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Stallman: eBooks Are Attacking Our Freedoms

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the but-really-what-isn't dept.

Software 510

Barence submitted note of a paper written by RMS called The Danger of eBooks saying "Free software guru Richard Stallman claims consumers should reject eBooks until they 'respect our freedoms.' He highlights the DRM embedded in eBooks sold by Amazon as an example of such restrictions, citing the infamous case of Amazon wiping copies of George Orwell's 1984 from users' Kindles without permission. He also rails against Amazon for forcing people to identify themselves before buying eBooks. His suggested remedy? Distributing tax funds to authors based on their popularity, or 'designing players so users can send authors anonymous voluntary payments.'"

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Plain old pdf (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373598)

Do what you want 'cos a pirate is free!

Re:Plain old pdf (2)

Ceiynt (993620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373646)

Buy your DRM book, then run it through Calibre, problem solved.

Re:Plain old pdf (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373668)

I exercise my freedom by not buying ebooks with DRM in them.

Re:Plain old pdf (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373848)

Same here. And why did RMS come up with all these complicated alternate solutions? All you need is an online store that sells DRM-free books cheaply, like GoG already does for games. Simple.

Re:Plain old pdf (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373734)

Does Calibre unlock books with DRM? Last time I checked he explicitly said that it only accepts DRM-free input -- at least from ePub and Mobipocket, and I think PDF too.

Re:Plain old pdf (2)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373926)

You need a third party plugin [wordpress.com] , after installation you can import your Kindle or DRMd epub books into Calibre and the DRM will be removed in the process.

Re:Plain old pdf (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373990)

Nice. I wonder if that'll stay in long before he gets issued with cease and desist letters? (Though I doubt they'd have any legitimacy since I think he lives far away from the USA...)

Re:Plain old pdf (1)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373954)

There exist Calibre plugins for DRM removal so everything can be handled automatically, though for obvious reasons the author doesn't include them.

Re:Plain old pdf (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374008)

Actually, ignore my post just above -- it's third-party so Goyal can't be held responsible for it at all.

Re:Plain old pdf (3, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373750)

Except you just sent a message to the seller that you're okay with DRM.

Re:Plain old pdf (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374038)

I am okay with DRM as long as breaking it is trivial.

I sort of agree (4, Insightful)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373612)

While generally I don't share the same extreme views of RMS I must say that I am finding very hard to warm up to ebooks.
I've been considering a Kindle for a while now, but the idea of not being able to *really* own my book is holding me back.
Additionally, I suppose one could accept the restrictive terms of ebooks if the price was substantially lower than their dead tree counterparts, but this does not seem to be the case.
If I'm going to spend my hard earned cash, I prefer to have the physical book mine to read, re-read, share and lend.

Re:I sort of agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373704)

I have a Kindle had no use for it at first since I didn't want to do all the eBook stuff but I found it reads PDF files. So for my research and notes I turn everything into a PDF. I love it now, I can take it just about anywhere and read my notes or whatever on it. The only drawback was I had to configure the screen for better readability.

Re:I sort of agree (3, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373830)

For archiving things to a small space - say, carrying around your gaming book collection to a convention (old school RPGA player, I used to have to haul a ton of books with me; then I started just photocopying the one page with the content I needed on it and keeping it in the character sheaf because of airline restrictions on carry-ons and checked bags) - ebook readers and digital copy are wonderful. Your example of your notes is another great example of where something like that is actually useful.

For actual, enjoyable reading? I'd rather have a real book in my hand. It feels better.

For many books, I'm not going to read them more than once, so I'd much rather have the physical copy. I can give it to a friend when I'm done. I can loan it to someone. I can donate it to a library, or trade it in to a used book store. I can do NONE of those things with the current generation of ebooks.

I like to go camping. Good luck finding a charger for an ebook reader in the woods. Batteries for a flashlight, or a nicely bright campfire, and a real book please.

Re:I sort of agree (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373862)

How long do you tend to go camping for? My ebook reader's battery lasts for a good few weeks. (They claim something like 8,500 page turns and it might be around that. Lasts for ages, anyway.)

Not saying you should buy an ebook reader - horses for courses and all that, and most of the time I still buy the physical book too even though I do reread books and end up with piles of the things around my flat. But they tend to have a massive battery life unless you're actually meaning a tablet, in which case I totally agree that they're useless as eBook readers except on the daily commute when you can charge them again as soon as you're home.

Re:I sort of agree (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373968)

You still have the problem that you are telling Amazon DRM is OK by buying the Kindle.

Re:I sort of agree (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373770)

As is often the case, RMS is being sufficiently blunt, and proposing a set of possibly-unworkable solutions sufficiently far from the status quo, that he gives off that "extreme" vibe.

As is also often the case, it is pretty hard to argue with his thesis: Your traditional B&M bookstores, while hardly bastions of cypherpunk anonymity, were perfectly happy to take cash for whatever you felt like buying, and had neither the time nor the margins to use their cameras for anything other than trying to deter shoplifters.

Your online booksellers, Amazon etc, up the ante a bit by tracking your browsing of their inventory quite closely, and by virtue of the fact that(while this isn't impossible to get around, prepaid debit cards, and the like) the basic coin of the realm is credit/debit cards, generally establish an excellent correlation between buying history and buyer ID.

Ebooks up it still further, since they are tied directly to an account, and a CC, and frequently use(sometimes weak; but illegal in the US to break) DRM to control what you can and cannot do with what you 'own'.

Ebook readers up it still further, in that they can, and are known to, track not only your inspection of the inventory and eventual purchase; but your reading habits. The ones with location capabilities(such as all whispernet kindles), are known to report user location data to the mothership as well.

