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Would We Be Better Off Without "Industry Standard" Epub Format?

Here’s an interesting post by Paul Biba, editor of the Teleread blog. He says, among other things:

The Nook can’t read Sony DRM and Sony can’t read Nook DRM and, of course, the Kindle can’t read either and “either” can’t read Kindle DRM and now Apple is saying it will have its own DRM that Kindle and Sony and Nook can’t read. I’m sure it’s all very clear to you now, especially since they are, almost, all using the new “industry standard” Epub.

Of course everybody, except Amazon, is practically lying through their teeth by telling consumers that they are using the so-called “standard” Epub format and how this is a great benefit to everybody. Hogwash! No matter how much you dislike Amazon’s DRM at least you know where you stand with it.

I’m beginning to think that we’d be better off without Epub. 

The issues involved in Digital Rights Management are important and multi-faceted, and Paul is right in suggesting that merely sticking a misleading “Epub” sticker on the front cover of an ebook accomplishes nothing. 

Click here to read more.

Free Software Foundation Launches Campaign to Persuade Amazon to Go DRM-Free


Defective by Design, an anti-digital rights management (DRM) initiative founded by the Free Software Foundation in 2006, has launched a petition drive aimed at persuading Amazon to remove digital rights restrictions from the books that Kindle owners purchase and download from the Kindle Store. The DRM issue has been a contentious one since the Kindle was launched in November 2007, and took on an uglier dimension when Amazon surreptitiously and wirelessly removed two George Orwell novels from its customers’ Kindles earlier this year. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos later issued a very strong apology for the way Amazon handled the Orwellian book removal.

The Defective by Design petition, located online here, reads as follows:

We believe in the freedom to read

We believe in a way of life based on the free exchange of ideas, in which books have and will continue to play a central role. Devices like Amazon’s are trying to determine how people will interact with books, but Amazon’s use of DRM to control and monitor users and their books constitutes a clear threat to the free exchange of ideas.

That is why we readers, authors, publishers, and librarians demand that Amazon remove all DRM, including any ability to control or access the user’s library, from the Kindle.

Amazon’s assurances that it will refrain from the worst abuses of this power do not address the problem. Amazon should not have this power in the first place. Until they give it up they will be tempted to use it, or they could be forced to by governments or narrow private interests. Whatever Amazon’s reasons for imposing this control may be, they are not as important as the public’s freedom to use books without interference or supervision.

You can add your online signature to this petition here, if you wish.

Here is a list of Kindle books that have been tagged as DRM-free by their authors and publishers, and here is another with DRM-free tags placed by readers.

As an author, a publisher, Kindle owner, and reader, I have been a supporter of these campaigns. But it is worth stating again here my belief that ultimately Amazon will change its tune on Kindle DRM both because of campaigns such as the petition and DRM-Free tagging and because it will be a good business decision, just as it has been a good business decision for Apple, after years of consolidating its position, to remove many of the DRM constraints it has placed on iTunes tracks:

Just as a time came when Apple was able to locate its corporate self-interest in allowing customers to remove DRM from their iTunes store audio purchases for a price, a similar time will probably come for Amazon with respect to customers’ Kindle Store purchases. In both cases, the timing seems to require that some critical mass of the applicable publishers reach a certain nuanced understanding of and experience with the changing revenue streams and marketing channels that digital publishing and distribution allow. It’s not exactly dialectical materialism, but it is a world in which changes in politics must be driven by, rather than be the drivers of, changes in economic relationships.

We can’t all be Lawrence Lessig or Cory Doctorow, and neither Amazon nor Apple will ever be Google, Creative Commons, or Project Gutenberg. Most publishers possess little understanding of Lessig or Doctorow or anyone else who has discovered the viral (and, often, easily monetized) marketing power of setting one’s words free in selected venues, and many probably label them as the “free books crowd” and shut down reflexively in the face of any opportunity to listen to them or learn from them. Call me Pollyanna, but I believe that Jeff Bezos does possess some nuanced understanding of these issues, and in time, armed with the larger and larger payments his company’s Kindle division is making to publishers, will be in a better position to bring them along into a future where there is a wide acceptance of DRM-free electronic publishing standards. But on the Darwinian path to that future, it would be very uncharacteristic of Amazon not to continue to consolidate and strengthen its position.

How Many Copies Can You Download When You Buy a Kindle Book? We’ll Let You Know….

“We face new situations every day and quite frankly we’ve never run into this problem before, but now that you’ve raised the issue please know that it will be addressed directly.”

Maybe.

