you start trying to use that comic as the basis of a serious argument.

  8. carljohnson says:

    When I take a book out of the library, it works just the same as when I buy it from a bookstore. Same with CDs and DVDs (and VHS and cassette tape and, if I remember correctly, reel-to-reel). But somehow audiobooks can’t work the same.

    Our library uses a service that allows you to download their audiobooks to your iPod – but only a Windows-formatted iPod. Select titles, maybe 3% of what they offer, will work on a Mac, and even with those, I can’t actually make them work on a Mac. I’ve listened to about two audiobooks in my whole life, and my experience with trying to get them to work doesn’t encourage me to try more.

    When I take a book out of the library, it works just the same as when I buy it from a bookstore.

  9. andygates says:

    …and that’s missing the steps where, despite having got the certs and the software (which we’re trusting not to be evil), it still doesn’t bloody work, so a fellow is obliged to google some more, find the DRM crack tool that’s been around for months, and rip the daft crippleware layer off his legitimate download before reading it.

    Why waste time and hair on jumping through hoops?

    • arkizzle / Moderator says:

      Andy, did you click through the link and read the whole comic?

      • andygates says:

        Sure did read it all – which is why I bothered to pick out the different narrative of cracking the DRM instead of just torrenting a ready-cracked version. No sharing involved (though instead, one becomes a DMCA crook! aiee!).

        Stacks, it’s not an “infantile whine” when something you pay for plain doesn’t work.

        Books just work. DRM stuff has an unacceptably high rate of just plain failing, and the vendor always covers their ass with “it’s your setup” in the clickwrap.

        “Publishers will never go for it…” is what they said about music, too, and they’re giving up on DRM as the dog it truly is.

        It’s amazing how the publishing industry is so keen to repeat all of the mistakes the music industry made.

        • Silence in the Stacks says:

          @andygates Real physical objects and software objects are not the same thing. The realm of the physical objects is the reality around us. While it’s not perfect, it’s had a very long time to work out many of the bugs. Software, the realm of the media in question, has only been around for for a little over 100 years: http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/von_Neumann.html#The%20First%20Programmer%20Was%20a%20Woman with the majority of what we use today originating in the 1970s. Given that, software is not even to parity with physical reality yet.

          So trying to compare virtual media with physical media is a complete non-starter from both sides of the DRM argument. On the pro-DRM side, you argue that you need DRM to protect your intellectual property and any attempt to make a profit from it because virtual media can be easily copied otherwise. On the anti-DRM side saying that a book “just works” vs. the pains of using DRM protected media is a an apples to oranges comparison.

          Forgetting about DRM, the real issue is that the behavior of the end users MUST be controlled in order to ensure that the media publishers are financially compensated and continue to exist. People like Nine Inch Nails have taken different approaches of directly publishing to their customer base. But Trent Reznor is someone who has the resources to do that. Stephen King also did something similar at one point to great fanfare. But he has the resources that many other authors don’t have. For those who have something worth selling but lack the resources for publicity and distribution, the publishing houses are their only choice.

          Not many people want to go into the business of self-publishing. It’s too much of a pain for most. Especially for truly creative people. Creativity, technical and business savvy are rarely evenly balanced skills in one individual. Since successful self-publishing for profit is limited to only a few rare sorts of individuals, that leads right back to the big publishing houses. Which, in the end still requires some form of control over the customers who purchase the virtual media. Then complicate it by throwing in libraries who let people borrow things for free and you have layers of problems to manage. DRM *IS* broken. But the answer is not to eliminate it. I predict that the music business will suffer tremendous losses as some shift away from DRM. In the long run, the only working solution will be one where the customer has a vested interest in NOT sharing. I don’t know how that can be achieved.