Obviously, most of these measures are somewhat slackly implemented, and a dedicated privacy-enthused individual with some time and technical skill can likely circumvent at least some of them; but that doesn't really change the fact that there has been an overwhelming increase(largely private sector and ebook driven) in the amount of transparency and control exercised over the population of readers. That simply cannot be usefully denied.

Re:I sort of agree (3, Interesting)

The0retical (307064) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373774)

I travel a lot and I read a lot so I've also been eyeing an ereader for quite some time. Until recently I've pretty much refused to buy one because I send paperbacks back and forth with my father after one of us gets done with the book and the idea of DRM offends me on pretty much every level. I also read quite a bit of sci-fi, specifically from the publisher Baen, and was unable to find any of that specific publishers books on Amazon or BN. After some searching I found that Baen does offer Ebooks for a couple of dollars less on older releases than a paperback and about half the price on new releases (hardcover only at the moment) through their own webstore without any DRM restrictions. As a result I am buying an ereader when I get home and will be directly supporting a publisher who sees that DRM is an awful idea, and has the advantage of not supporting a middleman like Amazon or BN.

I hope more Slashdotters will support publishers like Baen on their endeavor if only to show that DRM is not needed.

Re:I sort of agree (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373810)

Baen are fantastic if you like that kind of thing. They're also republishing the whole of Poul Anderson's Technic Series, both in print and as eBooks. If you like that kind of thing, I'd highly recommend buying them.

I bought an eReader for exactly your reasons -- I travel a lot for work. It's much nicer carrying something that weighs less than 250g around with me and has a few hundred books on it, than it is carrying around five or ten paperbacks.

you say extreme like it's a bad thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373786)

you say extreme like it's a bad thing but being extreme on child rape cases is normal. After all, we don't pick a position midway between the "Hang em by the balls" and "Let me fiddle away to my hearts content" and let some little bit of fiddling go unpunished, do we?

So, please explain why RMS's views are both extreme and also wrong.

Re:I sort of agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373788)

Personally, I'm a big fan of e-books.
They are light, portable, the selection is awesome...

Recently I had to read a paper book and I can say "no way". That was a 1000+ page brick weighting maybe 3 pounds, to big to fit in my briefcase, had to be bookmarked, had to be read with good light, I had to hold it open at all times - springy back would close it if I only let go of it and flipping the pages required use of two hands. And when I searched for a particular fragment? Blah, no "search" function sucks. The only good sides were it never runs out of batteries and has better contrast in direct sunlight.

OTOH, I still have to buy my first e-book. Too much hassle getting the DRM versions, the DRM-free legal stores don't carry the books I want, and since I downloaded the "150,000 sci-fi and fantasy e-books" archive, I still need to find anything of the genre I could purchase as e-book and don't have there. (of course there are paper-only titles I don't have... said "brick" was one of them.)

Re:I sort of agree (2)

xtracto (837672) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373814)

Solution:
1. Buy eBook in a restricted format
2. Download "free" format from here [library.nu]
3. Profit

eBooks is a technology and can be used to improve the status quo. But of course it also can be missused to restrict consumer's freedom

Re:I sort of agree (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373928)

That's a vote for DRM though.

1. Can't find eBook in a non-restricted format
2. Download for free
3. Profit

It doesn't matter if the industry reacts by piling on more DRM though. Someone who isn't me, i.e. the consumers who accept DRM get screwed, and I get a superior free product.
Zero tolerance on DRM!

Re:I sort of agree (2)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373924)

"but the idea of not being able to *really* own my book is holding me back."

I really own my kindle books, but that's because I have a USB cable, a basic understanding of filesystems, and an immunity to the ridiculous paranoia that runs around places like Slashdot.

Re:I sort of agree (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374034)

Hahaha

Mod +1 Insightful

Re:I sort of agree (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373940)

Additionally, I suppose one could accept the restrictive terms of ebooks if the price was substantially lower than their dead tree counterparts, but this does not seem to be the case.

This is it in a nutshell for me. I can buy most major books in mass-market paperback form for $7-8 after they've been out a short while, and printing cost is a huge portion of that price.

If their profit margin is $3-4 on a paper copy, there's no way I'm going to spend $10 on a digital copy that will likely not be around nearly as long (AND requires a $100+ investment in hardware just to use them). I'm personally willing to spend $2 to $3 on an ebook. Anything more and I'm not going to bother. I tend to only read a half-dozen book or so per year anyways, so it's not as if "having my entire library with me at all times" is some big thing anyways.

Re:I sort of agree (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374048)

I guess it turns out for me the answer is "it depends". I've found that there's little fiction that is so good I actually want to read it twice, it's mystery and trying to guess how the plot turns that is interesting. What I like about the paperbacks is that they can be treated roughly - by the time I'm done reading one most are pretty beaten up. Since I have the space they went into a big shelf, but I realized when my parents moved recently that they were exactly the same way. They had tons and tons of books, but all they'd done the last 20-30 years was collect dust - I rarely if ever saw them read any of the classics. They just gave it all away to the local flea market, and honestly that's where I think my collection would end up too some day. Personally I just still prefer the actual paper format by far, as long as the DRM doesn't get in the way of me reading through the book the first time I got what I wanted. There could be some rare exceptions where I'd really like to own it and read it again, but for 95% I don't care.

Respecting freedom (4, Insightful)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373614)

In a way, this is a very ironic post. I think that respecting freedoms involves me respecting others' right to give up their freedom if they feel like they want to in exchange for having the cool new device.

