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O'Reilly To Release DRM-free Ebooks In July

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the piracy-be-damned dept.

Books 132

andrewsavikas writes "Starting in July, O'Reilly Media will pilot select books as DRM-free ebook bundles (PDF, EPUB, and Kindle-compatible Mobipocket) priced at or below the cover price of the book. David Pogue comments on the pilot in the wake of his own recent dustup about ebooks and piracy, covered previously on Slashdot."

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I'll buy a few... (2, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#23884995)

I'm really surprised that we are actually seeing DRM free eBooks, I though this would take much longer to come about... I plan to buy a few to at least support the concept. I hope though the final title list presents some more interesting titles...

Always want ebook. (4, Insightful)

Odder (1288958) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885371)

Given the choice, I will always buy an ebook from O'reilly. I can put them on sftp and have them anywhere, they won't sag my shelf and so on and so forth. I also imagine it will be easier to buy because I don't have to drive to a store or wait for UPS. I wish all my textbooks were like this.

Re:Always want ebook. (2)

Cal Paterson (881180) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886515)

Posting to undo moderation. I meant to moderate insightful.

Re:Always want ebook. (2, Interesting)

Poorcku (831174) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886767)

I tend to read a lot of Pdfs (articles and so forth), and they are fine for quick reference. still nothing beats good old fashioned paper. I find it more relaxing for my eyes. Could be the way I was taught though. Ideas on this one?

Light contrast and good monitor. (3, Informative)

Odder (1288958) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887131)

First make sure your monitor is working well. You can easily check this with a test pattern [entropy.ch] If it flickers or has aliasing you need better.

Try to reduce the contrast in light levels between your monitor and it's surroundings. High contrasts in light level will cause your eyes to work harder and reduce your ability to see fine details.

Re:Always want ebook. (2, Insightful)

morcego (260031) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887009)

I do "own" several DRM'ed ebooks. My main problem is that they are locked to a computer/reader (serial number). So if I loose that computer (cellphone etc), I loose access to the ebook.

This is something that really annoys me. If they want to "lock" the ebook, fine. But lock it to ME, not to my computer.

Re:Always want ebook. (1)

Odder (1288958) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888533)

Sorry for the confusion, I thought we were discussing DRM free versions.

I don't own DRM'd ebooks and won't for the reasons you mention. I also would not want the book "locked" to me because I could never give it to a friend. It is rare that I need to do it but I don't want to lose the ability and every workplace should have a library.

Re:Always want ebook. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23888481)

Whoops, accidental moderation.

Re:Always want ebook. (1)

jmashaw (1099959) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888495)

Idiot

Mod parent down (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23888887)

"Odder" is a troll [slashdot.org] sockpuppet of twitter [slashdot.org] . The more positive moderation he is given, the more he can freely troll Slashdot.

Re:I'll buy a few... (1)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885431)

I've never read an O'Reilly book before, but I plan on downloading a few!

Re:I'll buy a few... (2, Informative)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885825)

You're reading /. and you've never even read an O'Reilly book? Wow. I though everyone with with a reasonable level of interest in computers would own one, or at least have had one thrust at them when they asked a colleague for help. I've got all of them. Well, sort of - I've got a Safari subscription. Half a dozen or so paper ones too. Safari is awesome, by the way. The web is nice and all, good for specific answers, but when you need a properly structured introduction or detailed reference you can't beat instant access to an enormous library of books. Having the option to buy an electronic copy I can be assured will work with all my future devices will make it even nicer.

Re:I'll buy a few... (1)

molarmass192 (608071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885905)

Agreed ... I have 2 O'Reilly books in front of me at this very second. They're virtually indispensable in this day and age. I'm still not convinced about eBooks though. Paper works reaaaaaally well. I'm guessing I should check out an eBook reader some day, my screen real-estate is very valuable to me, there's really no room for a PDF reader open at the same time. However, the quick search advantage of PDFs is very attractive, as well as not having to lug a mini library with me to client sites.

Screen real estate (4, Insightful)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886969)

...my screen real-estate is very valuable to me, there's really no room for a PDF reader open at the same time

Don't you love virtual desktops? One for the browser and mail, one for the IDE, one for the PDF documentation and finally one spare...

I'm not kidding, but it is one of the reasons I consider Windows not ready for my desktop.

Re:I'll buy a few... (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887097)

I can only speak for myself but I bought the original Sony eReader they were selling at Borders a few years ago for 300 bucks and have been gravely disappointed. The screen is great, it goes for weeks on a single charge, very easy on the eyes, almost as good as paper. There is only one problem. It flat stinks for pdf's. Straight up text files are great on it but the formatting of most pdf's makes them illegible when scaled to the eReader screen. There are 3 text sizes you can configure and none of them help. You also have the option of portrait or landscape mode. This also doesn't help. These days, all I've found it to be good for is to read the occasional novel that I, of course, have to convert to text from pdf. And even then, the paragraphs and punctuation gets screwed up. It was good enough to read Neuromancer though which has weird sentence structure anyway.

I'd also say that for reading something like an O'Reilly book, you couldn't choose a worse format than eink. What with the slow screen refresh, it's not like you can flip through the index then go to the page you need in anything like the time you can with a regular book. Although, I can say I've read many more O'Reilly books in pdf form than written. However, everyone of them have been courtesy of kpdf which is in my opinion the pdf viewer par excellence. I say this as I have the Linux Networking Cookbook in the background. Just my 2 cents.

Re:I'll buy a few... (3, Informative)

shmlco (594907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887343)

You might have noticed that they're going to be selling a bundle of three formats for one price (EPUB, PDF, and Kindle-compatible Mobipocket). With the non-PDF formats you can reflow the text and adjust the font size to fit the screen.

