Adventures with eBooks and DRM 1

Alternative title: I now totally understand why people might go pirate, and it has nothing to do with wanting free shit.

My husband and I bought each other Nooks last year as a combination birthday/Christmas present. I’d been really wanting an e-reader since we’ve long since run out of shelf space, and I didn’t want an actual tablet since reading on a backlit screen makes my eyes get really tired after a while. For the most part, I’ve liked having a Nook, and have happily just bought stuff from the Barnes and Noble online store.

Last night, I decided to do something a little different. I wanted to buy an ebook through the the Tattered Cover, because they’re the local independent book store and I want to support them with my money. A two hour adventure ensued in which I tried to figure out how the fuck to even download said book and then get it in my Calibre library. Because I had this, in retrospect, terribly naive thought that I’d buy the ebook, I’d get to download it, then put it on my Nook and yay, new book!

Oh no.

The Tattered Cover referred me to a store called Kobo. Which tried to then make me install their proprietary reader. But I wanted to just download the book myself, so ended up with an .acms file with absolutely no explanation what that even was. Well, it’s an Adobe DRM format, which meant if I wanted to download the book I then had to install the Adobe digital edition software, which then didn’t let me put the book in Calibre anyway because DRM you filthy disgusting pirate.

I was ready to just chew on things. I’ve now installed (non-sanctioned) plugins for Calibre that let me strip the DRM off the files, because goddamnit I paid for them and I can do that. But talk about ARGH.

Oh, and in the process I discovered that the B&N website downloads your ebooks into a hidden partition of your Nook so that you cannot even see them when the device is mounted to your computer. SO THAT’S NICE.

Other fun B&N anecdote: my husband has some ebooks from Barnes and Noble that contain a page with the message that the book was provided DRM free by the author. And then B&N added their own DRM anyway. Classy.

I want to be able to buy books from any site I want and not have to screw around with a different proprietary reader for each one. I want to not have to do google search adventures every time I want to figure out how to download my goddamn book and look at it. And in that sense, I totally understand why someone might turn to book piracy out of the desire to not have to deal with this bullshit, because just give me my fucking .epub and let me get on with my life. By the end of the experience I felt like crying out to the uncaring sky I JUST WANT TO GIVE YOU MY MONEY AND READ A BOOK WHY WON’T YOU LET ME.

I imagine various shops want to force customers to stick with proprietary software and formats, since it makes it more likely that people won’t stray from them and spend their money elsewhere. But I didn’t buy a Nook so I could be effectively owned by Barnes and Noble and badgered into shopping only at their store. I bought a Nook because I liked the specs and because I wanted to, I don’t know, read some fucking books. Isn’t the profit margin better for everyone with ebooks? Then why the hell make them more difficult to use than dead tree books? Why make an ebook a less liberating purchase than a physical book?

The people this fucks in the end – other than readers like me who spend hours ranting and sobbing at their computers – is the writers. If you make buying and then using something utterly painful, maybe that will keep some customers from straying. But it’ll make others stop buying it. I want to see my favorite writers get money. But I can’t say the temptation wasn’t there during the battle with the Adobe DRM because I was getting so damn pissed off.

Most of the time, writers have no control over if their ebook has DRM on it. I just wish the corporate paymasters would figure out that treating your customers preemptively like criminals makes the illegal option feel like the path of least resistance. I refuse to be in abusive relationships with other human beings. I sure as hell won’t be in an abusive relationship with a store.

One comment on “Adventures with eBooks and DRM

  1. Reply Nathan Jan 27,2013 17:29

    I believe The Oatmeal had some similar thoughts:

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/game_of_thrones

    In practice, DRM looks a lot like rent-seeking:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking

    …Which would seem to be an argument for regulatory intervention, except instead we see things like the DMCA actually enabling this behavior. :-(

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