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DRM or Do I Really Own My E-Books?

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Yes, it’s easy to download e-books lickety-split, and yes, they’re great to read on trains, planes, and big ol’ public transit (although I still get car sick reading anything in the car).  However, do we really own our e-books?  And what are the implications of owning or not owning said e-books?

For some of y’all, this info is old hat.  You already know that when you buy a new book from Amazon (unless it’s in the public domain), that you’re essentially renting the book.  Why is this?  The reason for this is DRM (Digital Rights Management).  It’s certainly more difficult to lend your bestie your whole e-collection of Janet Evanovich or JK Rowling without actually lending her the reading device itself.

The eerie censorship quirks of DRM became a bit more common knowledge with the Orwell debacle in 2009 when Amazon remotely erased from many Kindles copies of Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm (highly ironic that 1984 was erased, don’t you think?).  Back in October, Norwegian IT Consultant Linn Nygaard had her Kindle account randomly deleted by Amazon (with all 30-something books attached to it) for reasons unknown to her.  She tried multiple times to get her account reinstated, and Amazon would not reinstate her account and would not tell her why.

This is not just the case with the Kindle.  Other issues can happen with the Nook and other proprietary e-readers.  Barnes and Noble can withhold access to your e-books if your credit card on file is expired even though you have already paid for your books.

There are also some pretty cool things to come from this Big-Brother-esque e-reader technology, like whether people read a book straight through, how long it takes them, and if they finish it at all.  For example, the WSJ tells us, “It takes the average reader just seven hours” to finish Mockingjay, the third Hunger Games book.  As literati Nathan Bransford put it on his blog back in November, “Your E-Reader is Watching You.”

There are lots of pros and cons here.  What do you all think?  Does DRM make you want to buy hard copy books?  Or is it just one of those things we have to deal with since e-books are so incredibly handy?  Or do you have a different take altogether?

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About Christi

Writing in SoCal.

21 responses

  1. This is terrible – surely there should be more rights when you’ve bought a book on your kindle or other device. I get annoyed when I lose music too – maybe there is a case for having it in your hand!

    • In addition to all the DRM craziness, I really just like holding real books in my hot little hands. Maybe I’m old fashioned…

      • yeah it kind of has a history too, all the little quirks of a read book brings back memories of reading the book.

  2. I am not a digital gal. I like the real thing in my hand. Real books last forever. Sometimes I think the old ways are better overall.

  3. I still use the library a lot, just because I don’t have space for books (though I’d love a library-type room of my own one day). But I do use e-books as well, especially if I want to read something now and don’t have the patience to wait to visit a library. This sure makes me rethink e-readers – though I’m not too surprised about the “data” collection thats going on. Nice post!

  4. So another reason to get a ‘real’ book instead of an electronic copy, which can be ‘temporary’ by all accounts. Big Brother is watching and compiling status about every reader and its user – scary!

  5. Very interesting to read. I’d not thought of these things, but it makes sense. How creepy to think someone could ‘monitor’ our reading habits or just suddenly wipe out our Kindle contents!

    • In glancing at Google, I’ve discovered there are lots of things to be found searching for “back up my kindle” and “take DRM off my ebooks.” However, perhaps not all of these processes are what Amazon may have intended…

  6. Yet another reason why I like my books the old-fashioned way, so that I can hold them in my hands and hear that reassuring crinkle-crinkle as I flip the pages. Aaaaah. Sweet music, particularly on a rainy afternoon.

    (Not that I don’t have an e-reader. I do … but I tend to “double-buy”: loading books onto my e-reader and, then, buying them in hard copy later on, if I really liked them. Yeah. I’m weird.)

    • I love to curl up and read on rainy days, too — like today! I also only really own e-books that I have in hard copy, too; it’s not that uncommon, I think.

      • I’m really happy to hear that someone else (perhaps lots of “someone elses”) do that. (Buy a hard copy of books they already have in e-copy) Because my hubby gives me a hard time about it every time I do it. 😛 🙂

  7. SO MUCH LOVE TO THIS POST. It’s one of the big reasons I’m very anti-ereader. Well done!

    • So happy to find a kindred spirit! Yes, I prefer to have all my books bound and “real,” so to speak, even if it seems to fill up all the extra space in my little apartment.

  8. It is strange. It is very 1984 so it is ironic that books are randomly deleted, especially that one. I prefer hard copy myself.

    • It seems like Amazon must have known there would be some serious irony in pulling 1984, of all books. Or maybe it was some humorless compliance guy making the decision, who knows…

  9. I think the best thing that could ever happen to me is that someone could steal my book, and it would go viral. DRM is an outdated mindset. If your book is all the rage, lots of people will buy it out of convenience. iTunes has higher consistent profits than any other online media retailer. Sure, I can go listen to a song on Youtube, but then I go buy it and make it mine. The artist didn’t lose money because there was a free version on the internet. He actually made money because of it.

    As for all the consumer reports tracking Amazon, B&N, and other companies are doing, it is scary. Buy you need to remember that Kindles, Nooks, and the like are personal storefronts we buy and carry around with us in order to spend more money. As consumers, our ability to spend money is unlimited. 24/7/365, there is someone out there willing to charge that card.

    • If my book went viral underground, I’d be pretty excited, too! You’re right that people will buy it out of convenience; many people are happy to do what is easiest. Thanks for stopping by!

      • If you want to see how badly DRM can effect the market. check out video-games. The fear of pirating games, have left some companies making their games harder to buy/install/and enjoy by those who buy it lawfully. Diablo 3, and the Sim-City Fiasco are prime examples of DRM-ing to dangerous excess.
        The best way these companies could sell their ebooks is by actually letting us own them and giving us quality service. Without those, many will go to Project Gutenberg or Pirate bay to get their books.

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