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How Publishers Are Cutting Their Own Throats With eBook DRM

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the it's-not-even-that-sharp dept.

Books 355

An anonymous reader writes "Sci-fi author Charlie Stross has written a post about how the Big Six book publishing companies have painted themselves into a corner in the rapidly growing ebook industry. Between user-unfriendly DRM and the Amazon juggernaut, they're slowly pushing themselves out of business. Quoting: 'Until 2008, ebooks were a tiny market segment, under 1% and easily overlooked; but in 2009 ebook sales began to rise exponentially, and ebooks now account for over 20% of all fiction sales. In some areas ebooks are up to 40% of the market and rising rapidly. (I am not making that last figure up: I'm speaking from my own sales figures.) And Amazon have got 80% of the ebook retail market. ... the Big Six's pig-headed insistence on DRM on ebooks is handing Amazon a stick with which to beat them harder. DRM on ebooks gives Amazon a great tool for locking ebook customers into the Kindle platform.'"

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355 comments

I hate DRM. (5, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209634)

DRM on ebooks gives Amazon a great tool for locking ebook customers into the Kindle platform.'"

Which is why I'm not buying books from Amazon or B&N at this point. Either it's without DRM, or I'm not buying it. Baen's Webscriptions for me, at least at the moment.

Re:I hate DRM. (5, Interesting)

inflex (123318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209750)

At least a lot of non-Big6 writers are publishing without DRM on Amazon (and other platforms).

There's a new thread almost weekly on places like Kindleboards.com about DRM and it still always goes the same way though, lots of arguing on either side. In the end at least, more and more writers are explicitly choosing NOT to DRM.

We have several books out under a few pen-names, none of them are DRM'd and we're not the only ones ( http://elitadaniels.com/ [elitadaniels.com] ).

Re:I hate DRM. (5, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209782)

Most of my eBook purchases are from Baen. Cheap prices, free books, any format you could want, and no DRM? What's not to like?

For those who are curious about the "free books" part, Jim Baen and his authors discovered that giving away the first book or two in a series actually increased sales, and ended up putting a huge number of their books up for free download. And by "free" I mean "just like ones you pay for, DRM-free in all formats." Their free library's site can be found here:

http://www.baen.com/library/default.asp [baen.com]

And the books themselves can be downloaded from here (and also indirectly at the above link):

http://www.webscription.net/c-1-free-library.aspx [webscription.net]

This sort of behaviour from content creators and publishers should be rewarded, so go check out some of the free books. There's so many to choose from, from so many authors, you're bound to find something you like! And if this post reads like an advertisement, well, I think they deserve it.

Re:I hate DRM. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209960)

I checked out their site; not much selection and a VERY limited selection of "free" ebooks.

Large free selection if you look for it (3, Informative)

moniker (9961) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210044)

I checked out their site; not much selection and a VERY limited selection of "free" ebooks.

Baen frequently releases CDROMs with specific hardcovers that contain near-complete back catalogs of that author, which can then be redistributed freely.

Check out the Annotated Baen Free Listing [allensmith.net] or the Fifth Imperium [thefifthimperium.com] .

Re:Large free selection if you look for it (4, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210188)

And to clarify the "can then be redistributed freely" bit, the license on the CDs specifically says that they can be copied and distributed freely so long as they're not sold. Hence why the Fifth Imperium site has all the CDs available for download.

In actual fact, a large percentage of Baen's catalog is available legally for free download because of those CDs. Almost all of the Baen books by David Weber, Eric Flint, Mercedes Lackey, Lois McMaster Bujold, John Ringo, and David Drake, and then various other books and stories by other authors. Except books published since the respective CDs were...

Re:I hate DRM. (3, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210432)

> VERY limited selection of "free" ebooks.

So they're to be hated so they don't give EVERYTHING away?

Also, what they have available is really good quality, no crap.

Re:I hate DRM. (4, Interesting)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210012)

Seconding that.

I got onto the 1632/Ring of Fire [webscription.net] series, and the Honor Harrington [webscription.net] series through the Baen free library.

As validation of their model, I've since bought all of both series as ebooks from them (actually under the webscription model: 5-6 books, including the one I was looking for, for $15). I've also bought half of the Honor Harrington series as audio books through Audible, all through a couple of $5 loss-leaders.

Re:I hate DRM. (1)

moniker (9961) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210074)

I'm a big Baen customer myself, but my strategy for dealing with non-Baen authors has been to donate funds to my local library earmarked for the ebooks I want to read. This still doesn't help with the two major publishers who do not allow libraries to buy their ebooks.

Re:I hate DRM. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210080)

Thanks for jostling my memory, I had forgotten to donate to Project Gutenberg in a while.
This, instead of a retail purchase, oh mighty purveyors of bill C-11.