  10. magneticwheels says:

    silence in the stacks: great, thoughtful post. my only question is a metaphysical one: “software is not even to parity with physical reality yet” what on the heck does that even mean? virtual reality? AI’s? How is that even possible?

    and querent @18: you support artists etc. in any that doesn’t cost you money. do you cook them dinner? write them than thank you letters? or is it just a general statement of support for a nice sounding, fuzzy ideal.”it sure is nice that you artists spend all this time making stuff for me to enjoy for free. i support that. good on ya.” that’s like people who claim to “support the troops” but still drive giant SUVs because its convenient. a nice sounding platitude, but meaningless. and the plea that you are a poor grad student holds no water. poor grad students have always been able to buy books, records etc. you download things for free because its technologically possible, convenient and easy. then come up with justifications after the fact.

  11. Anonymous says:

    So many negative comments… I’ve been listening to DRM’ed books from Overdrive through our library for several years now, at first using a Creative player, now using an iPod Nano. I’ve gone through the cert update and all that on each of several PCs that I use.

    Really, even if it isn’t perfect, it ain’t that bad. I don’t have to spend time driving to the library, don’t have to worry about returning material before the due date, and actually, as long as I copy the material to the player within 1 week, it still plays fine after the expiration (due) date.

    It REALLY beats the heck out of paying for audio books, puts my commute time to better use than listening to radio, and I actually have a chance to get through some of the things on my lengthy “reading” list.

    I’ve accepted some compromise here, and I don’t think this is the same as “those who are willing to give up some liberty for security…”.

    But I will join everyone in a chorus of “stop extending copyrights indefinitely”… do artists deserve longer terms than engineers (patents)?

  12. eliterrell says:

    I do computer work at a library system that subscribes to the same service, Overdrive. Probably 75% of the problems people complain about are DRM related. Another 20% are because it only lets you try to download your book 3 times-not strictly DRM but still another arbitrary restriction. Why not only allow them a certain number of IP addresses? It’s not as if people can bypass restrictions by downloading the files again, at least if they designed their system right.

    I tried the service myself a while back and wasn’t impressed. I’m no audiophile but even speech compressed to 32kbps hurts my brain. I can’t imagine listening to hours of that for fun let alone jumping through hoops to do it.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think that, taken collectively, libraries are simply too important to the publishers’ business to be ignored or abused. If libraries stand up to this bullying, they can and will win.

    Is that really true? It’s always seemed to me like publishers have a love/hate relationship with libraries. It seems like the bean counters at the publishing houses often seem to think of libraries as giant leeches on their business models, even though libraries provide a guaranteed revenue stream for books year in and year out. Some of the rhetoric that occasionally comes out of publishing houses (especially where ebooks are concerned) makes me think that they’d prefer it if libraries would just disappear altogether.

    That said, Overdrive is just plain awful for audioBooks. Even though I think most DRM in principle is the publishers being overly-paranoid, I still think that if you’re going to do DRM you should be able to do something better than Overdrive. I have yet to download a single Overdrive audioBook that would play on my ipod from my library. I finally just gave up on the idea of listening to downloadable audioBooks altogether – my experience with Overdrive convinced me that I don’t even want to try to purchase the damn things if the publishers are willing to slap their names on something that is so shoddy and hand it off to libraries as a workable solution.

  14. Lady Katey says:

    Ah, the joys of running a dual-boot of archaic software- things don’t work.

    (I don’t support DRM, but give me a break. Half those steps are related to the ‘artist’s wacky comptuer setup.)

  15. Anonymous says:

    At some level, libraries leverage copyright’s “first sale,” doctrine to get maximum use out of their copies. But so long as the digital world is about licenses and not sales, it’s a poor fit for libraries.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I recently got one of these from my local library. It took me over two hours to download it, and over an hour to (legally) put it on my ipod. It was a horrible experience and one I am not ready to repeat. I can’t afford books right now as I am unemployed, but this experience is why many people will just go with the pirated version of the book or skip it all together.

  17. igpajo says:

    Or you could do like I do for audiobooks from the library. Check out the 15-30 disk Book on CD, rip to MP3 in ITunes, load it on your player and enjoy. Delete from player and computer when finished. Viola.

