Whoop, Tor Books have announced that from now on all of their books – their entire list – will be available without the crippling DRM measures so favoured by Amazon (aka the Apple of the ebook world). Here’s hoping this catches on among other smaller publishers and eventually works its way up to the major leagues. Why should one give a fuck about this?
Well, I’ve been using a Kobo ebook reader for the past six months, finally relinquishing my attachment to good, old-fashioned paper out of a mixture of necessity and curiosity. The ease of use, portability and ability to download any book I see fit while on the go is a passable substitute for book smell and falling asleep with my face acting as a bookmark.
I’ll admit that I have downloaded a number of books illegally, specifically those I currently own in paper format back in my mum’s garage. Sorry, but I’m not paying twice for the same content. No argument has thus far convinced me otherwise. However, there is an uncommonly long list of titles piling up on my to-read list and I generally want to help fund the authors. Here’s the problem – if I want to be certain of a book’s availability I have to go to Applezon, home of the Kindle.
Amazon, in common with Apple, seem to have two key factors driving their media sales. Firstly you must download material in their own proprietary formats in order that they only be compatible with their own devices. This is utterly antithetical to an open society where you actually own what you buy. Secondly, those files will come pre-broken with DRM, ensuring that you cannot use the items you have purchased and should own in any manner you see fit.
How does this affect me? Well, if I buy one of said titles I have to first rn it through one highly illegal program in order to strip off the DRM and therefore claim ownership of it, elevating my status from renter to purchaser. I then have to pass it through the wonderful Calibre, decoding it from Applezon’s format to one of the countless free and open formats my Kobo will happily read. Okay, so this isn’t a major hassle, it’s an operation that can be carried out in five minutes. BUT, when you combine this with the ridiculously high prices which ebooks mysteriously command despite their utter lack of manufacturing, distribution, storage and postage costs, it seems that Amazon is telling me “You should consider yourself lucky to be our customer. In order for the privilege of renting this book from us you must use it exactly so. No arguments. Money please.”
I will always, always choose to purchase books direct from either a publisher with similar values to Tor or an author. They respect the customer. They understand that without the customer there is no book industry. They treat customers like people rather than commodities. They give me a product I can use however I please and on whichever device I please. They trust me not to rip them off but aren’t so terrified of that prospect that they destroy their product just in case. Here’s hoping the big boys follow their lead soon and in doing so properly enter the information age…