I have surprisingly strong views about the efficacy, effectiveness, utility, and appropriateness of digital rights management on files, including both music and ebooks. Generally speaking, I do not agree with the powers that be (publishers) that there is a difference in “ownership” between buying something digitally and buying it in hard copy, particularly exemplified by a book. I do agree that there are different risks to the publisher, but that doesn’t mean in one I have bought it and the other I have merely paid to borrow it. I believe I have the same rights and obligations I had previously. Which means in its most basic terms that I have bought it for me and I can’t reproduce it for others, but the digital element puts two other limitations — I can’t loan it nor can I resell it. I am willing to accept those caveats, but it doesn’t mean I don’t own it. Or does it? If it is ownership in one case but modified terms of ownership in another, does that change? Of course, but as the courts are apt to rule, only insofar as it accomplishes the original goal. Of course all of that is about appropriateness. It says nothing about the utility, etc.
So when I saw an article cross-posted to The Passive Voice about libraries and DRM, I had to click through to the original piece by Mirela Roncevic on No Shelf Required. Some highlights are below but for anyone interested in how libraries are dealing with it, including links to EBSCO’s approach, etc., the whole article is awesome. There are even some decent follow-on citations at the bottom of it.
But DRM isn’t copyright. It refers to actual technology—a code or a set of codes—applied to restrict the digital use of copyrighted materials. In the publishing world, it is a way of ‘protecting’ digital books against copyright infringement and piracy, which have been a major concern to publishers since the advent of the Internet. By using protection—usually via three DRM types, Amazon for Kindle, Apple’s FairPlay for iBookstore and Adobe’s Digital Editions Protection Technology—publishers (or copyright holders) are able to control what users can and cannot do with digital content.
This means that people buying ebooks, whether for personal or institutional use, are paying for usage, not possession (as has been the case for centuries with print books). When encrypted with DRM, ebooks cannot be easily (if at all) copied or printed, viewed on multiple devices, or moved from one device to another. Further, they can only be downloaded a certain number of times (even when legally bought online) and, if necessary, blocked in certain territories around the world (or made invisible to users in certain countries). Such restrictions have given publishers and authors some peace of mind over the past two decades, but they have resulted in many inconveniences for legitimate users, including lay readers who purchase digital content on sites like Amazon and researchers who access digital content through libraries. […] Not until recently have publishers started to pay closer attention to the feedback provided to librarians by end users, including students and faculty. A survey published this spring by Library Journal—whose goal was to investigate academic student ebook experience in four-year colleges, universities, graduate programs, as well as two-year or community colleges—found that 74 percent of students accessing ebooks through libraries believe there should be no restrictions placed on ebooks; 66 percent prefer to use ebooks with no restrictions; and 37 percent have taken a principled stand and only use ebooks that have no restrictions when conducting research. […] Academic librarians do not shy away from expressing their concerns over the adverse effects of DRM, questioning whether it successfully combats piracy in the first place and pointing to the difficult ‘middleman’ role libraries must play in their efforts to meet the demands of their patrons on the one end and remain respectful of the publishers’ ‘rights’ on the other.
Further, libraries oppose the uses of DRM that lock readers to specific ebook formats, arguing that any institution that lawfully acquires content should be able to allow its patrons to read that content on any device and on any technology platform. Libraries also oppose DRM used to track reading patterns, giving insight into what people read, when, how and where, which jeopardizes patrons’ privacy. […] A white paper published by Springer Nature in November 2017 (The OA effect: How does open access affect the usage of scholarly books?), revealed, among other findings, that Open Access books enjoy, on average, seven times more downloads, 50 percent more citations, and ten times more online mentions than paywalled titles.
The long and winding road to DRM-free ebooks in academic libraries | N S R [LINK EXPIRED]
One of the citations is to the American Library Association’s one-pager on DRM, and it does a great job of not only listing different types of DRM, but also some of the issues for libraries:
Challenges balancing traditional first sale doctrine against potential liability for digital resources;
Potential expiry dates on content can limit preservation and archival purposes, particularly for culturally and historically significant works; and,
DRM approaches tend to limit well-established fair use, library or educational exceptions to copyright law.