Some subsets of humanity, perhaps indeed the largest subset, only learns by experience. It might take them losing all their books, down the road, or having to buy an entirely new device to keep "owning" what they already "own" before they learn. This is a new technology. We can't get upset yet that the general public doesn't get it. They have to get their knuckles rapped before they will realize.

Our job is not to legislate their choices for them, it's to support and sustain better alternatives so they will come over when they see the light.

Re:Respecting freedom (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373662)

I think that respecting freedoms involves me respecting others' right to give up their freedom

Your argument applies just as poorly to something to like debt bondage.

Re:Respecting freedom (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373686)

He's not forcing anything, he's just making suggestions. His suggestions are a little over the top though. I suggest just making the eBooks cheaper. Then the whole sharing point becomes kind of moot if it's cheaper for you to buy a copy for your friends than it would have been to buy the book and then lend it to all of them (in which case, let's face it, you'd probably not get it back anyway after a couple of lends). Cheap app store pricing models have shown to be pretty damn successful.

Perhaps stupidly, I've actually bought eBooks over paperbacks even when they've been slightly more expensive (I did start off only buying if they were cheaper). I just really like reading on a tablet though - so much better than having a real book.

Re:Respecting freedom (3, Insightful)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373724)

If he is advocating tax funds be distributed to authors, he is certainly advocating the forcing of something.

Re:Respecting freedom (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373868)

He's suggesting replacing the government giving away our liberties with the government giving away our money, and only giving our money away if we need to and only to the extent that we need to to support authors. It's a compromise, but it's in the direction of more freedom and less forcing.

Re:Respecting freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36374006)

Considering I pay taxes even if I do not read from an e-book.

Perhaps the makers of e-book readers should provide a library of books for a subscription fee.

For a small monthly fee you can have up to 50 titles in your reader. Finish one or don't need it
any more? 'send it back' and download another. It will be ready in your reader the next day or in a few hours.
Choose from thousands. Your monthly fee is shared with all the authors that have books in your reader.

Privacy can be maintained the e-book system if it is properly implemented. When you download a book
that author is added to your list, when you "send it back" the author is removed. The title is not noted
and the author is only cut a single check each month. Record of who has what books is encrypted
in the system and unavailable to anyone.

Re:Respecting freedom (2)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373894)

I just really like reading on a tablet though - so much better than having a real book.

Please, pray tell, what is "so much better" about it?

Every ebook screen I've seen, unless the book was specifically designed for it, either displays far less data per page (say, 1-2 paragraphs at most) or comes out fuzzy on the text. None of them can render illustrations worth a damn.

Battery life, from every one I've seen reviewed, is atrocious. So is page memory - I don't want to lose my place in a book just because I forgot to plug the stupid thing in to charge overnight or because I switched to a different book.

Though I don't wear glasses, we tried to give a Nook to my grandmother and she couldn't use it. She likes to read outside and has to put on her prescription sunglasses, and the Nook's "antiglare filter" means the screen is simply black when viewed through them.

So what do you find "better" about a tablet?

Re:Respecting freedom (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374052)

I suggest just making the eBooks cheaper

Yes. That will work. In the same way that cable rates have gotten cheaper due to economies of scale. Oh wait. Only the costs have gone down -- the rates have doubled everywhere that competition has been eliminated. But as publishing of paper books falls and prices rise I'm sure eBooks won't follow the same path as cable. After all, its not like Amazon is trying to take over the book market, is it?

Re:Respecting freedom (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373698)

If there was a right to give up freedom, shouldn't you be advocating for voluntary slavery?

The problem with allowing people give up some of their rights is that it not only effects them, but it will be passed down to their kids. In this case, a legacy of proprietary e-book libraries may have a very real effect.

Once, government was once seen as a protector of freedoms of the general public, and not just the bailer-out of large, well-connected banks and car companies/union. I would like to see a return of that role.

Re:Respecting freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373796)

Once, government was once seen as a protector of freedoms of the general public, and not just the bailer-out of large, well-connected banks and car companies/union. I would like to see a return of that role.

On what planet was that? Here on planet earth most governments historically have been robbers turned barons. There have been far more tyrants than enlightened rulers. Smart elites know that they can get away with nearly anything (including murder) as long as they provide a stable society for the lower classes. These can then in turn be farmed for income.

Change only comes when the dumbeddown next generation inbreeds try to claim everything under the sun as their privilege. Revolution the comes followed by more of the same.

Re:Respecting freedom (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373958)

Once, government was once seen as a protector of freedoms of the general public, and not just the bailer-out of large, well-connected banks and car companies/union.

Err, when was that? About the only times I can really think of where a truly free country threatened to form in the US were (a) during the 1870's, but Ulysses Grant put a quick end to that idea, and (b) the 1780's, where a few of the states were experimenting with really going forward with that Bill of Rights business.

Re:Respecting freedom (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374016)

I would say around Teddy Roosevelt was the closest, with his trust busting and what not.

What are you referencing in the 1870s? I'm rather curious as I'm no US History expert.

Re:Respecting freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373726)

That argument reminds me of that interview with some politician. He argued that we, as US citizens, can refuse to pay taxes without fear of prosecution of the government, but we will be fined and possibly imprisoned - but we /can/ refuse.

Re:Respecting freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373740)

I think that respecting freedoms involves me respecting others' [freedom] to give up their freedom if they feel like they want to in exchange for having the cool new device.

The problem is when "giving up your freedom" becomes your only choice. To name an example, as we've gone from broadcast analog TV to broadcast scrambled analog to broadcast digital to cable digital, we've lost little bits of freedom along the way and gained some invasion of privacy in return.