Re:I hate DRM. (1, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210194)

You do realize that B&N uses the industry standard DRM, right? No lock involved, in fact you can open the books on any computer that supports Adobe Editions, which if I'm not mistaken covers most mobiles as well as on Linux via Wine.

It's a tad ignorant to suggest that B&N and Amazon are equally guilty here of using vendor lock in when B&N doesn't use any at all.

Re:I hate DRM. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210390)

industry standard DRM

Meaning Adobe's proprietary DRM, instead of Amazon's?

Re:I hate DRM. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210204)

I hate DRM too. It's why I buy on Amazon and strip it with Calibre.

Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment... (5, Insightful)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209652)

... pricing an e-book $13 when the paperback is $6 is a much more visible issue for the average e-book buyer, at least judging from the various comments on amazon's message boards.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (2)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209666)

The price is too high.
I can't lend it to somebody.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210266)

The market can fix the price IFF there is competition. DRM kills that.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (5, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209696)

It all ties together. Booksellers, whether retail outlets like Amazon or the publishers themselves, want to charge paper-book prices for e-books. They see DRM as a mechanism to enable them to do that. The alternative, which is to sell e-books for reasonable prices (i.e., prices which reflect the fact that printing and distribution costs for e-books are effectively zero) and thereby sell more books, is so far mostly the domain of the self-publishing and small-press world.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (5, Insightful)

whoop (194) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209830)

This pricing system is nothing new. All the modern Call of Duty games stay at $60 on Steam. The latest version rarely goes on sale, if so it's only like $10 off. Publishers of any sort only want to be paid what they think customers should pay.

Then, some indie mucky-muck makes something like Minecraft, Angry Birds, etc, charges so little, and sells millions. It's not fair!

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209954)

Valve gets it because they've seen the data to back it up: 10% drop in price? Expect a 35% increase in revenue. Not sales, revenue. 25% discount, 245% increase. 50% discount, 320% increase. Crazy 75% discount? 1450% increase in revenue. Valve's own record, AFAIK, was when they dropped L4D by half and saw a THREE THOUSAND PERCENT increase in sales. And apparently the best sales bump ever was a third party game that went on discount and saw a 36,000% increase in sales over the weekend. These are numbers that bean counters would drag their dicks through a mile of broken glass just to LOOK at, much less claim. Yet out there in digital land the average product is priced equal to (if not more than) it's meatspace counterpart.
Insanity.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209894)

Courtesy of the author of the original post is this nifty article [antipope.org] . Note especially the comments in point one:

In particular, about 80-90% of the cover price of a book has nothing to do with the paper and ink object you buy in a shop; indeed, using current production standards, ebook production requires nearly as much work as paper book production. (Paper and ink are dirt cheap; proofreaders and marketing teams aren't.)

Now, you might argue that lower prices would lead to more sales and hence greater overall profit - but that's a very different thing to arguing that "printing and distribution costs for e-books are effectively zero", and hence implying that they're a significant chunk of the cost for the dead tree version ...

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (4, Interesting)

Elder Entropist (788485) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210184)

In particular, about 80-90% of the cover price of a book has nothing to do with the paper and ink object you buy in a shop; indeed, using current production standards, ebook production requires nearly as much work as paper book production. (Paper and ink are dirt cheap; proofreaders and marketing teams aren't.)

Didn't the publishing industry nearly double paperback prices just a few years ago citing increases in paper costs?

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209926)

I think you meant "hardback prices" for eBooks...

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209700)

Well, they aren't basing it on manufacturing cost, obviously. They are basing it on what they believe consumer value to be. Amazon is betting that it's worth $7 for me to avoid getting off my ass and going to the store just to get a book. They're probably right in most cases, as transportation costs money. Also, while they don't let you sell eBooks just yet, they do let you read them on your PC, Mac, Kindle, iOS or Android device, and (perhaps most importantly) online.

I don't like DRM either, but they do it in a way that there are very few limitations to most users, since they support most popular hardware/software platforms + the web.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (4, Interesting)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209770)

I think you're looking at used book prices. People will let those go for absurdly cheap for some reason. Have you seen some popular top seller/NYT top books? They're $30-50! Printing material can't cost that much! In fact, I've done covers for books and I know what they cost to print and they're exaggerating it. The ebooks tend to be a lot cheaper for big titles.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209780)

Pricing on Amazon is controlled by the publishers, not Amazon. They know their business model of shipping dead trees around is dying, and are doing their utmost to head-off the rising ebook demand with ludicrous pricing.

All that will happen is ebook readers and tablet owners will find DRM stripped titles and get them for free. Whereas all the publishers have to do is set the price to $1/title and reap a massive new income stream from many more customers than those that will buy pulp versions.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (3, Interesting)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209790)

No one is forcing you or anyone to buy the e-book, I, for one, only buy kindle books when it's worth it (I payed 10$ less for A Dance with Dragos, 7$ less for the latest Dreaden Files and more or less 8$ less for the Inheritance e-book.

