Amazon, the e-book, and the Melding of Monopoly with Monopsony

April 18, 2012

A fantastically interesting piece, with an aspect of e-book buying I didn’t know before:

It is possible to unlock the DRM on a Kindle ebook and transcode it to epub format for use on other readers; but it’s non-trivial. (Not to mention being a breach of the Kindle terms and conditions of use. Because you don’t own an ebook; in their short-sighted eagerness to close loopholes the publishers tried to make ebooks more like software, where you merely buy a limited license to use the product, rather than actual ownership of an object.) So, because Amazon had shoved a subsidized Kindle reader or a free Kindle iPhone app into their hands, and they’d bought a handful of books using it, the majority of customers found themselves locked in to the platform they’d started out on. Want to move to another platform? That’s hard; you lose all the books you’ve already bought, because you can’t take them with you.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nedward April 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Hmm, that’s a silly and computer-ignorant essay even for a sci-fi writer. Perhaps he’d be better if an ion cannon or leather-clad hacker babe were involved. He breathlessly, misleadingly portrays the purchase terms as radically capitalistic and capriciously revocable while the simple consumer, who, admittedly, may not be hep to the news in cryptography or designer hologram drugs, probably still understands that the purchase is for an entertainment property in the KINDLE/NOOK/SONYPAD/whatever edition. If I buy the C.W. McCall record for “Convoy” I don’t necessarily enjoy rights to any later Sam Peckinpah adaptation of same.

Since the publishers will figure out how to run websites (if pressed) they’ll ultimately “disintermediate” Amazon, too, as the movie studios already have. Judging by this guy the publishers should not worry about the writers learning any time soon.

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Nedward April 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Btw this is what pubs can do:
* digitally watermark the galleys–a bit more effort than a locked PDF is called for
* litho-style, convert these to non-raster (we used to call “vector”) format
* use steganography tied to a public key or time lock in order to present a fixed practical number of pages at once
* permit inner text query *by Internet only* (critical, or the rest is worthless)
* release Android or iOS or what-have-you s/w for sandboxed activation of licensed properties; update as needed

It actually retains transferability, as long as the economic parties agree to use the install app, of course. These e-litho texts will be no use to the proverbial pirate since there’s nothing to stream off a serial port, and the gain from doing heavy OCR or photographing or even typing it out is already too little (for now), divided further by the total pp count.

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