karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Get thee behind me, DRM!

I realized the other day that I don't think I have read a print book since I got a Kindle. For me, eReaders are like ice makers. Once I got a refrigerator with an ice maker, I no longer had the patience to deal with keeping ice cube trays filled.

But one real annoyance of eReaders is digital rights management software (DRM). In an effort to keep piracy down, publishers and/or retailers (like Amazon) add software to each digital book so that it can't be freely copied and distributed. Kindle books, for example, are really just files in Mobi-pocket format with a layer of DRM added so that each file has the extension ".azw" (presumably for Amazon). This means you can't read a Kindle book on a Sony Reader or a Nook. You can read it on an iPad, iPhone, PC, Mac, or Blackberry, but only if you download the free Kindle app for that device and register that device with Amazon. Kindle books can be shared by up to six devices as long as they are all registered to the same Amazon account.

Most of the time I don't pay much attention to DRM. I tend to buy more from Amazon than from other vendors because a) they have more ebooks and b) it's so easy. But I do get short stories and occasionally books from Fictionwise (they added a "send to my Kindle" function that makes it almost as easy as buying from Amazon) but I can only buy from Fictionwise or other ebook retailers if the book is available without DRM, which is limiting. Kindle can accept a non-DRM Mobi format book just fine, but it can't deal with competing (non-Amazon) DRM.

Yesterday I bought my first O'Reilly book. O'Reilly is beloved of geeks and software developers because they publish computer and programming books on a whole raft of topics. I recently got a new laptop with Windows 7, and O'Reilly has published Windows 7: The Missing Manual. The book itself didn't provide the answer I was seeking (how to make Windows 7 let me specify GMail as my default email), but one thing it did was show me how much better ebooks can be when the publisher knows how to create them. The formatting in this book is fantastic: all the special characters came through fine; the paragraphs hang or indent in outline-style as needed; the images are zoom-abale; and and there are chapter-to-chapter links as well a functioning table of contents. Whoo hoo!

Of course, most of this kind of formatting matters more for nonfiction than for fiction, but having seen how inept conversions can totally mess up text, it's nice to someone doing it right.

And, of course, the other thing O'Reilly does right is they publish their books without DRM. Perhaps, being geekier than most folks, they know that pirates aren't stopped by DRM, but honest book buyers are inconvenienced by it. Making the customer happy— what a concept!

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Tags: erreaders, piracy

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