But then I bought The Lies of Locke Lamora on paper.

And even though I don't regret it, I might not do it again just to save 2$. The convenience of the whole Amazon infrastructure combined with instant delivery anywhere in the world for free, not to mention the lousy quality of pocket paperbacks...

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (3, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209822)

Not all eBooks are so expensive. Baen prices theirs at mostly $4 to $6, with a whole lot for $0. Yes, their ARCs (advanced reader copies) are $15, but those are a special case for hardcore fans (basically pre-release manuscripts direct from the author before they've been edited), and if you don't want to pay the $15, just wait for it to get edited and published and the cost will be in the $4-6 range as expected.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

yodleboy (982200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209852)

absofreakinlutely. I can tell you i've NEVER decided not to purchase an ebook from Amazon because of DRM. I load them on my kindle and they work. What HAS stopped me is seeing a book (not even a recent book at that) selling for $10 or $15 bucks when the paperback is sitting on the shelf for $5. I don't care if it has DRM or not. At those prices I won't buy it.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

vaccum pony (721932) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209874)

Go to Stross's website and dig around in the side panel. He has a link to a series of blog articles he wrote describing the economics of the book publisher industry. In short, the vast majority of costs go toward paying editors and the like. The actual costs of paper, printing and binding are less than 10% (if I remember the % correctly - its been a while) of the production costs.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209890)

in that case ebooks should cost 10% less than the paperback edition when it comes out, and 10% less than the hardcover before the paperback comes out.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209938)

For the hardcovers, kindle books are cheaper almost every time. I bought my dance with dragons for 14$ when the hardcover used to cost 23$, and even now you still save around 4$ if you buy the kindle version.

On the other hand, the mass market paperback pocket books are usually cheaper than the kindle books, but the quality of those books pales in comparison to the service you get on the kindle.

And in the end, you're not forced into buying e-books, if the paperback is cheaper, buy it (:

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210412)

On the other hand, the mass market paperback pocket books are usually cheaper than the kindle books, but the quality of those books pales in comparison to the service you get on the kindle.

It doesn't pale in comparison. It is easier to browse a bookstore than to browse Amazon's website, well for stuff I don't know about. I don't need batteries to read a paperback. The stewardess won't tell me to shut off my paperback (otherwise the kindle might crash the plane) If I accidentally leave my paperback, or I drop it. I'm not out an expensive ereader

I like my kindle. It was nice to be able to download a new book for free, while waiting at the airport in Lima. It is nice not to carry a half dozen paperbacks with me on a trip. But I paid for that convenience when I bought the kindle. I don't need to spend more money to purchase each ebook. If they can sell them for more, good for them. I'll find something else to read.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (5, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210022)

in that case ebooks should cost 10% less than the paperback edition when it comes out, and 10% less than the hardcover before the paperback comes out.

And maybe they do "cost" 10% less. However, that's their cost. Their price to you, on the other hand, should be whatever they think you'll pay that gives them the most profit. It's how capitalism works: buy low, sell high. It really is that simple.

If they think you'll pay an extra $3 for the convenience of sitting on your butt while having the book whisked over the aether to your Kindle, then they'll happily collect it from you. If they think you'll pay an extra $5 for the smell of a dead tree, they'll be even more happy to collect that. And if they think you'll pay $79 for a Kindle today that will lock you into an investment of $15 DRM'd books, they're ecstatic.

The only part of the equation that matters is what the largest number of consumers are willing to pay in order to maximize profits to the stockholders. Nothing else, not fairness, not reasonableness, not public opinion, not whiny authors, not abusive commenters in the Amazon reviews, nor the public good, matters. Never forget that.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (2)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210384)

The actual costs of paper, printing and binding are less than 10% of the production costs.

Great, thats awesome, so why is that I can purchase a mass market for 10% cheaper than an ebook (or sometimes for half the cost of an ebook?)

Explain to my why 30+ year old books, where they've already paid the editors and the like, are still 7.99 and up?

There are a lot of new books I want to read. But I refuse to pay MORE for them just because they are on an ebook. But because an ebook reader is convenient I am not even bothering with the mass market books anymore either. So they lose.

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210006)

Ehh, I've bought the ebook when the paperback was cheaper before. It's more convenient. It takes up less space when packing, I can search for a minor character's name if I forget who they are, and if I'm ever stuck somewhere that I didn't prepare for, odds are I at least have my phone and can thus read my ebooks on that (not the best experience, but it works).

