Saturday, June 15, 2013

Life in the Electronic Age

E-books are a wonderful idea. It’s easy for anyone to get published…which also means it’s easy for anyone to get published, even people who have no idea what they’re doing, but that’s not what I’m here to complaintalk about. This time. No. Rather, the wonderfulness of being able to carry around a thousand books in a e-reader, often (but not always, yet another digression) purchased more cheaply than a print edition, is offset by the fact that you’re buying that copy of the book only for that particular e-reader. Legally, you can’t transfer it to another tablet/computer. Ever. Even if your old one is woefully out of date, you can’t download your purchased e-copies to your new model.

It’s called DRM—Digital Rights Management. It’s designed to protect media producers, whether they be writers or musicians or whatever, making it illegal for you to purchase something and then email it to all your friends so they have copies they didn’t pay the artist money for. In theory, it’s a good idea. Having an e-copy isn’t like purchasing a book in the store. If you loan that out, the person probably isn’t going to spend six hours at a copier to make their own book they didn’t have to pay for. Until DRM came along to lock it out, copying an e-book was just as easy as hitting Ctrl-V.

The only thing is, now you can’t even transfer it among your devices, or give your copy away. I get that piracy is a bad thing and is difficult to deal with, but in an age where computers and game systems last maybe five years before the new model is announced, it’s unfair to consumers to have to trash all their previous purchases if they want a new device. It’s especially sucky when Apple has been accused of price gouging with e-books and the new Xbox One won’t be backwards compatible.

Sadly, this isn’t going to change anytime soon, and things will probably grow more restrictive. Say goodbye to copying songs from your laptop to your desktop to your new laptop. If you break your e-reader, you break however many books you bought with it. Oh, and in the United States it’s illegal to try and get around a DRM scheme (seriously, that’s what they’re called). So have fun with that.

9 comments:

  1. Is Amazon playing bad with the other kids again?

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  2. That's not exactly true. When my old computer died, I was able to transfer all of my Kindle files to the new one, because it's the same account. I'm pretty sure if you have a Kindle and it dies that, assuming you get a new Kindle, all of the same books you've purchased are still available to you.

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  3. That's my experience with the Kindle, too-- I've connected my Kindle account to all my devices so I have the same library everywhere. But I guess that's not true of all e-readers, then? (And if that's the case, boy am I glad I chose Kindle.)

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    1. Lately companies have been giving some files a limit on how many times they can transferred. Not sure of the specifics for Amazon, but considering their history it's a minor miracle they haven't been restricting transfers.

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  4. Hope I don't ever lose my Kindle files, but when it's a book I love, I always buy a print edition.

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  5. "Even if your old one is woefully out of date, you can’t download your purchased e-copies to your new model."

    I have both a Kindle Keyboard and a (newer) Kindle Fire. I'm able to send Kindle ebooks to either or both. Amazon keeps a list of my purchased ebooks (saves them on their 'cloud') and allows me to remove or send them to my Kindles at my discretion.

    My understanding is that Amazon will allow up to 5 or 6 devices per account, and any ebooks bought by that account can be sent to all of them.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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