Another vote for Safari (1)

voidstin (51561) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888837)

Safari is amazing. The subscription model is perfect for tech books.

-price is competitive with what I spent on books before.
- always up to date
- copy and paste code snippets
- great for researching new technologies (esp with rough cuts)
- no special hardware/software required. (if you're reading about programming, you're probably in front of a computer anyway. Youdon't really curl up with the Apache Cookbook at the beach)
- and SEARCH. God bless search.

so the PDFs are a big "meh" for me....

Re:I'll buy a few... (2, Interesting)

Instine (963303) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886047)

I don't have any but will be putting pay to that shortly in light of this news. I'm a dyslexic developer. My guess is, having seen some tech docs in my time, I'm not the only one.

While I love the web (I can use various assitive technolgies [textic.com] , easily, on most markup based pages, and even some PDFs), I HATE books, and DRMed PDFs put addional barriers between me and the knowledge I'm after..

This is, therefore, potentially, good news for a possible 10%+ of potential O'Reilly readers.

Re:I'll buy a few... (1)

AndyCR (1091663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886203)

I've been programming for 9 years and have only read about 5 books on the subject. Everything else is gleaned from the Internet and personal experience/experimentation. I rarely even think about needing books to do my work, and the last time I picked up a programming book for reference to something I had forgotten was nearly 2 months ago.

Different people learn in different ways. I often read books for recreation, but nearly never read books on the subject of my work. It doesn't matter much where the knowledge comes from - just that you have it.

Re:I'll buy a few... (1)

Cal Paterson (881180) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886573)

You must at least realise the risk of someone responding that you are ignorant, and that you are ignorant about your ignorance?

While I am wondering why you didn't pre-emptively counter that painfully obvious response, I agree with you. Books are great (and I actually read technical books all the time), but they aren't the sole venue of study.

Re:I'll buy a few... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23887221)

DRM free ebooks are already available because paper does not have DRM. Do you want a DRM free ebook version of the camel book? Well you can have it. Buy the camel book, cut off its spine, send it through a scanner, OCR it, bundle it up in a PDF, done. Most of the steps can be automated and you end up with only about 5 minutes of labor per book. If that's too much trouble for you, then you just go to #bookwarez and get it from someone who has already done the work for you.

Re:I'll buy a few... (1)

RDW (41497) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888183)

'I'm really surprised that we are actually seeing DRM free eBooks, I though this would take much longer to come about... I plan to buy a few to at least support the concept. I hope though the final title list presents some more interesting titles...'

I was happily supporting this concept up until a couple of years ago, when O'Reilly decided to abandon their excellent series of 'CD Bookshelf' titles, which had a series of 4-6 related titles on CD in DRM-free HTML format, bundled with a printed version of one of the books:

http://web.archive.org/web/20050113090049/http://cdbookshelves.oreilly.com/ [archive.org]

They were reasonably priced, included major mainstream titles like 'Programming Perl', and were nicely x-referenced with appropriate hyperlinks, pretty much an ideal format for reference material. Now the only way to get anything like this is to subscribe to Safari and 'rent' the books. I'd much rather have the HTML Bookshelves back in updated versions than a few PDFs about Facebook, Vista and the iPhone.

Re:I'll buy a few... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888665)

You can still kind of do that with Safari with the extra membership that allows PDF chapter downloads - but I don't think you'd be able to download even one books worth of chapters with any of the limits on monthly memberships making it an expensive way to do so.

I still use Safari even though technically it's rental, just because it's so useful. And getting new editions of books for "free" is kind of nice, which I'm thinking would not be the case with the PDF versions they sell.

Baen: DRM-free ebooks since 1999 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23888195)

http://www.webscription.net/ [webscription.net]
Interesting fact is that originally Jim Baen considered ebooks nothing more than advertisement. But in recent years they have been steadily earning profit as a product on their own; some authors get 30% of their book income from ebook royalties.
http://www.dquinn.net/baen-books2/ [dquinn.net]

Still too dear (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885049)

Why should we pay as much, or near to the full price of a dead tree product for a digital copy? The manufacturing and distributions costs are near zero. There's no need for shelf space in retailers either. On top of this, we have little resale options. Ever see legal digital itunes music on ebay in lots?

Re:Still too dear (5, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885385)

Well, frankly, because of economics. If the ebooks sell at full dead-tree price, why shouldn't O'Reilly sell them at that price?

Also, don't underestimate the cost of keeping a server running and capable of serving out the eBooks 24/7. The actual cost of sending the bits through the tubes might not be high, but the cost of keeping those servers running and cool isn't negligible.

Then there's the issue of value. Lots of people consider ebooks to be more valuable than dead-tree versions because they're searchable and smaller. If they're perceived as more valuable, they'll sell for more. We saw this trend with cassette tapes vs. CDs and VHS tapes vs. DVDs. In both cases, the disc-based media cost less to produce than the tape-based media, but tapes sold for less because they were considered inferior and were in less demand.

Re:Still too dear (1)

Stellian (673475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886091)

Also, don't underestimate the cost of keeping a server running and capable of serving out the eBooks 24/7. The actual cost of sending the bits through the tubes might not be high, but the cost of keeping those servers running and cool isn't negligible.
On the contrary, it's quite negligible, if you outsource it to a competent 3rd party. For 100$ you can get terabytes of traffic, within a secure, stable server. Add to that an upfront payment for someone to develop you a website, of a few hundred - thousands of dollars. You will also outsource the checkout/payment to a payment processor, for a small commission.
If you add everything up, you get no more than a few pennies per book, 100-1000 times less than what ebooks actually sell for.
So yeah, the actual costs of ebooks are negligible. Just look at thepiratebay.com - they distribute tens of millions of ebooks copies for free and have not yet went bankrupt.