Ahh the Australia Effect (5, Insightful)

elexis (2503530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210036)

...except in Australia, where buying almost anything at all digitally/overseas and having it Fedex'd over here is still significantly cheaper than buying retail. I will definitely buy that $13 ebook since the paperback is $40+

Re:Not sure DRM is the biggest issue at the moment (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210362)

The cost of the ebooks is the problem more than DRM.

When the cost is the same or more than the mass market version, I have little incentive to purchase the ebook. And right now I am not even buying the mass market versions, instead I am finding cheaper alternatives. Like Baen's, or independents.

The publishers are screaming bloody murder, claiming they need to recoup their costs (and trying to claim that formatting an ebook costs more than formatting a normal book) yet look at some old books. Books the publisher should have recouped their investments years ago. And they are still the same price, or more, than mass market paperbacks.

Use of Open Standards = Selling Point for me (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209660)

I get asked all the time what eReader a friend or family member should get. I am constantly pointing them to readers other than Amazon's and explain to them that a purchase of a Kindle locks you into the Amazon eBook ecosystem with very few ways to deviate from it. I do wish that book publishers would see that people are becoming more aware of being locked into one company's ecosystem and offer an attractive alternative.

...very few ways to deviate? (5, Informative)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209804)

Umm any non DRM book + calibre = kindle e-book.. pretty easy process.

As far as the publishers 'becoming more aware', they really don't care. If you want the books they own the rights to, soon you will either do as you are told, or pirate it.

Re:...very few ways to deviate? (3, Interesting)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209846)

Slightly offtopic: Amazon's "spooky action at a distance" - deleting books from Kindles remotely - doesn't work for converted non-DRM ebooks, does it?
Because the Kindle still seems the best reader for the price.

Re:...very few ways to deviate? (5, Informative)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209952)

No it does not. Only Amazon's books. You are free to load whatever books you want, and Calibre is a great tool to do it.

Re:...very few ways to deviate? (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209980)

No.

Re:Use of Open Standards = Selling Point for me (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209818)

You do know that converting anything from e-Pub to mobi is trivial, right? And the device won't lock you out if you get a book version without DRM (nor will any of the kindle apps).

The value you get from the kindle and the nook is actually way better than any of the other readers. What you say is a lock, I say it's convenience.

And if you know how it isn't hard to remove DRM from a book you bought from anywhere else.

I sense a pattern. (3, Insightful)

cmv1087 (2426970) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209670)

Why does every aspect of the publishing industry seem to fail at grasping the advantages of limited or no DRM and digital products?

Re:I sense a pattern. (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209862)

Limited is not the same as no DRM. There should be some measure of DRM, in my opinion, just to dissuade the most basic of copies. But DRM should never inconvenience those who pay for the final product.

I have yet to see how Amazon's DRM does that, the books I buy work on my Phone, iPad, Kindle and any computer I own(up to 6 devices can share the same book at one time). It's anything but restrictive, in my opinion.

Re:I sense a pattern. (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209924)

Why does every aspect of the publishing industry seem to fail at grasping the advantages of limited or no DRM and digital products?

What purpose a publisher would have in the business landscape if the authors would (self-)publish exclusively in e-formats and DRM free?
(maybe they do grasp the situation very well, and they are just fighting for their life?)

Re:I sense a pattern. (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210268)

Probably because the pirates grasp the advantages of free entertainment and refuse to pay for stuff, so the publishers hope to make that painful?

Doesn't work, of course, but at least it's fun to watch everyone on all sides shit in the well and then complain that the water tastes funny...

DRM is a joke (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209674)

and it's on the publishers. Tens of thousands of books are available on usenet alone. I regularly buy non drm'ed books, mostly from Baen. I'm not going to buy any DRM books. Not gonna do it. Especially not when they cost damn near what a paper book in a brick and mortar store costs. That's just wrong and I will not bend over and take it up the ass like that. Especially when so many pirated books are available free and easy.

Re:DRM is a joke (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209736)

I have the same problem with buying music. Most of the time the album on iTunes costs more than buying the actual CD in the store. That's just crazy. Sure you can save quite a bit if you only buy singles, but personally, I'm not that interested in supporting musicians who can only turn out a single song worth buying on a whole album. The prices really need to come in line with what this stuff is really worth. Also, if they lower prices to "impulse" levels, they will probably make a much larger profit. This is probably around 25-50 cents a track and $2-$5 for the entire album. eBooks should be between $1 and $5. If you don't have to stop and think "Is this really worth my money" you will just click the buy button.

Re:DRM is a joke (1)

chispito (1870390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210172)

I have the same problem with buying music. Most of the time the album on iTunes costs more than buying the actual CD in the store.

Try Amazon. Regardless of how they are handling ebooks, their MP3 store is pretty cheap and useful. They run sales all the time, too.

Re:DRM is a joke (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209962)

DRM is a joke

Definitely a not funny one.

