eBooks, Hard to Love

Here are a pair of articles about eBooks, both from people who are knowledgable users of them who are discussing the limitations of them. The first, from a link sent in by Mike Cane, is about how a guy that uses Microsoft Reader as his viewer got screwed because he buys so many devices (PCs, pocket PCs, etc) that he used up his 6 activations and is now SOL. This is not unlike the Cory Doctrow piece a few months back where because he bought lots of iTunes music and buys lots of new Macintosh laptops he got into a position where he had no more activations either. In both, there is a salient detail in common – the people who get the most severly boned by the DRM restrictions are really really good customers! People who buy lots of books and music or other DRM-locked content and also buy lots of machines and handhelds will be the people who run into these restrictions. My contention is simple – any system that is set up to guard against an unproven and unquantifiable threat and does so by setting up roadblocks that impede your most committed customers from spending more money is Bad Fricking Business.

In the other article, superdude Charlie Stross discusses why more of his books aren’t available in electronic form which also ends up ranging into some general discussion of the medium.

I don’t much write about ebooks here any more, because what I say from time to time is so damned similar. Bad business decisions are keeping people from spending money. Fear of piracy is costing publishers far more money is sales that can’t happen than the pirates could have ever caused them to lose. If they priced their ebooks reasonably (ie, not the same as the hardcover) they could have a nice revenue stream that scales beautifully, in that it doesn’t involve expensive presses running expensive paper through, and expensive teamsters moving books into expensive racks in grocery stores and bookstores. It’s a damn shame that the only major publisher that gets these points is Baen books, a publisher of which I care to read maybe one book in 100 that they publish. It should be noted that Baen is making much more money than they did a few years ago, and their electronic strategy is a very significant portion of that.

2 Replies to “eBooks, Hard to Love”

  1. Thanks for linking to my article. If it was sent in by the same Mike Cane I think it was then big hello to my buddy Mike who I haven’t discoursed in a while. 🙂

    I too buy a lot of tunes from Apple’s iTunes but in my opinion Apple has gotten the DRM right (as right as DRM can be, anyway). They limit the number of devices that you can authorize at once but they also let you deauthorize devices to make room for new ones. MS should really take note of this with MS Reader. When you’re out of activations, bye bye. And that’s what I’ve done.

  2. True, Cory’s issue was a little different in that he was temporarily stretched too far with returned laptops. I had no idea until I read your blog entry that there was some kind of permanent, absolute limit to MS Reader activations. That is just plain crazy. No matter how you slice that, as long as there exists a limit like that the first people to hit it will always be the best customers, the ones who buy new devices first because they just have to have them. It’s all crazy. I say this as a guy who has built a DRM publishing system.

    Thanks for writing your entry. A lot of us write about the downers of DRM, but your article shows the real world impact of these systems. It’s not just a moral or philosophical issue, the key point is that this is bad economics, that it is bad for business. Publishing electronic books will never take off while these systems are punishing good customers.

Comments are closed.