Re:Still too dear (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886271)

If you are paying a *competent* third party you don't get terabytes for $100, at least not realistically. They'll cut you off. (Webhosts oversell and make huge claims in hopes that you won't actually use the amount they claimed they alloted you.)

They've already got the website devoted to this and surely keep staff on hand to add new content, I'd *assume* that they have their own handy dandy custom CMS that they use, if they don't they're absolute morons and how they have stayed in business this long would be anyone's guess. I'm guessing they do.

Very few online companies are also banks. Those "commissions" are merchant or processing fees depending on what type of provider one goes with for their payment processing.

TPB doesn't actually distribute ebooks or anything other than small .torrent files.

But other than that I see your point.

Re:Still too dear (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886231)

"... why shouldn't O'Reilly sell them at that price?"

Because it is evil, immoral and wrong. Yes, that's right, excessive profits are actually theft. All the cheap talk about economic theories amounts to nothing more than justifing taking more out than you've put in. A actual profitably transaction enrichs both parties. An unprofitible transaction impoverishes either or both parties. Clearly then, charging people more than a reasonable profit on an item is to take more than one has earned by performing the transaction. Indeed, current profits on media are a complete windfall for the wealthy. The sum total of such parasitic and predatory pricing is poverty. Recent economic reports clearly show that the poor, and that includes you and I, are getting poorer.

As well, economics dictate that, in a free market, as production increases and material costs fall, profits should increase at the rate that prices fall. Sadly, the free market is clearly a myth.

Re:Still too dear (1)

Ravon Rodriguez (1074038) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886673)

But then who gets to decide what the "fair" price is? You? Me? Uncle Sam? If a price is too high, then people won't buy it, and the price will drop. Just because you think a price is too high doesn't mean that there won't be enough people to say that it isn't and buy the product.

Re:Still too dear (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886249)

Don't overestimate it either.

Baen, after all, manages to run a quite profitable website selling ebooks for, on average, $3-6. Personally, I tend to buy the monthly ebooks, gaining me 6 for $25. The books themselves are under 10 megabytes.

Many sites can afford to allow more megabytes available for download for free.

Re:Still too dear (2, Interesting)

Tikkun (992269) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885437)

Technical books have a much smaller audience than popular titles do. This drives up the cost to the reader, as fewer people are paying for the costs of the book, many of which do not have anything to do with distribution (i.e. research, testing, editing, etc.).

Resale: nothing lost. (3, Interesting)

Odder (1288958) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885481)

Ever try to sell your old textbooks? You are lucky to get 1/3 rd the value the next semester. The kind of O'Reilly books you would sell won't get you much more. If you don't want it anymore, most people don't want it. You are not going to be losing much this way.

If I'm willing to pay for a print book, I'm willing to pay for the electronic copy. I want the information, not the paper. The easiest place to find it will be the publisher.

Re:Still too dear (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885543)

Most of the time, you don't. Few technical eBooks are sold on an individual basis. Most are offered through services like Safari, where an institution (university, company, etc) buys a subscription for a flat rate and can get access to any book in the collection immediately (which is worth a lot when you have an employee who needs an answer to a technical question today, rather than in two days time). In these cases, resale value doesn't matter, because you're not buying books, you're buying access to a huge library. No one bothers copying the books around much because it's easier to just get them directly.

Ever see legal digital itunes music on ebay in lots?
Yes, once. eBay closed the auction because it's against their T&Cs to sell this kind of thing.

Re:Still too dear (1)

simplerThanPossible (1056682) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885631)

if they follow the "pragmatic programmer's" approach:

hard copy: $36.95
pdf: $22.50

http://pragprog.com/titles/jaerlang/programming-erlang [pragprog.com]

Also, they do "social DRM", adding "Prepared exclusively for YOUR_NAME" as a small footnote on each page. I kinda like it.

Re:Still too dear (1)

Stellian (673475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885943)

http://pragprog.com/titles/jaerlang/programming-erlang
I don't understand why PDF+paper costs more than paper only. PDF costs 0 to produce, you are paying only for the information, which you already have in the paper version. Other than this, the prices seem fair.

Re:Still too dear (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886493)

I don't understand why PDF+paper costs more than paper only. PDF costs 0 to produce, you are paying only for the information, which you already have in the paper version. Other than this, the prices seem fair.
Sure, PDF costs zero to produce. Maybe I could offer you a job at may company handling the publishing all our PDF documents. Your salary will of course be zero, so that we can keep the cost at zero.

Re:Still too dear (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887193)

Of course, in this context one refers to the marginal cost of making an extra copy of the PDF file. `cp file.pdf new-copy.pdf' costs, marginally, zero.

Value to producer, value to user (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885717)

As noted, you can search them, which brings a lot of value to the user.

But also - do you not want the author rewarded for the effort it took to make a book? Writing a technical book is not like writing a Grisham novel, in terms of the number of people that will buy one...

And finally there is the potential for updates to the book for corrections.

I use O'Reilly's Safari service for pretty much all technical book reading now, because of the benefits it offers. But I wouldn't mind having slightly more "real" versions of some books, if nothing else for offline access (which Safari can kind of do as well but the cost is a little excessive for me to activate the PDF chapter downloading).