Thanks for the Baen reference. In return: Scott Card's IGMS [intergalac...neshow.com] (e-periodic)

My Own Entry Point (2)

coldmist (154493) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209676)

If I could buy an epub file for a book, knowing that it is well-done by the publisher, and not just a simple OCR job of the printed copy, I would pay up to $5 for books.

More than that, and for any other format with or without DRM, and I don't buy it.

Re:My Own Entry Point (2)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209836)

How about $6, DRM-free, in ePub and any other format you might want? Baen's eBooks tend to be $4-6. Some are free (and not crappy samples, usually the first few books in major series).

Re:My Own Entry Point (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210054)

They only have Sci-Fi books, and mostly older ones and short stories, Pulp fiction without the pulp.

Oh, and no Charlie Stross either - whether he just pays lip service to geeks and in reality wants his books sold only at certain outlets at high prices, I don't know. After his books were pulled from the lower-than-average priced ereader.com, I stopped buying Stross' books altogether.

Re:My Own Entry Point (2)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210086)

Scifi, fantasy, alt history... But that makes sense, since they're a scifi publisher.

They have more than just old books and short stories. Two of their most popular series are David Weber's Honor Harrington scifi series and Eric Flint's 1632 alt-history series, both of which still have new books coming out.

This is why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209694)

This is why I REFUSE to purchase any e-media encumbered by DRM. If I cannot move my purchased media to any platform (phone, tablet, workstation, et al) that I own, then I will NOT support the publisher. FWIW, I purchase $1000 USD or more worth of books and other electronic media (CD, DVD, e-books) each year. Those that insult me and treat me as a thief will not get a penny of my disposable income.

Re:This is why... (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209880)

You can read your purchased kindle books on all those platforms at the same time (up to 6)

And removing amazon's DRM is actually trivial, if you bought the books.

This isn't new. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209714)

Can you say "iTunes"?

RIAA insistence on DRM is what made the iTunes Store so big (iTunes [program] took MP3s, if you could buy un-DRMed MP3s from multiple vendors then Apple wouldn't have had as much control).

Re:This isn't new. (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209986)

What a funny interpretation of history you have there, that bears absolutely no resemblance to reality at all.

DRM on iTunes (at launch and for a time afterwards) being the reason it grew so big? Nonsense.

Can they invent a new model now? (5, Informative)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209722)

I really hope publishers cave in and figure out a way of pricing things better.

I think I should be spending more on entertainment; I'm starting to feel much guiltier about stealing everything but comic books, occasional paperbacks, and the three video games per decade I like enough to buy a collector's edition.

At the same time, the release prices for entertainment are completely batshit crazy. Games are $60, books are $35, and movies are $12? Who can afford that crap? Those prices all fall pretty quickly, but can't they come up with a better model than fleecing their most eager customers and then doling it out one step at a time to the next most impressive or convenient formats?

I don't know; maybe they can't. I just know I laugh when I see those numbers breakdowns, and I've seen them from official sources multiple times, in which publishers swear to God they only make a 1% profit.

Re:Can they invent a new model now? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209752)

Games are $60

A lot of the market has shifted to games that run on telephones. These tend to cost somewhere between $1 and $5.

Re:Can they invent a new model now? (2)

Algae_94 (2017070) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210264)

I just can't believe this. It may be true that the market for mobile games between $1 and $5 is growing rapidly, but I doubt that gamers that were buying brand new PC and console games for $60 are going to be satisfied with mobile games and are shifting to that. The overall market could very well skew towards mobile gaming, but the gamer crowd that buys brand new games will still be around.

Re:Can they invent a new model now? (2)

MadMaverick9 (1470565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210126)

I really hope publishers cave in and figure out a way of pricing things better.

it's not just pricing. it's method of payment too.

where is the ebookstore that i can go to with my cash and my usb stick, buy a pdf ebook and read it at home with okular or evince or whatever pdf reader i choose.

not everybody has a credit card. actually - i think one can safely say that most people in the world do not have a credit card. so why haven't companies learned that and adjusted their way of doing business accordingly.

Who Can Survive Without Whom? (1)

cmholm (69081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209726)

As Mr. Stross points out, most English-language books are published by a few big players. With Amazon, they find themselves in much the same position as many restaurants do with OpenTable... they've got one gatekeeper between them and their ultimate customers.

And, as with the restaurants, the tools build their own gate are available: create or buy their own coop service, and stop doing business with Amazon. There would be risk, and there would be a short term loss of business. But, the publishers should ask themselves: who can survive without whom longer?

Re:Who Can Survive Without Whom? (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209956)

As Mr. Stross points out, most English-language books are published by a few big players. With Amazon, they find themselves in much the same position as many restaurants do with OpenTable... they've got one gatekeeper between them and their ultimate customers.