I know, I know, I’m a library geek. But kudos go to ThePassiveVoice for sharing in the first place.
My first e-reading device was a Palm Pilot. I had an early Palm III for a short while, a cast-off as I recall, and then I got one through work and it was the Tungsten. A beautiful device, and I tried everything on it, including reading an ebook. Something old, free, likely from the Gutenberg Project. It was neat, but not something to write home about. I killed my Tungsten in a freak accident at a hockey game involving a folding guest chair, a coat pocket, and a crunching sound as I sat back down after cheering for a goal. I still remember the feeling later that night when I went to put the Tungsten on charge and saw the destroyed screen. I eventually moved on somewhat reluctantly to a combined Palm Pilot / phone (a rudimentary smart phone) called the Treo, but it was far too small to read on and I never tried.
I was still a purist. I liked paper and I have the basement full of books to prove it. Successive moves in 1997 and 1998 didn’t kill that purity but three more in 2004, 2007, and 2011 did put a damper on my paper enthusiasm. I love my books, and if I had a place to put them out all on nice shelves, I would. But I don’t have a library like that, and honestly, I don’t want to use up the space in the house to do that. It’s just not worth it considering many tend to be “read once, shelve forever”. They are on storage shelves in the basement now, and my wife was mildly concerned about the previous rate of accumulation, but the real motivator for me to change showed up around the time of the last move.
I bought a Kindle 3 — not touchscreen, just side buttons and a keyboard, and only monochrome. Very much like the early Palm III if I’m honest. But the e-ink is glorious to read. I boost the font size a bit, not quite “large print”, but I’m getting older and I quite like the reduced strain. I confess that some print books have had such small type, I tossed them quickly back on the shelf and bought an e-version instead.
Since the K3, I have become a device-agnostic e-whore. I’ll read on anything, anywhere, anytime. A couple of times when I’ve wondered if I would like a series or not, I’ve even downloaded the first volume onto my desktop, particularly when there are sales or promos, and then read the entire thing on my main computer just because I got engrossed or my other devices were charging. Not often, but 2 or 3 times. I’ve read on the Tungsten, the K3, three different tablets, at least three different phones, a laptop and a netbook.
I know, I know, many of you might say, “Never! Paper or die!”. But that’s not the test for me, because I am all about the content. I like to lose myself in the story, and if the story is good, I don’t care what format it is. Podcast, TV show, movie, animated, live theatre, magazines, I don’t care. I want to get lost in the story.
In my most arrogant days, I think the e-book partially appeals to me because it is faster. I don’t just mean that I can order a book and download in seconds, which is a factor, but that I also can read faster. I can turn pages faster. You might not think that is significant, physically, but mentally for me it seems a lot like experiences with old typewriters and early word processors. The QWERTY layout that is popular for typing was designed to prevent people from going too fast — the keys would hit each other. So it had to be fast enough to make it worthwhile, but not too fast and crash. Early wordprocessing had the opposite challenge. If it took longer than about half a second (can’t remember the actual threshold now) for the character to appear on the screen after the key was pressed, typists would stop to see if it had gone through. Their brain processed the key press and needed to see the character appear right afterward or it would stop and wait for it to appear. For me, the K3 was perfect…I could turn the page fast enough that there was no chance of me “leaving the story”.
I have left a story many times with books, particularly at the end of chapters, simply from the time it takes to manually turn the page, complete with all the sensory input that goes with it. I can feel myself stopping even for a split-second and pulling myself briefly out of the story. With the e-ink, the refresh is almost instantaneous. I am a very fast reader, and that matters to me because I read so fast.
For example, one time I was reading the novelization of one of the Spiderman movies. I finished it in just under 2 hours, about the same length of time as the movie runs. It was like watching it spool on the screen before me, just like a movie, only it was just my imagination. A totally immersive experience. Oddly enough though, that one was on paper.
But I’ve had it happen while reading e-books a lot more often — I just zip along at lightning speed. Which makes up for an odd fact — I can’t skim read on my Kindle. If I’m trying to digest some non-fiction stuff really fast for work, for example, I know how to skim read / almost-speed-read to get through the salient facts. Relax my eyes, focus on the top half of the text line, skip words that are often long adjectives, focus on verbs and nouns. I can’t do it for long texts, maybe a few pages before I start to gloss over.