Re:Still too dear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885841)

Because you were never paying for the dead tree in the first place. Physical cost of a hardcover book is only a dollar or two, including distribution. You have a point in cutting out the retailers take (assuming they only sell these direct), which probably accounts for the discount they'll be offering over the physical book, but the majority of the cost goes to the writing, editing, production, marketing, etc of the bits.

Kind of like commercial software.

Re:Still too dear (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886711)

Why should we pay as much, or near to the full price of a dead tree product for a digital copy?

You can do so much more with an unfettered electronic copy than you can with a physical product. What is the value of device shifting, or full text search?

Re:Still too dear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23887727)

Well your argument is a bit ignorant. I don't mean that to be harsh but digital distribution is not near zero. There are the servers, storage, and bandwidth to pay for. While not near the cost of physical media distribution it is still far from zero. Especially when you are dealing with a company like OReilly and having stable servers and so on. You also have to take into account the salaries of those who maintain the servers, customer service for orders, and so on. So not a near zero cost at all. Admittedly the cost is much much less than physical media but the argument that it is near zero is exactly the kind of thing that traditional distribution channels will focus on and berate to try and strengthen their position.

I look forward to pirating, yarh (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885101)

People who are more intelligent than me, and as such have the ability to author a book, owe a debt to me for the fact that they'll always have a better chance to succeed.

I'm serious. Fuck you for being born with a higher IQ than me.

They're using ARM (Analog Rights Management) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885111)

"If you pirate our buy, and we find you, we will kill you."

DRM free eBooks could be easy (3, Insightful)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885153)

Make them openly viewable, but lock them for editing via password and put the name and address, and account email on the title page. That will let people use the ebooks as they want, but strongly deter people from uploading them or freely sharing them with people who haven't bought the book.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (2, Insightful)

cephah (1244770) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885209)

It's a good idea, except if people want to spread them, they would just remove the lock and change the information. DRM doesn't work, period. I'm glad to see O'Reilly embracing this fact.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885369)

You're wrong, sorry :(. DRM does work, because 90-95% (taken from large population of my clients) of computer users still have no idea how to break it, and most non-nerds value their time above the effort required to find an unauthorised DRM-free copy of something.

Unless they can get the copy off their equally non-nerdy friends, which is precisely what DRM stops.

ORA is exceptional as it caters to the very industry of people who already know how to ignore DRM.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887519)

Unless they can get the copy off their equally non-nerdy friends, which is precisely what DRM stops.
Or unless they can get the copy off a nerdy friend -- or a nerdy "friend" who's released it onto thepiratebay, or wherever. And once one of them has the DRM-free copy, they can share it with their friends, and the whole system comes tumbling down.

Let me spell it out for you:

90-95% (taken from large population of my clients) of computer users still have no idea how to break it
It doesn't take 10% to break it. It doesn't take 5%.

It takes one person to break it for everyone.

No, DRM does not work. If it has worked for you so far, you either aren't popular enough yet (niche market), or you're lucky -- and, possibly, your DRM scheme isn't too much trouble for your legitimate users.

Yeah, that's the other problem:

most non-nerds value their time above the effort required to find an unauthorised DRM-free copy of something.
So it's all about time, right?

How about time lost due to having to get on the phone to re-authorize something which thinks you've installed too many times? Or to re-validate a key that doesn't work for some reason?

How about time lost due to the physical requirements -- having to keep track of a dongle as the one copy of that program moves around, or having to keep the original CD -- or looking for an open network connection, if, for some reason, the DRm decides to kick in and demand to talk to the authorization servers?

At a certain point, going to, say, gamecopyworld.com, and spending maybe two minutes to download a crack, maybe five more to install it if you don't know what you're doing, is well worth the hours of agony you'd endure putting up with the DRM.

Again, this may not apply to you -- but there are certainly cases in which DRM does the exact opposite of "work". Especially because now you've got someone who would have happily bought a legit copy every time, but now they know how to get an illegitimate copy. As someone else said, if your process is this:

1: Buy game
2: Try to install game
3: Get frustrated
4: Download cracked version (or get geek friend to do so)

You'll very quickly eliminate steps 2 and 3. From there, it's not that much of a leap to eliminate step 1.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23888493)

Sorry, no. Most people have no idea what thepiratebay is; many who do wouldn't know where to start - your average BLAH_CRACK.EXE is a virus and for that reason, unless you have a good clue I would recommend strongly against it.

As for the frustrations of telephoning or having to keep an original CD: most people don't find a 3 minute phone call every few months(/years) frustrating, and most people are organised enough not to lose something that cost them several $100s.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (2, Insightful)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885231)

Make them openly viewable, but lock them for editing via password and put the name and address, and account email on the title page. That will let people use the ebooks as they want, but strongly deter people from uploading them or freely sharing them with people who haven't bought the book.
And how do you propose to lock them? In what proprietary format must these books come, and how long until someone releases a program to ignore the read-only bit?

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (3, Informative)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885637)

PDF includes encrypted protection on editing via password (which could be strong) and it is an ISO standard...

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885963)

PDF includes encrypted protection on editing via password (which could be strong) and it is an ISO standard...
Err... Are you serious?

In order to render a pdf, you have to read it.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886261)

and it is an ISO standard...
and so is OOXML. Is that supposed to say anything about the quality?

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887401)

Yeah, and it only takes one person to screen scrape each page and repackage it into another pdf. And that's just one way. I'm sure there are dozens of easier ways that work equally well to make drm on the electronic printed word as useless as a bicycle for a fish.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23888941)

PDF is an open format and an ISO standard. Open-source XPDF honors the PDF passwords.
Edit the source to make any password be accepted, and compile. Goodbye password protection.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885239)

how do you propose to keep them openly viewable, while also locking them so they can't be edited, and without using DRM?