With Charlie Stross, I can't muster as much sympathy as I otherwise would, given that he (or his publisher) pulled his books off ereader (formerly peanutpress) and thus helped reduce the number of gatekeepers.

Re:Who Can Survive Without Whom? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210240)

given that he (or his publisher)

You realize that this "or" makes a very big difference, do you? When author signs a contract with the publisher, it usually states explicitly what the publisher can do - and that includes selection of sales channels. If the publisher decides to sell somewhere, and later change that, the author has no input on that process.

It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (2)

QCompson (675963) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209730)

Especially now with amazon getting into the publishing business: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/technology/amazon-rewrites-the-rules-of-book-publishing.html?pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]

At least with the music industry's drm'ed files they could be played on a multitude of devices from various companies. Amazon's ebooks only work on amazon hardware.

I also get the impression that pirating ebooks is far less common with Joe and Susie Consumer than with what occurred in the napster days with mp3s. I doubt ebook filesharing has much affect on the publisher's bottom line, since most of those who do it probably wouldn't have purchased the book anyway (and certainly not new in hardcover).

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (3, Informative)

badbart (929284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209826)

Amazon's ebooks only work on amazon hardware.

Not entirely accurate--one of the things I like best about ebooks from Amazon is that I can (and do) read them on the Kindle, my phones, and my computers. The Kindle app is available for just about everything, and syncs between devices so I can pick up on one where I left off on another.

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209828)

Amazon's ebooks only work on amazon hardware.

I think you mean that Amazon's ebooks only work on Amazon *software*. You can get a Kindle reader for most any major platform [amazon.com] .

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (1)

QCompson (675963) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209870)

I think you mean that Amazon's ebooks only work on Amazon *software*. You can get a Kindle reader for most any major platform.

Very true. Should have said amazon hardware/software. It has the same result: amazon is the gatekeeper, and the files are accessible under their conditions.

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (2)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209884)

At least with the music industry's drm'ed files they could be played on a multitude of devices from various companies. Amazon's ebooks only work on amazon hardware.

Actually it works with amazon hardware, but also any android OS, iOS, BlackBerry OS and desktop (using Chrome or a derivative, I believe web reader supports Windows/OSX/Linux) .

Amazon's not stupid. They know that customers will want/need their content on multiple devices and they make it easy to move content across devices.

This isn't to say that DRM is a good idea -- only that they're very efficient at hiding the fact that DRM exists from the majority of consumers. THis works very much in their favor -- it would take many large-scale problems with revoking content to make the average consumer aware that they don't own their books.

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210076)

The OP had it exactly backwards.

Amazon DRM is everywhere because they support their app on multiple platforms. Music DRM was alway limited to the single vendor that supported it (mainly Apple). The same is true of other Apple formats including books.

Amazon DRM may suck, but it sucks less than others.

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209898)

No, and this is a common misconception.

The books you bought on Amazon will work on iPads, iPhones, Android Tablets, Android Phones and any mac/PC, up to 6 at the same time.

True, they won't work on other e-book readers, but if you bought the book removing the amazon DRM is easy (allowing you to move it anywhere you want).

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209934)

"Amazon's ebooks only work on amazon hardware. "
Funny, my iPad reads kindle ebooks in the kindle reader app just fine. And my old android tablet reads kindle ebooks as well in it's kindle app.

In fact I believe Kindle ebooks are the MOST cross platform ebooks out there as their reader app is on every single platform.

Wait... I cant read them on my BluRay player. DRAT!

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (1)

QCompson (675963) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210062)

In fact I believe Kindle ebooks are the MOST cross platform ebooks out there as their reader app is on every single platform.

The key word here being their reader app.

It's a meaningless distinction. Amazon retains control over how their ebooks are used/consumed, regardless of what platform they are on.

Re:It is astonishing that they didn't foresee this (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210250)

Amazon retains control over how their ebooks are used/consumed, regardless of what platform they are on.

It would be more precise to say that they try to do it. Still, their DRM is very easy to strip in practice.

But, so far, I didn't have any reason to - I actually like Kindle as a device (from hardware & software design standpoint), and their apps for third-party devices are good enough for my needs.

I've been researching this topic a little... (1)

Xlipse (669697) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209758)

I'm very interested in the comments and opinions about this topic. I am currently researching e-publishing options for an upcoming Nonprofit Handbook (for my specific State; I work for our State's recognized nonprofit association) and I want to make sure we're able to reach a broad audience but still do what I can do protect the author's copyright, while taking fair use rights into consideration as well.... *head explodes*... We don't want to "penalize" paying customers with draconian DRM but it seems like it's either or - you can't have it both ways... :\ We have an electronic version of the older edition for sale right now and it's just a PDF with a disclaimer "Please support the author's hard work and don't illegal share this PDF!"... but they author's want more protection than just that disclaimer...