Re:Respecting freedom (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373744)

Preventing publishers from screwing around with my personal property rights is not "depriving" them of anything.

Re:Respecting freedom (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373778)

Our job is not to legislate their choices for them, it's to support and sustain better alternatives so they will come over when they see the light.

Part of the problem is that ebooks are not a simple 2-party issue. As a society we all have a stake in how the market works -- if we didn't have such a stake there would be no justification for copyright law in the first place. So, given that books are part of our the way they are handled is a question for all of us to decide, not just the individual buyer and seller.

Re:Respecting freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373782)

It's our -- and everyone elses -- democratic duty to NOT let some lobbyists run rampant with laws which only serve their pockets.

It's not our duty to keep our neighbours from falling into a DRM trap, but it's our bloody duty to throw the fuckwits who put a DMCA into place (and those who still haven't repelled it) out of the government.

Re:Respecting freedom (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373898)

In a way, this is a very ironic post. I think that respecting freedoms involves me respecting others' right to give up their freedom if they feel like they want to in exchange for having the cool new device.

Some subsets of humanity, perhaps indeed the largest subset, only learns by experience. It might take them losing all their books, down the road, or having to buy an entirely new device to keep "owning" what they already "own" before they learn. This is a new technology. We can't get upset yet that the general public doesn't get it. They have to get their knuckles rapped before they will realize.

Our job is not to legislate their choices for them, it's to support and sustain better alternatives so they will come over when they see the light.

You bring a very good point here, and another way of looking at true freedom. However, the real issue I see is our fight for a true alternative, especially one that contains any semblance of true anonymity, is rapidly becoming a non-option these days, under the guise (read lame-ass-excuse) of everyone is assumed to be a potential terrorist, in an attempt to justify to such things as the "Patriot" act, which isn't about safety anymore. It's about control over the masses.

I grow rather tired of trying to choose the lesser of two evils, yet this is what the landscape is quickly being reduced to. The sad part is people don't care anymore. If you look back 250 years ago, you'll quickly see that acts such as seceding from a country or civil wars have been initiated with less justification than what we face today with regards to the ongoing attacks on our Rights. The People, have given up, or simply don't care.

Re:Respecting freedom (2)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373986)

>I think that respecting freedoms involves me respecting others' right to give up their freedom

You advocate a dog-eat-dog world.

You are advocating feudalism.

You are advocating slavery.

All with that one phrase.

Unconscionable contract terms are unconscionable. There is a long tradition that says you cannot sign away your first born or your rights. Such things are not allowed in a civilized society. You want absolute freedom to do as you want, to subjugate others? Go back to Somalia and start your own gang there.

I believe I have the freedom to call you an ass.

--
BMO - burning karma because shit like this.

Bitcoin to the rescue? (0)

zaaj (678276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373630)

To address the privacy concerns, how about a system where you pay for eBooks via Bitcoin, and your private key for bitcoin transactions is what is used to unlock the eBook? You can always just generate a new Bitcoin ID per book if you wanted to... (oh wait, you could also transfer all funds out of the bitcoin ID you used to purchase the book, then share the book and the private key that no longer holds any value, so shhh - don't tell the publishers this part)

Re:Bitcoin to the rescue? (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373692)

I've actually been thinking of a system to allow you to automatically pay authors or artists when you read their books using bitcoin, sort of an automated tip-jar. The main problem is knowing which wallet to send the money to, and knowing that wallet is the correct one and not somehow put there by a scam artist.

Re:Bitcoin to the rescue? (0)

naz404 (1282810) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373888)

Bitcoin is a scam meant to and promoted by early adopters who've farmed and hoarded them. Today, it's pretty much prohibitively expensive to try to generate bitcoins, thus locking out new user/farmers from trying to generate "free cash".

Meanwhile, early adopters who've been farming like crazy are now sitting on a crapload of free money they're trying to foist on people for real goods or services.

No thanks.

Re:Bitcoin to the rescue? (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373934)

Right to Read [gnu.org]

This is highly relevant to your proposed system, yes?

Re:Bitcoin to the rescue? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373714)

No matter the DRM, you will always be able to share the book. Even if you have to scan or photograph it page by page. The people who care about breaching copyright can already do so. I just wish they'd hurry up and get all books into eBook format, and make the prices more reasonable in line with the fact that it costs virtually nothing to "print" an eBook.

Re:Bitcoin to the rescue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373854)

Yeah, and MP3 is cheaper than CD is cheaper than vinyl, yet I'm still paying around £7-10 for an album. The "once the cheaper medium is widespread we'll see price drops" fallacy has long since been disproved in favour of "we'll just get customers acclimatised to the higher prices with the same tired old line, then we'll drop the excuse and keep the prices".

Re:Bitcoin to the rescue? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373914)

I suspect that the problem is not that privacy is impossible; but that it is very much not in the interest of any major player in the sale of ebooks, the licensing of publishing rights for ebooks, etc.

While the mathematical work in cryptographic privacy schemes is extremely interesting, you could get 90% of the same results with little more than basic file and database record deletion commands if the actors involved were so motivated. If Amazon wanted you to have privacy, they could not gather information about your browsing of their inventory, not collect location data from whispernet kindles, purge all records of CC transactions the moment the risk of chargeback had timed out, etc, etc. Shockingly enough, they don't. Gotta monetize them consumer metrics!