Unfortunately those are conflicting goals.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (2, Informative)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885263)

Just like making bits uncopyable is like making water not wet, so is making data unmodifiable. "Lock them for editing" is DRM, and can, has been, and will be circumvented.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (3, Interesting)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885569)

DRM isnt the super-breakable trick everyone claims here on slashdot.

One could devise a DRM which procesess all state information within a signed VM. You have multiple exterior checks on the container to guarantee integrity, and once processing the VM, the VM itself checks itself. And if one was to go massively paranoid, a service could be required that satellite service for exterior verification.

Look at this in similar terms of Xen running SElinux with communication via satellite.

Is it crackable? Of course. Will you be found out? Most likely.

Yuo just wait... The next movie player will require a network connection to play videos and music. Blu-ray already uses the VM schematic. All they need is a continuously on connection. All they need is SSH or something similar and the thing'll be damn near unhackable. One would probably have to hook up to the TV lcd chips to record a signal.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886049)

``DRM isnt the super-breakable trick everyone claims here on slashdot.''

You won't hear me claim that it is always easy to break a DRM scheme.

``One could devise a DRM which procesess all state information within a signed VM.''

No. Because that's an implementation detail. You can't force people to use a particular implementation.

Fundamentally, you have a Big Bag Of Bits (usually a file) that has the information in it. Once you figure out how to interpret the bits, you can get the information out. The only way this won't work is if not all the information is there.

Having said that, you _can_ make it very difficult for people to decode the information in the BBOB, without going through a channel controlled by you. One way to achieve that is by using encryption. If the encryption algorithm is good, the information will be almost impossible to decode without the key. If the key is difficult enough to guess, the only feasible way to decode the information is by obtaining the key from you. But even still...if the decryption works once, it will work again, so if people can somehow store the key for later use (e.g. sniff it from the network, extract it from a program, ...), the cat is out of the bag again.

Finally, once you have raised the bar for decoding the content so high that nobody is willing or able to crack your scheme...they can still get at the information once your software has decoded it for them. For example, if an ebook reader renders the content...who is to say the rendered content ends up on a screen, and not in a file?

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (3, Insightful)

debatem1 (1087307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886085)

While I admit that you raise the difficulty of breaking such a scheme considerably by doing all of that, it is far from "unhackable". My first thought would be to run the entire VM under an X proxy, which would permit me to capture image files of each individual page. Another possibility would be to take snapshots of the VM in operation and correlate the opening of the file to memory allocation. Either way, you're fighting against Knuth's third law, and you just aren't going to win that one.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (2, Interesting)

nyu2 (1263642) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885265)

There is another choice, one that no publishing company seems to be willing to explore. What about moving to the 'ransom' model of book-making, where you release the book free-of-charge after enough people put money towards it? This could work well for books and music, and probably movies as well. How many people would have been willing to pay $5 for another episode of Firefly? $2? $1? Add to that a tipping model for after-the-fact donations, and you're set. All of this assumes, of course, that what you're making is what people want. Hint: if nobody is willing to pay the money, people probably don't want it.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885557)

That works nicely for fiction, but not so much for technical material. Safari, backed by O'Reilly, Prentice Hall, and a few others, offers a more useful service where you pay a subscription fee and get access to electronic books from any of the participating publishers. Great if you just want to read a specific chapter in a book.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886919)

If I'm looking for a book that's listed somewhere then I tend to want it now. That's why I paid for Amazon Prime so I get free second-day shipping (easily paid for itself, BTW). I don't want to browse some list of some books that some author may write and deliver a year from now.

And as been pointed out every time this comes up, ransomware really only works for known authors and known subjects. And it definitely doesn't work well for certain movies, as you can't tell people enough about the movie without spilling the beans. Think of the Matrix. How would you describe it to the point where someone would commit to spending $10 or more UP FRONT, and without spoiling the surprise?

And if you think about it, ransomware probably won't fly for movies simply because of the costs involved. Serenity, IIRC, cost on the order of $45 million dollars to make. How many fans would you have to get together to pony up that kind of dough?

Finally, it has been explored. Stephen King did a ransomware chapter- by-chapter ebook a while back and it worked fairly well. But then again, Stephen King is Stephen King.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885343)

Impossible. You can't "lock" something from editing. You can put a flag at the beginning that says "hey, don't edit this" but individual programs have to decide if they care. You could encrypt the thing... but that's DRM, and the entire point of this was DRM free.

Quite simply, without DRM absolutely nothing stops someone from editing the file. And even with DRM someone could copy-paste the text or at worst take screenshots of each page and publish a PDF.

It's the analog hole - it's impossible to safeguard text, sound, or video against piracy. Which is why there's no reason it shouldn't be DRM-free... any DRM does nothing but annoy the customer - there will still be torrents up the day after publication.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

debatem1 (1087307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885677)

There is no cryptographic solution to a problem in which the attacker and the intended recipient are the same person.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885967)

Excellent idea. Then I can use advanced ebook processor to remove the password, and Acrobat to delete the personal info on the front pace.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886053)

Sorry, but if you can view it, you can edit it. End of the story. Unless you make the format and the viewer proprietary, you are out of luck. Kpdf, for example, has a nice checkbox in Settings > Configure Kpdf > Settings > Obey DRM Limitations.

The time spent trying to limit content usage could be very well spent on something useful. Then again, some people are spending their free time watching stupid TV shows instead of learning math or reading Tolkien. Of course, they are free to do it, but mankind is at loss here, in both cases.