Re:I've been researching this topic a little... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209820)

Just keep doing what you're doing. You can't possibly lose the copyright unless the owner of the copyright explicitly releases it into the public domain, or a huge amount of time passes.

Or were you referring to releasing a series of bits with some kind of incantation built into them so people can only do some incredibly nebulously-dfined series of actions they deign to allow? Good luck with that. Bits are bits.

I can buy a book and give it away. If I buy a pdf, I can give that away. If you find someone distributing copies of your book, you can take action against them. Tell the authors that they should be so lucky as to have enough people interested in their book for people to take the effort to redistribute it.

Re:I've been researching this topic a little... (1)

Xlipse (669697) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209928)

Unfortunately, one of the author's is a lawyer, and I'll need some better arguments.. lol .. Yes you can buy a book and give it away.. to ONE person. Or you can spend money and use a copy machine if you wanted, sure... but the author's concern is what stops people from illegally distributing it electronically? ... and yes, my response is "You can't stop it, sorry"... but I am still getting push back and I get the sense that author WANTS DRM... and to me.. well... I've been involved in the Nonprofit sector for many years and I guess that type of thing just goes against my beliefs about what the sector stands for... I offered to research solutions, but if the author wants to stick with DRM, I just might bow out, as gracefully as possible... which I would hate to do and feel like I have an opportunity to influence a GOOD decision here, but I'm lacking the ammo needed to convince the authors... :(

Let him publish it himself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210016)

What exactly are YOU getting out of this? Some good publicity for your nonprofit?

With Steve Jobs dead, who will call for no-DRM? (2)

Hobart (32767) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209796)

Go give the 2007 open letter "Thoughts on Music [apple.com] " a read.

I somehow doubt Jeff Bezos will publish a similar article.

DRM-free MP3 sales from Amazon only happened as a "fight back" against the "evil single source for music" that was iTunes at the time.

If we-the-public have got to rely on some similar benevolent dictator demanding DRM-free choices, is it gonna be Barnes and Noble's Leonard Riggio? I'm not holding my breath. :-/

Re:With Steve Jobs dead, who will call for no-DRM? (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210032)

Amazon doesn't have the clout to fight the publishers anyway. They tried holding the line at $10 per book, and lost.

The best path we have to DRM-free ebooks is authors deciding to self-publish DRM free titles. If the next JK Rowling were to do so, it would have a big impact. Of course, you aren't likely to reach that point without publishers backing you at the start, and they probably make you sign contracts that you'll stay with them through the whole series.

Why I don't have a kindle (yet) (5, Insightful)

miles zarathustra (114450) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209844)

"Here's a great book I just read. Let me lend it to you..."

Re:Why I don't have a kindle (yet) (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209948)

Calibre fixes that....

Want to borrow this ebook? what format do you need it in? here you go.

Re:Why I don't have a kindle (yet) (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210092)

And is "tools" why I have to update Nook for PC every couple weeks? I'm OK with the back light of the Aspire One I'm using, with the weight, even with the battery life. But I'm really getting annoyed with the "Do you want to update your Nook" window that comes around like a bad friend (and takes focus). So far, the program works great with WINE but with the mandatory fortnightly updates, I'm just waiting for the moment when a spokesman says, "Linux? People are using Nook for PC on linux? We never intended that so if our latest, improved version broke compatibility, it isn't our problem." What are the odds I'll see that in the future?

Re:Why I don't have a kindle (yet) (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209992)

The Kindle will let you loan your book to other people. They have to have a kindle (or free kindle software), but the lending feature is available.

Re:Why I don't have a kindle (yet) (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210088)

Only if the publisher allows it.

Does this mean (1)

DesertFly (1362547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209858)

they're getting out of the meat pie business? [wikipedia.org]

Its Vendor Lock-in, not DRM (2)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209876)

DRM isn't the issue. Its Vendor Lock-in. You can have the former without the latter. The author is using Vendor Lock-in to trash DRM.

Re:Its Vendor Lock-in, not DRM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210154)

DRM is a sufficient condition for vendor lock-in.

Re:Its Vendor Lock-in, not DRM (2)

chispito (1870390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210208)

DRM isn't the issue. Its Vendor Lock-in. You can have the former without the latter. The author is using Vendor Lock-in to trash DRM.

Except, getting rid of DRM also gets rid of the Lock-in. So why not kill two birds with one stone?

Re:Its Vendor Lock-in, not DRM (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210262)

The author is rather explaining how DRM, in this case, leads to vendor lock-in - because the customers who already bought DRM'd books from Amazon have to stick to their devices and apps (or else lose their collection), and consequently publishers have to publish through Amazon to reach that "captured" audience.

Amazon Exclusives? (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209920)

If the big six began selling ebooks without DRM, readers would at least be able to buy from other retailers and read their ebooks on whatever platform they wanted, thus eroding Amazon's monopoly position.