That's really the trick: most of the clever technology for anonymity/privacy is designed to address the problem that the actors in conventional monetary, DRM, networking, etc. systems have a strong interest(and ever increasing capability) to monitor what people interacting with those systems do. If they didn't have that, the mathematical cleverness would hardly be necessary; because everyone would be purging logs as fast as they became unnecessary for immediate security purposes. The trouble, in the case of Ebooks, is that(since the main actors selling them are among those who have a strong interest in collecting user data) the majority of providers, especially of commercially popular material, would have no incentive to accept payment systems that compromise their ability to do what they want, or build reader or DRM systems that do so. This means that, while technologically quite feasible, privacy-preserving architectures are likely to remain content-light, somewhat-less-than-polished, backwaters.

There definitely isn't anybody tracking my reading of Project Gutenberg etexts with Weasel reader on my rockin'-it-old-school Visor Edge; but that particular solution is not, shall we say, going to lure away the kindle's customer base...

Batshit Hippy Slams E-books (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373636)

Who cares

Voluntary payment for goods (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373654)

I can't help but be on the fence with this issue. On one hand, this is a work which took effort and time to create, and the author deserves compensation for their time if their work is used. On the other, I can't help but think that the time spent creating such works is finite, and once complete no further time or resources are spent, and considering the infinite resources provided by digital distribution, the cost per unit is extremely difficult to decide upon.

It will take people more intelligent than myself to resolve this situation, but it is a situation which needs resolving.

Re:Voluntary payment for goods (1)

internettoughguy (1478741) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373878)

Not really that hard of a problem, since public and academic libraries have provided books for free for a long time. If you have sufficient disposable income you'll buy books and ebooks, if you don't; you wont. Since buying books is essentially a form of patronage, why support those who are trying to dick you around with DRM?

Re:Voluntary payment for goods (3, Interesting)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373896)

"On the other, I can't help but think that the time spent creating such works is finite, and once complete no further time or resources are spent"

Speaking as a published author from a family of published authors, not only is this not true, but it completely misses the point.

Why would anyone write the books if they didn't receive a benefit? It takes *years*.

If you steal, you reduce the impetus for people to create. Simple as pie.

Helps you understand why indie game studios die, doesn't it? (Also speaking as the owner of an indie studio whose contract was pulled because of changing piracy rates during development.)

Maybe just stop trying to come up with excuses that it's okay for you to take things without paying for them. It isn't.

How surprising.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373672)

According to this guy every technology used for the last 20 years violates our freedoms. Do you really think the average consumers knows (or indeed cares) about the types of freedoms RMS talks about?

For example, 'the ability to look at source code' .. you would have to explain what 'source code' is to a normal person firstly, let alone explain why having the code seemingly written in some foreign language would be in the least bit useful.

I understand the point he is trying to make and it is an important one, but to put it lightly .. lighten up.

Re:How surprising.. (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373908)

I agree with your view of RMS, but there are people just as rabidly trying to take our freedoms away on the other side of the fence, so I suspect we need someone like him so that the people in the middle can have a reasoned debate. The problem is, if the opposing view (that we need freedoms) is reasonable at the extreme, then when they meet us in the middle it will already skew the argument heavily in favour of the anti-freedom folk. I don't agree with his extreme views but I can see why we need him or someone like him.

I remember (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373684)

I remember when my dad was going to be sent to the gulag in Siberia for a typewriter he possessed. I was a kid and the KGB raided our house. I don't remember the exact details of why but they let him go. I do know the typewriter had the letters removed so it wasn't exactly illegal. He was copying a book that the government considered illegal/immoral. It was something about the Communist party and the mass murders; information that is now public.

With ebooks the copy part is easy these days. It can be distributed within minutes all over the world. Someone will break the encryption and publish it. I don't think we should reject ebooks, just not pay for ones with DRM in them. I doubt a lot of controversial books will have DRM in them anyway. If the information they contain is THAT good, someone will copy it by hand if necessary and distribute it. If you're worried about some cheesy novel and that amazon tracks you, find a warez copy. Information will be free, it'll just be a little harder to find than googling it.

Re:I remember (-1, Offtopic)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373802)

There's got to be an "in Soviet Russia..." joke in there somewhere.

Re:I remember (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36374036)

A book doesn't need to be controversial to be worthwhile. Far from it.
 
And breaking the laws you disagree with is just another way of beign a thug. Trying to change the law is one thing but to break it is not a valid form of protest.

Project Gutenberg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373694)

You want DRM-free ebooks, go there. All of them old enough to be out of copyright, no restrictions.

Tax Funds (1)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373706)

While I agree with Stallman that eBook and eBook DRM have really destroyed our freedoms with respect to books, I am having a lot of trouble understanding his tax fund proposal.

Doesn't distributing a tax fund to authors by popularity mean that I, as a person, lost the freedom to vote with my pocketbook not to pay certain authors? I have no desire for my tax dollars to go to the author of the Twilight books when I would much rather get my money to a deserving less known author who puts out a much superior work. For that matter, how do you measure popularity anyway? If the funding for authors are from a tax-payer fund, then it kind of means that people have no real direct costs to buy books, right? You can't measure it by downloads because people would download all sorts of stuff if they don't have to directly pay for it and not necessarily read it. The voluntary funding may be a good idea and has shown to work in the past - however, each of those successful voluntary funding schemes were aimed towards a rather small demographic who is passionate enough to donate - I have no idea if this idea is scalable or feasible when it's put to the market at large.

Tax Funds for FOSS (1)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373806)

What might happen if there was a tax fund for free open source software. And people could make a living coding FOSS. That could change the world...

But Just think about the hornets nest in the lobbyist hallway. lol. To bad! FOSS is the way to go.