Dan Cohen at the Geardiary.com blog goes into great detail sharing a blow-by-blow description of his difficulties getting a straight story from Amazon on several kinds of limitations that Kindle customers may face in downloading a Kindle book more than once.

Kindle Nation Archives: May 2009

  • Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly eMail Newsletter – I:15, 5.12.2009
  • Click Here To Make A Secure, Easy Donation To Kindle Nation – Launch-Day Pre-Orders Indicate Kindle DX Success – Amazon Streamlines the Kindle-for-iPhone Experience – Kindle Nation to Amazon: Allow a Hassle-Free Return Credit for Kindle 2 Owners – Great Deals on Books and Other Kindle Store Content – Lawyers in Love with Their Kindles?

  • Kindle Nation Extra: Read All About the Brand New Kindle DX – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:14A, 5.6.2009
  • Wireless Reading Just Got Bigger: Pre-Order the 9.7″ Kindle DX Now for $489 – Kindle DX Will “Revolutionize Learning” – Can the Kindle DX Save the Newspaper Industry? – Technical Details on the Kindle DX – 354,000 Kindle 2s in Q1 2009; 1.2 Million Kindles to Date?

  • Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:14, 5.5.2009
  • Changes Afoot: Charges for Personal Documents – Amazon Sets Press Conference for Wednesday, May 6 to Announce Kindle DX – Extra! Extra! Read All the Brand New Kindle DX! – From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Help Finding a File After Transferring It to Your Kindle with Mobipocket – Great Deals on Books and Other Kindle Store Content – 354,000 Kindle 2s in Q1 2009; 1.2 Million Kindles to Date? – Tips for Kindle Authors and Publishers – From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Paolo Weighs in with “10 Reasons Why I Wish I Didn’t Buy a Kindle 2”

  • Special Bulletin: New Personal Document Charges Begin Monday May 4 Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:13A, 5.1.2009
  • Blue Monday: Amazon Begins Charging For Converting and Sending Personal Documents to Your Kindle – Speaking of Blue: Tune in to The Kindle Chronicles Podcast Tonight for Blueberry Pancakes With Windwalker and Len Edgerly
  • Authors and Publishers Speak Out About Digital Rights Management (DRM)

    Although there are plenty of publishers who haven’t learned from the recent history of the music industry and are afraid of lifting DRM from their Kindle editions, a growing number of authors and publishers are taking a more forward-looking approach. Popular tech author Shelley Powers blogged recently about how DRM restrictions are not an appropriate way to protect copyright:

    “Teleread and MobileRead have started a campaign to make these DRM free books more easy to find. If a book is DRM free, just tag it “drmfree” at the Amazon site. It tickled me to be the first to tag my own books.

    “My books being offered DRM free doesn’t change how I feel about copyright. I still believe in the importance of copyrights. My books are still copyrighted, at least until the publishers and I decide the time is ripe to release them into the public domain. I am dependent on the royalties I make from my books, and I lose money through piracy of my books. But I have never believed in DRM, which only hurts the legitimate owners.

    “I’m currently working on my first self-publishing book, which I’ll be releasing as a Kindle, as well as in other formats. Regardless of how I distribute the book, not one version of the book will have DRM.”

    Powers’ publisher, O’Reilly, recently announced that it was making 160 of its book available without DRM in the Kindle Store, with more to follow in coming weeks. Hundreds of independent publishers have now made thousands of titles DRM-free in the Kindle store.

    Author Joe Konrath, who we mentioned above because he “gets” the economics of ebooks, is also light years ahead of many of his colleagues when it comes to understanding DRM:

    “Not only do ebooks cost too much, DRM is a disgrace, for a myriad of reasons, and the ‘text to speech’ feature is not something the publishing world should be concerned about,” Konrath wrote to Kindle Nation last week.

    (For more free news and tips about the Amazon Kindle, subscribe to Kindle Nation, the free weekly email newsletter by Stephen Windwalker, or download a month’s worth of issues to your Kindle for just 99 cents!).

    Results from April’s 1st-Ever Kindle Nation Citizen Survey




    Over 1,200 subscribers and other e-book enthusiasts have participated in April’s first-ever Kindle Nation Citizen Survey, and the results provide fascinating insights into who just who is participating in the e-book revolution and what we think the issues and the future of e-reading. The survey will remain open through April, so you can still click here to participate if you have not done so already, but you can also check the current results here. Once the survey is closed we will summarize the results here in Kindle Nation and share the summary with Amazon’s Kindle Group.

    Thousands of DRM-Free Books in the Kindle Store