Commensense about ebooks

Joanna Cabot's An Open Letter to E-Book Retailers: Let’s have a return to common sense is just what you'd hope for from a post with a title like that: three commensensical points about ebooks, licensing and DRM that I generally agree with (though I quibble a little here and there). 1. If your button says "Buy this ebook," then I own it. 2. Ebooks are read by households, not devices or the users to whom they're registered. 3. It's not piracy to share the kids' ebooks you buy with your kids. (Thanks, Dan!)


  1. My book reader cost me 50 bucks. While I have lately been stripping the DRM off, nothing would stop me lending the reader to a friend so that he could read my DRMed books, so I fail to see the advantage in locking it down.

    1.  Whenever I lent a book, I didn’t have to stop reading all my other books: there’s a difference. Unless you buy one reader per friend…

      1. Also, the bookstore can’t cause your bookshelf to destroy all of your books and your books don’t become unreadable if you decide to buy a bookshelf from a different manufacturer.

    2. This is why I have a Kindle, and save all the books I purchase from Barnes and Noble (which are few, I must admit — most of my ebooks are free from Munsey’s and Project Gutenberg and places like that) elsewhere, not just on my reader.

  2. What this author said, amen.   DRM has a whole can of irritating anti-functions when it comes to e-books for library use. One of the annoying things is that, while DRM can remove a library e-book from your reader at the end of the borrowing period, it has trouble with people wanting to return the e-book earlier.  Consequently, the jam-up for bestseller e-books is as bad as, if not worse than, the dead tree editions at the library.

  3. Don’t forget price!

    Nothing pisses me off more than an ebook priced equivalently to its hardback counterpart. Technology just reduced all your production, shipping, and update complications..Even if you consider DRM and conversion as additional costs, they still pale in comparison. so publishers go “YAY…bigger profit margins” instead of even a slight reduction in price.

    1. Not to mention the fact that many eBooks are clearly OCR’d and then not proof-read, and/or have tiny little thumbnail pictures (or none at all). It’s like trying to sell a hissy second-generation tape copy for the same price as the original LP.

    2. Equivalently or more. Consider Cory’s own Rapture of the Nerds, which is $14.36 in HC but $15.58 on Kindle.

      1. Or available in a vastly superior non-DRM form at (with the option to buy it from any retailer, not just Amazon, if you want to donate a hardcopy to a school or library.) 

  4. Dear book publishers. If the electronic book is not available or more expensive than the physical book (sorry, that’s unforgivable) expect me to pirate it. If I can’t transfer it onto another device or have it in a non-proprietary format, expect me to break the DRM on the purchased copy or pirate it. And expect me to keep pirating until you’re out of business and replaced by a company that gives me what I want. Just a heads up.

  5. The answer, of course, it to buy paper books until the publishers figure out a strategy which is realistic, which is exactly what I do. If you buy their product, they have no incentive to change.

  6. I will keep using the library until there is a functioning ebook system that doesn’t treat me like a thief.  Failing the library (and with interlibrary loans and zillions of good books available the library isn’t failing) I find my books second hand.  It will be this way until I win a lottery and/or ebooks are not a total insult and ripoff.

    I say this as a prime customer for publishers of all stripes.  >150 books/year, not counting kid’s books (>400/year at least).  Another >20-40 manuals and such in my shop (which I do actually sometimes buy).

    1. there’s a great functioning ebook system that doesn’t treat you like a thief…any torrent site.  the mobilism forums for direct downloads.  or a combination of nzbindex and usenetstorm, to pull it off usenet from your browser.   Everything works, it works where, when, and on whatever platform i want.

      only downside is that you’ll be CALLED a thief.   but, well, fuck ’em.  i got a bookk a day habit, i haunted used bookstores, i was never a sale.   Only change now is that once in awhile i’ll find an author that gets it and be able to contribute a few bucks directly.

      1. I actually go out to Google Play and buy the book, then either break the DRM or use a pirated copy.  The only thing that bothers me about that is that I feel that I may be giving them the impression that I’m actually OK with their DRM.

        One other problem that I have with the systems as is is that it’s very difficult to buy books as gifts. The only way to do it currently is to not only make sure that the recipient has a device of the same kind that you do (or that you have an account with their provider) and you have to know their ID.

        I’d prefer to just email them an ePub, and that’s what I do – I buy it myself, break the DRM and send them the file.  But if I want a copy for myself, there’s no way to buy a 2nd copy on my account.  Heck, in the past I have sometimes bought 4 or 5 copies of the same book to give as gifts – DRM makes that impossible without breaking it.

  7. With regards with the ebooks policies I guess there is no copyright infringement when you buy books from amazon or other site that sells ebooks. With our technology today, people are using it for the benefits of teaching specially to their children in the modern way. Parents today are more open in acceptance of the technology and using it to teach their children the usual way like the bed time stories and other books for children but in modern way like using ebooks and other way using the internet and the gadgets. I have some tips to parents who are always downloading some ebooks but it cost their way too much, I have checked this is the best site where you can access books that is absolutely FREE. You will be learning so much without paying anything and you can have the books without delays. The books can be downloaded in PDF without registration.

  8. 4. Stop charging double because I live in Australia!  It’s cheaper to have a paperback book shipped across the world and delivered to my door than it is to download a 200k file?

  9. An example of  the rule of unintended consequences; and specifically to Cory:
    I have this email:  

    OCT 22, 2012 |
    12:03PM PDT

    Hi David!
    The books are intended for personal use only and not for sharing or distribution of any form. Doing so would be a violation of our ToS and could result in your download page being disabled. Thanks for your understanding on this matter.

    Drew Support NinjaHumble Bundle

    OCT 20, 2012 |
    10:33AM PDT
    Original message

    DRM- Since some of these titles are of very little interest to me, so I’d like to pass them to a library. Is that also permitted? How would I go about it?

    The purpose of the bundle, as I understand it, is to expose readers to books they might not otherwise notice.   If I find a book in a bundle that is not suited to me, but that I think someone would like, I will pass it on with a recommendation.  That is a better promotion of an author than you can achieve.  The unintended consequences of your DRM policy are that you have hereby failed in your original objective and because I will not buy another bundle, you have set yourselves up for for automatic failure in future attempts.You have also seriously damaged Cory`s credibility as a critic of DRM.

    1. Actually, I believe you can get out on technicality (unless you just do as you please, and don’t care if the found out and disabled your download or whatever).
      1) The process of “sharing” means giving something away so you have something left. So, if you give away the book (getting rid of all copies), you are not “sharing” it.
      2) “Distribution” means giving away multiple items. So, if you give away one book, it’s not really distribution. Whether the receiving party keeps the same rule, is up to them.

      What you probably should do, is print the book and give it away (getting rid of all copies you have).

      Though Cory’s opinion would be interesting to hear.

  10. The Humble Bundle didn’t have any DRM on it.  Distribution policy is a different thing than DRM.  Paper books can have the same policy on them, let’s not confuse the issues.

    1. I sort of see what you mean, but in this case, what do you mean by distribution policy as it applies to giving away a book?  They seem to be telling me that I can’t give away a book I don’t want, DRM or not.  (Yes, I’m a bit confused)

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