Re:Tax Funds for FOSS (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373992)

eh. you get tax breaks in usa for donating to qualified non-profits. right now.

so you already have that. also usa has a working social security system too(despite what most people tend to think..) - and computers good enough for typing are free.

proposing a by popularity given tax fund would be going the way of the record companies worldwide. it sucks big time for everyone involved except the guys skimming the fund(the riaa lobbyists, basically, and their local counterparts). and prone to abuse and for it to be just there would be a record about what's everyone reading. so did rms get some bad acid laden weed or wtf?

Re:Tax Funds (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373826)

Not to mention that if it is funded by taxes then the government has the power to censor things it doesn't like by withholding the money.

Re:Tax Funds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373832)

If you have a problem with that, suggest the improvement of donations to authors that could be deduced from your tax.

Re:Tax Funds (1)

internettoughguy (1478741) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373930)

Agreed, Stallman is way off base with that proposal. It's just the opposite, intellectual works with a low popular appeal, if any, would be the ones deserving of tax dollars. Surely twilight could get by with a couple of acne cream product placements or something.

Taxes. Yup, that's the answer. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373708)

Well, I don't have time to RTFA, but if the summary is correct, Stallman says eBooks "don't respect our freedoms", and his solution is take taxes and distribute them to authors whose books the individual taxpayer may or may not wish to read. Because that really respects our freedoms. What a tool.

Identification please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373718)

The requirement for identification to buy a book may actually stem from the Patriot Act which allows the govt to demand purchase histories from book vendors and records from libraries without a warrant under the guise of 'national security'.

Re:Identification please (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373984)

Bullshit

An alternative (2)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373720)

which is surprising in its simplicity: don't buy from Amazon if you don't want their DRM. There are places that sell eBooks without DRM at all (Baen is one of the ones that comes to mind and would appeal to a lot of people on /.), and then there are the other places -- almost the entire market other than Amazon -- who use ePub with Adobe's ADEPT DRM. ADEPT is relatively flexible. It's also, if one is so inclined to do it, very easy to unlock. I tend to view the unlocking of DRM on a book that someone's purchased a bit less dodgy than going onto torrent sites and finding some scanned and OCR'd ruin of a PDF. You get the publisher's version of the book, *and* you've paid the author (although yes, the publishers as well).

What I would like to see though with eBooks:

sane pricing -- no-one will ever convince me that it should cost more to buy an electronic copy than it does to buy a paperback even if I do see the argument that the author, the editor, the type-setters and all the marketing and promotion cost money so it can't be given away *too* cheaply

the dropping of DRM completely -- seriously, if they're happy to use ADEPT then they're basically happy to not use DRM in the slightest, it's so easily broken

standardisation around a set format -- Amazon are the hold-outs here, sticking with Mobipocket formats while everyone else (even Sony) settled on ePub

quality control from the publishers -- I bought "Glue" by Irvine Welsh, and it's so riddled with scanning errors that I may as well have downloaded a dodgy scan and OCR copy. The amount of times "um" became "urn" was quite surprising. Even worse, one of the characters is called "Gally". That became "Gaily" almost every time he was mentioned. For all I know, he was actually "Gaily" and it became "Gally". "Glue" isn't the only eBook I've bought from a publisher that clearly doesn't give a shit, but it's probably the most absurd. If they're going to charge on the basis of the eBook being edited, they should at least fucking edit it.

Re:An alternative (0)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373880)

One, Kindle reads ePub just fine. Amazon used MobiPocket for their own content because it's a better standard. It's still an open standard. You might as well be suggesting they should use HTML2; it's also way more prevalent. It's also a very bad idea.

Two, Amazon books have *no* DRM.

Three, book pricing for eBooks is cheaper than any book system ever has been. Amazon heavily incentivizes authors to offer their books at the two dollar price point. They can't force the author to choose price 1 or price 2 because of archaic author defense laws (yes, I know Steam can do it; books have different rules from the founders' era.) They also *shouldn't* force prices: it's really up to the author.

Four, Amazon knows eBooks should be cheaper. That's why if the author chooses that price structure within a specific window, Amazon doubles the percentage that the author keeps.

Five, Kindle also supports PDF, which is way more standard than ePub or MobiPocket will ever be.

Six, Amazon isn't responsible for the quality of the books. Be serious. If you are unhappy with Glue, return it, and explain that the reason is because it's a garbage scan. Amazon will stop selling it (they've done that with major books before) until the publisher fixes it.

Seven: are you really complaining about Amazon in a post where your signature is an Amazon affiliate link?

Re:An alternative (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373964)

Hmm. To reply to 7) first: I'm not meaning to look like I'm complaining about Amazon at all. RMS is complaining about Amazon. (I was also well aware of the irony of saying anything negative about Amazon while I'm also advertising Amazon eBooks in my sig, but decided not to mention it :) Though on my homepage there's also a link to Smashwords who do things a bit differently.)

1) I didn't know that; I guess that's a more recent firmware revision? I use a Sony so I'm not up to date with what Amazon are doing with the Kindle. The last I knew they wanted you to email books to them to be converted and transferred to your account, which seemed a bit clunky to me. Did they change that?

2) Yes, they do. I don't know if all of them do, but having published a few books on Amazon recently they give you the option of choosing whether you want DRM or not.

3+4) I agree. eBooks in general are still expensive. Amazon are better than most for this.