Re:DRM free eBooks could be easy (1)

bot24 (771104) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887921)

What's to stop someone from "printing" the book to PDF and then editing it?

Formats (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885247)

While on the subject, what are the relative merits of the various formats? I know PDF from other things, but I know virtually nothing about Ebooks. Can someone enlighten me?

Re:Formats (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885441)

Don't be lazy [wikipedia.org]

Re:Formats (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886295)

I have a couple of their "Bookshelves" on CD already, and they are in DRM free HTML. Use them all the time and work great on my laptop.

Well (2, Interesting)

Mensa Babe (675349) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885273)

"... priced at or below the cover price of the book ..." [emphasis added]

Well, that's the problem - "at or below" is not enough. If I am to get only the raw information without the physical thing, without the possibility to go to a park with my book (and not looking like a dork with a laptop, or worse yet - a Kindle), without being able to decorate my room with a book, et cetera - it has to cost at least 10 times less (which it doesn't) or be 10 times better (which it isn't). This is the same reason why the idea of selling mp3s was such a failure. In other words, great idea but it is sadly going to fail because it doesn't follow the "ten times" rule. Probably once again the marketing department wasn't listening to the engineers. What a shame.

Re:Well (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885329)

This is the same reason why the idea of selling mp3s was such a failure.

Selling MP3s is a failed business model? Somebody tell Apple to shut down iTunes, and be quick about it!

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885787)

And since when apple is selling mp3s? (let alone drm-free)

Re:Well (2, Informative)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885459)

And where do you derive the x10 rule from? Rules of marketing from what I understood is to extract a maximum amount of money from as many as you can.

Traditional rules also said that the customer was always right. With recent days, DRM and lack of service says otherwise.

Re:Well (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885771)

The 'Customer is always right' is a mantra that was sold to customers to make them believe they are always in control - in actuality, a customer is very rarely right when it comes to your business.

Re:Well (2, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886561)

The 'Customer is always right' is a mantra that was sold to customers to make them believe they are always in control - in actuality, a customer is very rarely right when it comes to your business.
Actually, "the customer is always right" is supposed to remind the sales person that their job is not about being right, but about selling and making money. If a customer says he wants to buy X because of Y then you say "yes", sell him X and make money. If you say "no you are wrong", even if you are right, he walks away and spends his money elsewhere, so you lose..

There are cases like a customer saying "what you sold to me is rubbish, you have to give me my money back", where 'the customer is always right" automatically does not apply. Some customers are surprised by this.

Re:Well (0, Flamebait)

Tikkun (992269) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885477)

Wait, you're worried about looking like a dork and yet you're posting to slashdot?

Re:Well (4, Interesting)

repetty (260322) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885791)

> If I am to get only the raw information without the physical thing

Somehow, that's a peculiar point of view to encounter on Slashdot... the value of a book is its physical instantiation, not the information it contains.

I see it the other way around.

A couple years ago, I bought the PDF rights to a Ruby on Rails book during its development -- I needed the info immediately and couldn't wait for it to go to print.

I had a copy center print it up, spiral-bound, and I also used it in soft form on my computer. Later, when the book actually went to print, I bought it again. (It was a good book.)

I realized that I didn't like the officially printed book as much. My spiral-bound version was larger and easier to read and laid flat on my desk. Since I knew that I could print another if necessary, I didn't hesitate to write notations in it. Finally, the searchability of the PDF actually changed the way I read: I didn't have to refer to a table of contents, I didn't have to refer to an index, and I didn't have to thumb through pages looking for pertinent information.

Re:Well (2, Insightful)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886443)

I've had a copy center print out a few GPL books before and supplementary PDFs that came with a textbook I purchased. PDF is wholehartedly a much more convienient format, especially with the ability to bookmark, highlight and write notes on the page. And I agree, having a digital copy means you can make unlimited markups of the text and start with an unmarked copy without having to buy more. I actually edit my documents using PDFs in this fashion rather than use Word's (or similar) text markup. Because of the problems with CDs and DVDs (easy to scratch) etc., I would happily buy e-books if there are: 1) no restrictions on use; 2) if I loose my copy or it doesn't work any longer (e.g. corrupted), I can download another copy.

I really would like to see E-book readers like the one Amazon launched recently come down in price. I just don't like reading E-Books on a screen.

I am a bibliophile. I am packing up to move right now. Because of the sheer space (and weight) of the books I have, I ended up selling close to 100 of them. Were they all e-books would be a lot more convenient - 1 DVD. Most books are only good for one reading and occasional glance backs. I would like to save trees, electricity (no paper to print) and make sure writers get their royalties.

IMO, with full digital books, it would be cool too to have some interaction with the book .... perhaps some embedded video relating to the content on the page would be neat. Afterall, there is Flash and MPEG support in PDFs isn't there?

So with the right concessions, per above, and a cheaper and good portable e-book reader, I will certainly buy the e-books.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23887367)

I would like to save trees, electricity
I hate to break it to you but even assuming that you are saving the trees by not buying paper books (just like you are saving potatoes by not eating french fries, right?) how exactly are you saving electricity by using a freakin computer to read a book instead of just your eyes? By the way, if you had read the parent post you would've noticed that he has not only printed the book in a copy center (much more resource intensive than a mass printing in offset press) but it was larger to make things worse! Well, so much for your saving the trees and elecricity I guess...

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23887911)

The view of the majority of /. readers seems to be that only manufacturing and service work (such as tech support) is worth paying for. Creative intellectual work (literary, musical, technological) should be given away for free; after all its creators were "standing on the shoulders of giants", may have been educated at taxpayer-assisted public institutions, etc.