But sometimes when I’m reading a novel in paper, and the author for some reason decides to drop two pages of exposition or description into an active scene, my brain goes on auto-pilot skimming forward a paragraph or two until the action starts again. It happens, particularly with new release debut authors. Yet I can’t do it on the e-ink devices or even tablets or phones. Just not the right font, I think, or maybe I just don’t see enough of the text before I have to skip to the next screen. Either way, it doesn’t work. But the speed of screen refreshes is way faster than turning pages in a paper book and keeps me reading.
The last six years with the Kindle match the statistical profile of many an e-book reader with a new device. It starts off hot and heavy — one of Amazon’s busiest download days in recent years has been Christmas day itself or Boxing Day…people with new Kindles or other devices have them all charged and ready to go, and they start downloading books for the first time.
In 2011, one of the biggest “unique features” of Amazon was the daily deals on e-books. Lots of authors putting books on promo for four or five days at a time, often for 99 cents, or just as often, many giving away book 1 of a series for free. Kind of like drug dealers giving samples to hook clients. And there was a cottage industry that was born with it…e-zines that advertised the deals. Now the market is flooded, which might sound like a good thing, but really is just info overload.
Yet myself, like many an avid reader, couldn’t say no to free books. A free guidebook for Web HTML? Sure, I’ll take that. I do webpages. A new mystery novel with a librarian as the detective? Sign me up and I’ll download right now. Cool. A new series of basic guides to a variety of topics from property law to biology, from world history to a Korean cookbook? Sure, it’s free, I’ll DL it. And I did. Over the last five years, about 850 books from Amazon. I estimate I probably bought maybe 50-75 of those, almost all except 2 or 3 were deeply discounted, and the rest were freebies. Why did I download them? Cuz they were free, and it was like crack to a reader. And they don’t take up space in my house. If I don’t want it, I’ll delete it. Maybe it will be good, and I am a voracious reader for any subject matter.
I also made the mistake of reading about the Gutenberg Project. For those who haven’t heard of it, it is basically an old book preservation project run as crowd-sourcing for books that are past their copyright period and long out of print. Lots of countries have different copyright periods, so one country might have 25 years, another 50, another 75, etc. Beyond that period, except where copyrights have been extended by other legal means, the books are now in the public domain. Of course, they didn’t have e-books 50 years ago, which means someone scans the old book and uploads it. Often they have sophisticated scanners that can scan whole books at once, even turning pages, and save as a PDF-like file.
Then the crowdsourcing comes in — anyone can join, read a page of some book, and “fix” the optical character recognition. Because of font issues, the computer might read a “the” as “be”…so you see on your screen the JPG or PDF version side-by-side with a raw text box that shows what the computer thinks is the right text. You read the image, adjust any of the text that needs to be adjusted (like a copy-editor or proofer) and say “save”. That puts that page into a larger quality control process where a Level 2 editor looks at the page and reads your text and approves it or not. Once you have “proven” reliable in your edits, you too can become a Level 2 editor or be given a harder book or your edits might even bypass Level 2 and go straight to Level 3. Level 3 looks at things like a compiled text where your page 1 and someone else’s page 2, and someone else’s page 3 are all merged together into pages 1-3. Depending on the project in each country, there may be one person at the end who reads the whole book and makes sure there are no obvious errors. Just reading it, not comparing it to the original text. Some of the edits are consistency issues…for example, did you capitalize a word that the book didn’t because you think it should be capitalized whereas someone else was literal? And when it is done and added to the inventory, any user who finds an error can flag it for an update.
You don’t have to be an editor to look at completed books though, it was just how I got sucked in. I loved the idea, partly as I worked in a library when I was in university, and the idea of books being lost to the ages is somewhat horrifying, matched with the beautiful, low-cost, crowd-sourcing of preservation by simple readers instead of a large bureaucracy. Even if you do get involved, it isn’t necessarily time-consuming. Sure, like any “hobby”, there are dedicated nutjobs where it becomes their life. But you can edit for a few minutes any time you have free space in your calendar.