5) ePub is just zipped XHTML. XHTML+ZIP is pretty standard and pretty easy to read. PDF is generally not that readily reflowable -- at least, not on the ebook readers we've got right now -- while ePub automatically is. On the other hand, if you're writing a comic or something with a lot of tables and formatting, ePub would be a pain in the arse to use, while PDF would suit it fine. I'd say it depends what you're wanting to do. So far as I know -- though I've never built a Mobipocket book -- that's basically just a compiled form of HTML like Windows Help uses, so that's relatively standard. Still, I'd say ePub wins for simplicity. You can build the whole thing by hand in a text editor, so long as you've got a copy of zip lying around too.

6) I didn't buy Glue from Amazon -- I think it was through Waterstones, actually. I also thought "Quality control from the publishers" made it clear I was actually attacking the publishers rather than the distributors. The quality of Glue is pretty rubbish. That's not Waterstones' fault -- it's Random House's fault for being useless.

Re:An alternative (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373952)

quality control from the publishers -- I bought "Glue" by Irvine Welsh, and it's so riddled with scanning errors that I may as well have downloaded a dodgy scan and OCR copy. The amount of times "um" became "urn" was quite surprising. Even worse, one of the characters is called "Gally". That became "Gaily" almost every time he was mentioned. For all I know, he was actually "Gaily" and it became "Gally". "Glue" isn't the only eBook I've bought from a publisher that clearly doesn't give a shit, but it's probably the most absurd. If they're going to charge on the basis of the eBook being edited, they should at least fucking edit it.

This is the one that pisses me off. If I buy a book, I expect to have decent editing. If the book was published in the last 10 years, the publisher OUGHT to have a digital copy anyway. So why are they running them through a scanner?

In several cases, I've found that the illegal copies were better edited and formatted... if some guy working with his scanner can do that, why can't the publisher?

Well he is right. (2)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373722)

If, something that is now in public domain, is wiped off of my device by the decision of some corporate whores somewhere, that is an open attack against my freedoms.

Re:Well he is right. (0)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374024)

Yeah?

Call us when it actually happens.

The Amazon yank was the company saying "oh god, we sold a book by someone who was pirating it and didn't have rights," which turned out to be incorrect. So, since it was the first time, they did what they thought was right: they pulled the book from the store. Because of the way the platform worked, that also ended up pulling the book from devices - something they did BY ACCIDENT. When the public flipped out, Amazon did the right thing: it restored the pirated edition of the book to people's devices with apologies, provided a gift certificate as recompensation, and paid the real publisher what should have been paid to them.

Amazon is out a lot of money over this. Hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Had nothing to do with pulling public domain content off of devices.

Why do you fall for RMS' unending stream of bullshit? Check his "facts." They're never, ever right. This is the man that advocates pedophilia as un-damaging, for fuck's sake. (Think I'm joking? Go look it up.)

The bigger danger of eBooks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373728)

RMS highlights one of the dangers of eBooks with the Amazon case removing 1984 from the users' Kindles. However, I have always felt the bigger danger with eBooks is illustrated in 1984 with the "historical revisions". What if Amazon or the Author wants to change what is written in the eBook, and goes ahead and does it. How would you ever know or prove, that the book you have now, is different from what you originally downloaded. This also invalidates citations, so when other people review what was cited, they don't read what you did, and assume that you were taking the citation out of context, or otherwise distorting it. However, if the source document is changed out from under you, you can legitimately quote it, and it'll be different the next time you read it. I'll note that the same issue occurs with blogs, and people who suspect that the blog writer will change what is posted, will do a screen capture to show that "this is what was said", versus what is posted now. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to do the same thing with the DRMd eBooks.

Re:The bigger danger of eBooks (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373772)

One way of doing it is to ensure that you have a copy of all the eBooks you've bought sitting on a local hard drive. That way they can't wipe it, and if they change something you can always go back to the old version, even if doing that will involve unlocking their DRM.

Also you're wrong about the screen capture -- you can do a screen capture on an eBook easily. Just open it on a local computer and take a screen capture. It could be mocked up in two minutes flat by anyone with GIMP or Photoshop, but the same goes for blogs.

DRM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373732)

That's why I steal all my books, and will continue to do so until pricing makes sense and DRM is gone.

Re:DRM? (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373974)

You know paper books come DRM free, right?

More accurately, it is the DMCA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373738)

that is attacking our freedoms.

RMS is a nut. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373756)

Anyone still take this guy seriously? He wants authors to get tax dollars or voulentary payments instead of actually charging for their work? What about the freedom to have a meaningful claim to what you create?

Yet he accepts Arabs telling him who he can and can't talk to. RMS is an ass.

Re:RMS is a nut. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373766)

How zionist of you.

I was thinking the same for games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373776)

Well kind of

Lets be honest, a lot of people here have priated games in their history, I will admit to say Priating a game called "the witcher" and after playing it for a year finally purchased it via steam when they release the 1.5 update (before that it was just that bad performance wise you could not justify the money). The other day I was looking for an online copy of B&W i could not find one online copy that would let me pay and download so i was forced back in to my own ways to maybe just take it. The point is I would like a website where i could make anonymous voluntary payments to a games company if i so wished to, I have noidea if this would pick up, and might start encourge people to priate more games as demos. From my point of view i would have paid for B&W if i could pay and download there and then but i could not and not waiting for 7 days for a game i want to play for a few hours because i am having a nostalgic moment. Maybe My case is a little specalized, i dont think that many people really have that many requirements to play 10+ year old games
 

I've avoided this issue entirely... (0)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373784)

by stumbling upon an accident victim who just happened to be the author of my favorite series of romance novels.

I just took him home and hobbled him and now he writes the most wonderful stories for me. Or Else.