  18. bottyguy says:

    We have the same system shown in that demo at the Wake County (NC-USA) library system. They are missing a couple of extra steps:

    1) There are only a small number of “purchased” books available of each item in the library. In our case I think it is one. So if someone already has it checked out your out of luck. Currently ~98% of the adult items (fiction and non-fiction) are checked out.

    2) If you have a Mac that limits the number of books you can download to your computer for use on your computer or MP3 player. So if you find a book you may not be able to download it.

    3) If your portable mp3 player is an iPod that limits the number of audiobooks you can download and put on your iPod.

    • andygates says:

      Hold on, so the library can only lend their audiobooks as if they’re physical media, to one person at a time?

      Doesn’t that fly in the face of common sense and everything electronic media is all about?

  19. dculberson says:

    One of my biggest problems with it is trusting the software – not so much that it won’t be evil, which is a concern, but that it won’t hog resources and slow my system down. It must have some sort of process it leaves running to protect the DRM, and that always causes problems. Eventually your system is performing hundreds of thousands of operations per minute just to sit idle.

    @Arkizzle, I think Katey meant the fact that the Brads had to reboot into windows after picking out the file, implying he was in a different os to start with. That might also be related to Windows Media Player being out of date, since he doesn’t regularly use it and keep it updated. (Or he’s like me and doesn’t allow the updates until there’s a compelling reason.)

  20. cymk says:

    If anything, fair use should cover libraries making copies for lending purposes, or even to back up large audio books/ collections. Condensing that 30 CD audio book to one mp3 CD to lend makes perfect sense to me. Publishers will cry foul, that with out the “DRM” their works will be copied, violating their copyrights, etc…but DRM hasn’t stopped savvy users from usurping it.

  21. Brad Colbow says:

    @Silence in the stacks You make some good observations.

    When I wrote the comic I picked on the Cleveland Public Library because I want to 1. hold someone accountable and 2. let the people reading it know that it’s a REAL problem I had and not just whining about DRM. There were actually more steps in real life than there were in the comic, like downloading the Mac client first and trying to download a different book once in Windows but I cut them out for clarity’s sake.

    I think I’ve clearly hit a nerve because this is a problem a lot of people have had not just with Overdrive but with DRM in general. When you mentioned that the technorati are the only ones who care you’re wrong. I spend my life building web experiences that centered around users. The solutions our libraries settle for are appalling and it’s the average user who doesn’t care about DRM who is punished. A bad experience in one area effects the entire CPL brand. If you go to a coffee shop and get a really bad cup of coffee you’re not going to go back to see if the tea is better.

    If I have one regret it’s that I put to much blame on the CPL and not on the folks who make this horribly crappy software. I love our libraries which is why I’m so disappointed when they let me down.

  22. Silence in the Stacks says:

    I’ve no intention of being offensive to the readers here, but the “weberati” are largely disconnected from what many people consider to be real life anyway, specifically the people who use the Cleveland Public Library; like me. The web and its various platforms give people who live on the web a sense of power that they don’t really have in real life. They can say what they feel and broadcast it to like minds. But that is of limited scope especially in the local real world communities.

    To give readers who aren’t local to the Cleveland area some perspective, here are some facts that the web comic doesn’t give you: The Cleveland Public Library isn’t what it used to be. But, it’s as good a library as you can hope to have in a city with a speedily shrinking population and tax base. I’ve heard in quite a few civic meetings that the next census may record Cleveland as a city of 350,000 people. In about 60 years the population has dropped from a peak of 1.5 million.