You mean I can't buy from the likes of B&N already? Never mind they already have their own DRM. Also as a side note it would be interesting to both see E-reader sales and how much each purchaser buys?

My book (5, Interesting)

Sasayaki (1096761) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209988)

Disclaimer: I'm currently finalizing a book for the Amazon store. Shameless linkwhore here. [lacunaverse.com]

This guy hit the nail right on the head. The reason the publishers are pushing for DRM is fear of piracy, but...

Bleck. First up I don't like the term "piracy". Bleh. But language is fluid and you all know what I mean, so let's go with it.

Real pirates, like these guys [wikipedia.org] , are evil. They're not Jack Sparrow, they're not Captain Hook, they're murderers and rapists and kidnappers and deserved to eat a Tomahawk missile in their sleep. They're scum. They're villains. They're evil. They're not some kid who just wants to read the next (awesome, awesome, aweeeesome) Harry Potter book for free or whatever.

I've never understood musicians, writers and artists who get all messed up about digital piracy. It just strikes me as entirely retarded, especially if they're not in full compliance with every piece of software, hardware, music and movies they've ever seen or owned. I'm sure their $2,000 copy of Adobe Photoshop is fully legitimate now and was when they were 14, and I'm sure they've never downloaded an MP3 in their life.

I see this crap everywhere. I see rap artists thumbing their nose at society, waxing lyrical about sticking it to the man, pimping hoes, glorifying robbery, murder and pushing drugs, while at the same time appearing bereaved that their latest forgettable album appeared on The Pirate Bay the day after it appeared in iTunes. I see armies of cocaine huffing, hooker bashing, Harvard educated RIAA trust-fund babies who've never wanted for anything in their life but a full head of hair, going on about how Limewire costs them the GDP of the entire world [oddballdaily.com] ($75,000,000,000,000 dollars) in lost revenue and also, simultaneously, claiming to have had one of their most profitable years ever [azoz.com] . How do you even rationalize that kind of blatant, intrinsic wrongness?

Fuck those guys.

I don't give a shit if you got my book from The Pirate Bay. It costs $2 to buy and is available in DRM free PDFs, or even DRM free plaintext if you really want it and you're Richard Stallman (I met you once, by the way, and you were cool. You hated my iPhone though. Sorry bro). I don't want to DRM my book(s). I want people to read them.

DRM pisses me off and ultimately hurts the consumer and then, eventually, the publisher too. Hell if someone made a torrent on The Pirate Bay of my work I'd probably just feel proud that I'd made a book people really want to read.

Bingo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210052)

"I'd probably just feel proud that I'd made a book people really want to read."

What are you, some kind of jazz musician?
http://nicholaspayton.wordpress.com/
They can't make a living at what they love to do either.

Re:My book (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210238)

At the risk of being dismissed as an anonymous coward;

Please explain to me why (mostly poor) pirates in Somalia need to be mass-murdered with Tomahawk missiles considering:

- They emerged originally as a replacement for a national navy, keeping garbage from being dumped in Somali waters?
- They generally let people go unharmed after receiving a ransom?

We aren't talking Wall Street sharks who ruin the lives of millions of people at a time. We are talking about small time criminals. Do you support the ordinance-assisted mass destruction of thieves in broad daylight in the US? Maybe we could negotiate for the ordinance-assisted mass destruction of dark coloured thieves only?

What possible insight or entertainment can you offer me if you threaten overwhelming violence against fleas? You sound like the comments section of CNN. "Interesting"? Maybe on the co-opted 2011 version of Slashdot where astroturfed bullshit flows free.

Re:My book (4, Insightful)

lexman098 (1983842) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210300)

- They emerged originally as a replacement for a national navy, keeping garbage from being dumped in Somali waters?

Irrelevant

- They generally let people go unharmed after receiving a ransom?

They kidnap innocent people at gunpoint for money. Fuck them.

Re:My book (0)

brit74 (831798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210382)

I've never understood musicians, writers and artists who get all messed up about digital piracy. It just strikes me as entirely retarded, especially if they're not in full compliance with every piece of software, hardware, music and movies they've ever seen or owned. I'm sure their $2,000 copy of Adobe Photoshop is fully legitimate now and was when they were 14, and I'm sure they've never downloaded an MP3 in their life.

I once shoplifted from a store. Out of curiosity, are you going to tell me that I'm not allowed to say "stealing is bad" or if I ever become a store owner, am I now morally obligated to look the other way when people come and try to shoplift from my store?

Re:My book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210426)

That was awesome! Good luck to you with your book. After such a good rant like that, I'm going to have to buy it for gp. (even though I'll never read it. Sorry!)

NFL jersey (0)

jersey123456 (2485408) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210010)

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