However, much of that manufacturing and service work they agree to pay for is more cheaply and efficiently handled abroad, in China, Pacific Rim, India, and less developed countries. We've already seen it in consumer electronics and computer hardware, now we're also seeing it in tech support and maintenance of large software products. America's comparative advantage is in innovative intellectual work - the very work that the /. majority feels should be given away for free.

It's funny these posters and bloggers don't seem to realize that though. Many of them are up in arms whenever the subject of the H1B visa program comes up. Many of them blame corporate greed and the Bush administration whenever there are large layoffs in a tech. or media industry. The fact that piracy might be killing a lot of sales seems to be something that can be dismissed by a highly selective personal anecdote that usually seems to conclude "I never would have paid money for this POS anyway." OK, but this is our country, our economy, and our livelihoods you're talking about.

Re:Well (1)

TeacherOfHeroes (892498) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885829)

You get the extra value of being able to carry it around on a thumb drive in your pocket wherever you go, search the whole book instantly, and a host of other advantages of computerized viewing, such as zooming in for those with poor eyesight.

Yet because you're worried that you'll look like a dork when you go to the park, it shouldn't cost more than 10% of the paper version?

You certainly have the right not to buy the books at that price, but I doubt that so many people will share your sentiments that they will be forced to lower their price to a tenth of the cost of the 'physical thing'.

Re:Well (1)

Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887275)

On the other hand, you lose the ability to read when your batteries die or the power goes out. You also are required to buy an expensive device (a computer or "e-book reader") in order to view the material at all. And if you want a dead-tree edition as many of us do, you have to do your own printing and binding.

To me, at least, this is all okay, but does not justify paying the same price as getting an already-assembled real book. 10% might be a bit low (at least until the market takes off and prices come down further) but I definitely can't justify spending full price on a copy of the book data rather than an actual book. This is especially true for O'Reilly books - unlike cheap fiction paperbacks, most of the O'Reilly books I buy (and I've bought quite a few) have been in the $40-60 range. $40-$60 for the same book in "do it yourself/supply-your-own-paper-and-ink" format? This might be reasonable at the $5 price-point for cheap fiction, but expensive technical books?

Look at it this way - what if O'Reilly were to offer, in bookstores, a bundle containing both the real book AND a CD containing the .pdf of the same book. I would generally be quite willing to pay extra for that, but how many people really think this bundle should cost the same as buying two copies of the book? To me, pricing the digital-only copy about the same as the extra one would charge over the price of a physical book for a physical+digital bundle is more in line with what is reasonable.

(We're not arguing that the value of having the book's "source code", so to speak, is negligible - only that for most uses the value doesn't really approach that of the finished material product that is made from it.)

Re:Well (1)

panda (10044) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886415)

I don't think this will work for fiction, but the kinds of books that O'Reilly is most famous for, tech. books, it will work fabulously.

I already have this pretty much with a Safari subscription. For the programming titles, electronic copies are so much better than dead tree copies. When doing the exercises or working on the examples, you can just copy and past the code into your text editor. There's no need to copy files from a CD-ROM or download them from a book-related website.

Same for a lot of the other sorts of technical titles, like the Hacks series or system administration "manuals" with lots of example scripts.

I wouldn't and don't use electronic books for fiction or non-technical non-fiction. I'd rather read that sort of thing on paper, though if I later wanted to find a certain passage, I admit that having an electronic copy would make searching for that passage so much easier.

Anyway, I think you'd look even more like a dork if you were reading some title on cross platform programming with wxWidgets and you didn't have your laptop with you....

Re:Well (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886631)

I agree. I happen to enjoy holding an actual physical book, and as such it's worth several times more to me than the same information in electronic format. I'm not sure if 10 times is the right number but at least a factor of 2 or 3 should be evident.

I grew up with computers, and to this day I just don't get the same enjoyment from reading text on a screen vs. text on paper.

Good move, pirated books are very easy to find (2, Interesting)

yohanes (644299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885305)

I think this is great, right now, you can search for almost any o'reilly books on Torrent and Rapidshare, so this wont add anything to the already existing books in the pirated world. But this will give a chance to people who wants to buy their books but think that it is too expensive.

O'Reilly? (0, Flamebait)

rhiorg (213355) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885503)

"FUCK IT! We'll do it FREE! ...

WE'LL DO IT FREE!"

Oh wait...wrong O'Reilly.

Baen Webscriptions, dammit. (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885893)

http://www.webscription.net/ [webscription.net]

They have been doing this exact thing for YEARS. What's with all of the "Finally" and "About time SOMEONE" comments.

Are Baen books everyone's cup of tea? Of course not. But isn't O'Reilly just as much of a niche?

Interbook (1)

ThinkComp (514335) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885981)

As its developer I'm clearly biased, but I still think Interbook [thinkpress.com] technology is the best mix of having a physical book in your hand, saving paper, and having electronic resources available on the internet if desired. It can be protected by basic DRM (type in word x on page y to continue) or none at all at the publisher's discretion.

Welcome to the Party,O Reilly (1)

ralphgra (1311831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886159)

I have experience with DRM-free ebooks, because I couldn't figure out how to do them any other way.

I've had several discussions with Adobe on how to put copying and printing limits on my line of 40 e-books (do to with learning and customizing AutoCAD, Visio, IntelliCAD, and so on).

All they can offer is a centralized server that hands out permissions. But for isolated customers -- the kind I have -- who buy and read my ebooks, this obviously isn't going to work.