    So compared to other metropolitan libraries, Cleveland Public Library is now “small potatoes” through no fault of their own because the whole area is small potatoes. The only people who currently actually care about Cleveland Public Library in a way that matters are the voters who live in Cleveland proper. Not the suburbs or ex-urbs, the actual inner city. These voters are largely NOT on-line or connected to the web other than the rare “new urbanism” yuppie who lives in Tremont. Those who are, don’t read sites like Boinboing or know who Cory Doctorow is either. As such, they’re not likely to care about Brad’s comic or this Boingboing blog entry. I’m being serious. As a user of the library who is one of those “new urbanism” yuppies, I know the patron base and it’s not you dear reader.

    But I digress. The comic is not specifically about the Cleveland Public Library. In fact many other patrons complain about DRM at their libraries for downloadable media so the problem affects all libraries with copyrighted downloadable media. A little research reveals that the people to point the finger at for the DRM is a company named Overdrive. They are the ones who provide the content for copyrighted, downloadable materials at nearly all libraries:

    http://www.overdrive.com

    Perhaps if Brad dug a little deeper he would have discovered this fact and not killed the delivery boy. Ultimately, the comic is only about DRM and Brad’s frustration with it vs. what he perceives to be the easier option: piracy via Bittorrent. Unfortunately, his comic is nothing more than an infantile whine dressed up in indignant outrage about a foe that doesn’t really exist. Which is typical of the anti-DRM creed.

    Anti-DRM arguments have been flowing freely on the net since the term DRM first became popular in the 1990s. It used to be called copy protection in the old days. As of yet, not one person complaining about it has come up with a viable business model that will satisfy the needs of publishers. Right now, the reality is that if a library wants to provide non-DRM audio books, they’d have to have their own staff read and record public domain texts. Or worse yet, using the text to speech software that can read text files and record the stuff from the Gutenberg project. Gutenberg is already doing that. Just how appealing do you think those free audio books would be? Not to mention for a library like Cleveland Public Library which suffered massive budget cuts like all other libraries in Ohio, the cost of staff time to actually try and do this.

    Publishers will never go for the idea of their works being released in a non-DRM format other than an occasional special exception for promotional purposes. So, what are libraries able to really do to solve the DRM problem? Nothing. It’s not a problem for libraries to solve, which wasn’t Brad’s point in the comic, but at the end of the day, the impotent whine “DRM sucks” does nothing to solve the problem either. I simply want to make it clear that all libraries are in the same boat with regard to DRM. Something that Brad is apparently unaware of but should be if he’s going to try and corner them into boycotting DRM. I’m all for finding a viable way to ditch DRM. But giving stuff away for free isn’t it. Publishers need to make money to stay in business and libraries need to honor that need by finding a way for library users to return their items whether physical or virtual.

    It makes me wonder how our society has shifted so far to the point of entitlement to free… everything. When banks used account numbers, do you think there were organized groups of protests saying that it’s inconvenient to have to remember and protect the cryptic account number? What about ATM cards and PINs? Sure those have the incentive of protecting your own property rather than protecting someone else’s property. So I propose a business model that might work: when you buy something that is DRM free your personal info is embedded in the media in a way that you can’t easily discover (say your credit card number, and SSN for example) then you might be a bit more choosy about who you give your music, video and ebook or audiobook files to? Don’t look at me like that. At least I provided a solution.

    • cymk says:

      “It makes me wonder how our society has shifted so far to the point of entitlement to free… everything”

      Its not the sense of entitlement that makes society want things for free; the sense of entitlement you speak of makes people think they have the right to what they desire immediately, without waiting. Part of it is the fast food culture we live in, and the internet helps feed that need for immediacy, and this all helps reinforce daily that we shouldn’t have to wait for anything (think of Veruca Salt’s cries I want it now!).

      The whole idea behind public libraries is the providing of information to the masses, an old idea that stretches into antiquity, but in my opinion has yet to be completely adapted to modern technology. Denying access to some of that knowledge is ludicrous; technology should not be a barrier to knowledge, it should be a bridge.

  23. Anonymous says:

    This was precisely my experience BOTH times (seperated by about a year) that I tried to borrow audiobooks with overdrive, i am going to send this comic to my local library.

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