Re:I've avoided this issue entirely... (1)

srg33 (1095679) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373870)

"Misery" loves company?

More clueless RMSery (1)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373828)

RMS is just being a clueless idiot again. Amazon doesn't force anything. Hook the kindle to a USB port and drag a PDF onto it. Not deletable, not identified, not tracked.

You can do that on a Kindle without ever giving it a user account.

As usual, RMS has no idea what he's talking about, and just wants attention for somehow being an advocate for the people, even though nobody can ever explain how this actually benefits the people in a way that holds up to even minor scrutiny.

Cue the fanboy downvotes and the recitations of standard text which don't actually address what's been said.

Re:More clueless RMSery (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373890)

> RMS is just being a clueless idiot again. Amazon doesn't force anything. Hook the kindle to a USB port and drag a PDF onto it. Not deletable, not identified, not tracked.

Good luck finding the PDF to begin with.

THAT is the problem he's complaining about. You are just engaging in filmflam and misdirection.

Re:More clueless RMSery (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373892)

RMS is just being a clueless idiot again. ... Hook the kindle to a USB port and drag a PDF onto it.

You're confusing an "eBook" with an "eBook Reader."

It's kind of like confusing a .DOC file with MS Word.

What was that about clueless idiots, again?

Stallman: Our Freedoms Are Attacking Our Freedoms (1)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373842)

RMS has fully devoured his own tail.

Baen books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373858)

Or, sell the books without DRM. Baen books at baen.com and their webscription service seem to be doing just fine selling them that way, in any format you want too!

"Distributing tax funds"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373884)

"Distributing tax funds to authors based on their popularity"?????

The heavy hand of government as a solution. That will just end up like the MPAA and RIAA, where the government will start keeping a bigger and bigger portion for itself. And yes, I realize "copyright" itself is the heavy hand of government.

Eventually, it will end up politically like "each to his ability, each to his need".

Maybe closer reality is "each to his POLITICAL ability, each to his caste"

I don't buy ebooks from Amazon (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373902)

I buy ebooks from www.webscription.net no DRM, and a number of different formats. including HTML

Yeah, but think of the piracy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373906)

No, seriously.

I understand where RMS is coming from 'cause he's legit. But I want to point out that you can get a Nook Color for 250 bucks and in about 15 minutes have it rooted and running CM7. Once that's done it is a simple matter to PIRATE THE CRAP out of eBooks. That's the funny flip side to all of this. Sure Amazon can remove content from the Kindle... so don't buy one. Instead get a device that can be hacked and turned into something more powerful.

In terms of dissemination of content eBooks are amazing. Go find a torrent with 5000 books in it. In less than a day you can have a veritable library and all for the cost of... well nothing.

Look, I'm not advocating piracy, that's not really my point. My point is there is a flip side and that is as we rely on eBooks more and more the market will shift. When ITunes started everything was DRM. Now I can buy MP3s from Amazon and load them directly into my cloud player and download/upload to that from any computer. These things shift. Time changes as the market changes and piracy is a force towards that. Whether the music industry wants to admit it piracy, and the availability of their content through illicit means, holds more influence on their business model than the artists or publishers do. Same goes for eBooks. It's just a matter of time.

Kindle store, not the device (2)

NoNeeeed (157503) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373960)

I agree with him in so far as the Kindle store is concerned. Being able to effectively "un-sell" a book as happened with 1984 is basically wrong.

However that's a product of the Kindle store, not the device. About two-thirds of the books on my kindle have no DRM. Some of these are Project Gutenberg books, others are Pragmatic Programmers ebooks which are sold in DRM free formats.

There is nothing to stop you from buying a Kindle and then never buying a single ebook from Amazon if you really want.

As with all these sorts of things, the problems lie in the services and publishers, not with the technology.

I'm not buying ebooks for precisely this reason (1)

js_sebastian (946118) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374054)

We got an ebook reader at work (to read papers with and reduce printing).

It is quite convenient, especially as a replacement for those books that are unwieldy to carry and/or disposable (in the sense that I have no intention of rereading them). But I did not really find any of the books I wanted for sale in DRM-free formats (though there is some good free stuff around, including project guthenberg of course). So the e-book publishing industry has yet to see a single dollar from me.

It's not just ideological, it's also practical. Will my next ebook reader support the same DRM crap as my current one? Who knows. Can I read a few chapters on my smartphone when I am not carrying the 10 inch reader around? No (N900 user). Can I read it on my computer once in a while, perhaps when I want to search through the text or cite something? No (Linux user). Do I want to bother finding out how to break the DRM, and whether it is even legal to do so in the country I live in? No. Conclusion: no books with DRM. No money to the publishers. And for those same bulky/disposable books: no, I am not buying a paper version either. Too bulky and disposable (especially in hardcover!).

Same here (1)

Evtim (1022085) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374056)

I was ecstatic about the e-books as technology. I am a book rat, always been and always will be. "There is never enough shelf-space" - I learned that law of L-space very early in life. But I will never, ever go towards e-books until this model is the only choice:

1. expensive (WTF?!)
2. registration
3. tracking and data mining
4. it can be taken from you and there's nothing to do about it

The same goes for the cloud thingy, BTW, except point one. That's what I first thought. But at 25 euro per year for the cloud if my "WD pocketbook" of 320 GB survives for more than 2 years I am on profit (price 50 euro). And it is enough for everything I own in digital format. Big as a pack of cigarettes and not much heavier.

No to the e-book, no to the cloud. If somehow this is enforced on us (like the incandescent light bulbs for example- they can use the same excuse for the e-books) I will become political activist.....

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