Mass copying? It happens. One customer asked if it was alright for them to have made 16 copies. I replied, "Sure, just pay for them." They never did.

For classrooms, I recommend that the instructor have the college bookstore print copies for students.

But the problem of limited-DRM on ebooks isn't solved. I would love to have code inside a PDF file that limits it to being printed once and copied twice -- from the original PDF file only.

http://www.upfrontezine.com/ebooks [upfrontezine.com]

Pricing Wrong (3, Insightful)

leabre (304234) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886217)

I wouldn't mind purchasing digitally unrestricted files, but not for "at or below the price of the book". I've seen way too many Kindle books that are nearly priced the same as the printed counterparts and gives me no advantages of my printed counterparts (can't give it away, sell it, write in it, requires no additional expense EG batteries, etc.). I'm talking tech books. Some are priced okay, others that I've had an interest in are nearly $50-70. I've seen one Kindle book that was $135 while the printed counterpart (no longer in print) was selling for roughly $15 used.

I don't know what would be a good price point for a ebook, but considering bandwidth is relatively cheap compared to printing and binding and shipping a book, I don't think an ebook should be priced similar to the printed counter part. With DRM-less ebooks, perhaps it is less of an issue than with DRM encumbered ebooks, where a dead machine or defunct ebook publisher can render your collection useless (has happend to me, which is why I don't buy encumbered ebooks anymore).

To me, an ebook should be pricsed roughly 20-40% of the price of the book if it was printed. Keep in mind, retail books are already highly marked up from what the retailer pays the publisher/distributor. It should be 20-40% of the whole sale cost of the book (because other publisher/distributors/retailers don't usually offer the ebooks for sale anyway, so it need not be priced according retail value, but wholesale value).

The other thing is, while certain very-hard to find books, or other in-demand little-supply books could command a premium in print, ebooks are not scarce. They are, for all intents-and-purposes, unlimited supply. So they should not reflect prices of scarcity or high-print costs.

Until the pricing of any ebook reflects something more realistic considering the what we have to sacrifice to use and that the publisher has so little overhead costs associated with the distribution of the digital media, then I still am not convinced to purchase.

I do applaud O'Reilly for doing this. They produce great books and if more publishers follow suit, then maybe, just maybe, the landscape will improve and the Ebook market will become more viable.

Thanks,
Leabre

Re:Pricing Wrong (3, Insightful)

GleeBot (1301227) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886511)

I don't know if 20-40% (a markdown of 80-60%) is really reasonable. I'm not entirely sure where this attitude comes from that bits should be vastly less expensive, just because the distribution costs are near-zero.

Newsflash: Printing a technical reference doesn't actually cost anywhere near the majority of the book price. That $50-200 book you bought might contain a few hundred pages with lots of glossy color pictures (if it's a very nice book).

Compare that to the price of, say, Harry Potter 7. 784 pages in hard cover for about $20. No glossy pictures, true, but if the cost of printing is really such a major expense, I'd point out that it's 784 pages.

There's a couple reason for this, the major one probably being volume. Harry Potter sells a lot of copies. That has implications for the printing costs, of course, but it's nothing compared to the way it spreads out the cost of developing the content to begin with. Technical material is expensive to develop.

Estimates for the cost of a typical textbook is something like 25% for printing and distribution. I think it's justified to expect that an e-book should cost somewhat less than a printed book (maybe that 25%), but it shouldn't cost 60-80% less. That's significantly undervaluing the content, which is what you're really paying for when you buy the printed book.

Or would you be just as happy buying 200 pages of blank paper, bound in spiral form? Maybe even with some lines ruled out so you can write on them? Those go for about $10.

I do hear what you're saying about the cost vs. used books, though. That's one of my major complaints about single source electronic distribution models like Steam; they really eviscerate the used market, and there's generally no incentive to discount a product as quickly as in a market of competing retailers.

Re:Pricing Wrong (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887287)

So what if Amazon publishes your ebook? They're a retailer, not a wholesaler, so you still have retail markup over wholesale costs.

Secondly, publishers won't sell at wholesale, as then they're undercutting their retailers. You'll notice you can't buy a physical book direct from the publisher at wholesale for that very reason.

Third, and in the same vein, price the ebook at too much of a discount, and you undercut sales of the physical book.

Finally, the value of a book lies with what is within it's pages, and not in its container or format. If you disagree, then I'd be happy to sell you all of the discounted hardbound blank books you'd care to buy.

Do it! (1)

y86 (111726) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886307)

I for one, WILL buy these. Then I can read them on my EEEPC, my cell phone, whatever.

I didn't buy music until I could buy Mp3s off Amazon. Now I buy 2-5 albums a month.

I don't buy ebooks since they are such a PIA. Now I WILL be able to buy.

Good move!

ebooks should be bundled (4, Insightful)

code4fun (739014) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886595)

I think ebooks should be bundled with each copy of book sold. Or, at least give a reasonable discount. I have a lot of books which I would love to have an electronic copy.

Re:ebooks should be bundled (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887205)

completely agreed. If you bought the physical copy of the book, then bundling a download for a PDF is a negligible cost for them. They already have the infrastructure for selling ebooks. Why not provide one with a physical copy?

O'Reilly? (1)

koma77 (930091) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886763)

O'Reilly? Their E-books just keeps falling apart. I go with Stubbs instead. They make proper E-books.

At or below the cover price? (2, Insightful)

Perp Atuitie (919967) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887761)

As I recall, the physical manufacturing and distribution of a book costs around 60% of its price. Seems like the publisher could pass some of that savings along. I mean, how much does it cost to upload a bunch of pdf?
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