Our small corner of the internet freaked out yesterday when Linn Nygaard noticed that all her books had been wiped from her Kindle and her Amazon account had been closed. Nygaard’s account and books have since been restored but the incident has caused many to remember that, oh yeah, the Kindle is more of a Blockbuster Video-like rental store than a reading device. To that end, Zachary West has posted instructions for converting all of your DRM’d Kindle books into a non-DRM format that you can read on any number of devices.
If you still need proof that electronic media that continually phones home — DRM’d and otherwise — cannot be owned and is actually just rented, read on. Due to a publisher change of heart, Amazon went into some of their customers’ Kindles and erased “purchased” books written by an author with a certain familiarity with similar actions (click through to see who).
This is ugly for all kinds of reasons. Amazon says that this sort of thing is “rare,” but that it can happen at all is unsettling; we’ve been taught to believe that e-books are, you know, just like books, only better. Already, we’ve learned that they’re not really like books, in that once we’re finished reading them, we can’t resell or even donate them. But now we learn that all sales may not even be final.
This stinks like old cheese. I wish they’d just call these Kindle book transactions what they are, but I guess “Rent now with 1-Click® until we decide to take it back from you or maybe not” doesn’t fit neatly on a button.
Update: I got quite a few emails about how I over-reacted about this but apparently Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos disagreed.
This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.
Update: Cory Doctorow to Amazon: please tell your customers what you can and cannot do with the Kindle. In an article for this week’s New Yorker, Nicholson Baker takes a crack at what buying a Kindle books means.
Here’s what you buy when you buy a Kindle book. You buy the right to display a grouping of words in front of your eyes for your private use with the aid of an electronic display device approved by Amazon.
Last month, indie game developer Cliff Harris asked on his blog: why do people pirate the games I make? That question made its way onto some popular web sites and he got hundreds of thoughtful responses. Kevin Kelly summed up the responses that Harris received.
He found patterns in the replies that surprised him. Chief among them was the common feeling that his games (and games in general) were overpriced for what buyers got — even at $20. Secondly, anything that made purchasing and starting to play difficult — like copy protection, DRM, two-step online purchasing routines — anything at all standing between the impulse to play and playing in the game itself was seen as a legitimate signal to take the free route. Harris also noted that ideological reasons (rants against capitalism, intellectual property, the man, or wanting to be outlaw) were a decided minority.
The gaming, music, and movie industry would do well to take note of the key sentence here: “Anything that made purchasing and starting to play difficult — like copy protection, DRM, two-step online purchasing routines — anything at all standing between the impulse to play and playing in the game itself was seen as a legitimate signal to take the free route.”
Last week, I tried to buy an episode of a TV show from the iTunes Store. It didn’t work and there was no error message. Thinking the download had corrupted something, I tried again and the same problem occurred. (I learned later that I needed to upgrade Quicktime.) Because I just wanted to watch the show and not deal with Apple’s issues, I spend two minutes online, found it somewhere for free, and watched the stolen version instead. I felt OK about it because I’d already paid for the real thing *twice*, but in the future, I’ll be a little wary purchasing TV shows from iTunes and maybe go the easier route first.
Pretty amusing interview with a 9-year-old about music, file sharing, and DRM.
Q: When you started using LimeWire, did anyone ever mention that if you did certain things you might be breaking some laws?
A: Why would they put [music] on the internet and invent mp3 players if it was against the law?
Amazon has launched their mp3 music store. Files are in mp3 format, no DRM, high bitrate (high quality), and songs are mostly 89-99 cents. A compelling alternative to Apple’s iTMS.
Apple will begin to sell DRM-free songs from EMI via the iTunes Music Store in May. The songs are higher quality but will cost slightly more ($1.29 vs $0.99 for the DRM version). It’ll be interesting to see how many people choose to buy the non-DRM stuff at the higher price. My feeling is that typical consumers won’t care that much…lower price will win out over slightly higher quality and some nebulous future flexibility. I bet EMI is even half-hoping for failure on this thing: “see, customers *want* DRM…”
Steve Jobs’ thoughts on music and DRM. Sounds like he’d rather that music sold via the iTMS didn’t have DRM built in.
Watch the first hour ever broadcast on MTV. Of course, you have to wade through MTV’s crappy interface and, oops, you can’t look at it on a Mac because “Microsoft’s Windows Media Player Plug-in for Macintosh does not support Windows DRM”. Thanks, assholes. Hopefully this will show up on YouTube soon, DRM or no. (via girlhacker)
The WSJ hosts a DRM debate between Fritz Attaway of the MPAA and Wendy Seltzer of the EFF. “Digital rights management is the key to consumer choice.” Zur? Are those irritating anti-theft packaging stickers on DVDs the key to consumer choice as well?
Looks like Sony has finally made a version of the Librie (an electronic ink portable media reader) for the US market. It says that “Random House, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin-Putnam, Simon & Schuster and Time Warner Book Group are all on board with titles”, which may mean that the thing is all DRMed up. Still coveting though. (via rw)
WSJ tech columnist Walt Mossberg on DRM: “media companies go too far in curbing comsumers’ activities”.
TiVo’s new OS adds content “protection”, which means if the copyright holder of Seinfeld wants your TiVo to delete the show after a week whether you’ve watched it or not, that’s what it’s going to do. I love my TiVo and I’m currently suffering from outrage fatigue, but if the company wants to side with the entertainment industry over its customers and cripple useful features, then it’s the last one I’m ever going to own. (via the wax)