And then the unthinkable happened. I discovered that they had their ENTIRE collection downloadable as DVD copies. 1000s of books on disk with a simple download. I resisted for awhile. Browsing. Being selective. There’s a lot of stuff in there I’ll never read. And then one day, for no apparent trigger, I cracked. I just downloaded the whole collection and put it in Calibre.
You would think that was enough. And it generally has been. An e-book overdose to scare me straight. But it’s been made worse by bad cyber management on my desktop. Because of some computer problems over the years, a lot of files that I have on my machine have gotten duplicated into multiple directories. For example, a collection of photos from a trip might have been saved as 2012 – Newfoundland and another copy, backed up on another disk, said Newfoundland – 2012. Not knowing which was the “good” set, I saved both for future “clean-up” and rationalization.
E-book files suffered the same fate. Multiple times. Plus I didn’t exactly know how to organize my library very well in Calibre (an e-book library management program). So I would import collection X into one library with a separate library in another. But I’d only get so far and then get sidetracked with other priorities. Which would mean I had a partially sorted library, often with 2 or 3 copies of the same file. Add in multiple e-book formats one time where I stupidly told it to create a PDF, EPUB and a MOBI copy of everything, and my library went crazy. Keeping them all as separate entries in the library.
As part of my goals for the year, I decided I wanted to read more and part of that required me to create a better set-up for Calibre with my libraries. And I discovered the clean-up problem was far worse than I imagined:
53.5 GB of space
I suspect that at least 75% of the 25K titles are actually duplicates or format variations under separate listings, so that leaves me with 6000 or so actual titles. Deleting Gutenberg stuff takes me down at least two thirds of that, so 2000 or so titles of itnerest, with about 1200 being non-fiction titles that are possibly throw-aways. Call it 800 titles to actually process, of which about half are ones that are basically free replacements for titles I have in paper.
So I have about 400 titles to be read that are half-way decent, possibly in three formats – EPUB, Mobi, PDF, and possibly, AZW (Amazon format).
Okay, that’s still quite the addiction. Not rehab country just yet, but still. 🙂 My goal is to have the library vastly cleaned up by June. I just have to find ways within Calibre to better eliminate duplicate titles that just happen to have separate formats or even the same file.
I find most of the articles on the net about ebooks vs. paper to be wrong-headed and mostly silly. Passionate paper people who claim that anyone using an e-reader to be woefully uninformed, of low culture, and possibly impotent vs. all digital, all the time people who claim anyone reading paper is clearly a Luddite. Personally, I don’t care the format. Paper, ink, e-ink, pixels, back of a napkin, side of a serial box, pamphlet, newspaper, ceiling of a dentist’s office…I’ll read anything anywhere anytime. And usually it doesn’t take much time before I disconnect from the physical format and immerse myself in the story. So when I saw yet another “I’m going to read paper” post, I just about blew past it with a yawn. However, I didn’t, I clicked, and I find Michael Hyatt’s take kind of interesting (Why I’m Putting Ebooks on the Shelf for 2016 – Michael Hyatt).
One thing he notes that for him, “e-books are out of sight and out of mind” whereas the paper books loom in front of him on the shelf waiting to be read, and reminding him to read. Kind of an interesting idea, I think, partly because I have found the same at times. I carry my e-reader with me, but if I don’t physically “see” it, I often grab my tablet or something else first. He also finds the physical stack comforting when he’s done reading them…I see his point, but the concern with a library overwhelming the house negates that pleasure pretty quick for me.
A second item I like is that he finds the bookmarking and taking of notes less effective for him, something he enjoys doing easily with physical books. I certainly find that for non-fiction, less concerned with it for fiction.
The third item that resonated with me was about how he doesn’t get the same sense of accomplishment when he finishes an e-book as a paper book. I have found that too…in paper, I close the book. I might literally feel a sense of closure, but it’s also a moment to reflect for a second or two on what I have read, to savour the ending, to digest the story arc. On my e-book reader, particularly if I’m reading a series, I will go on to the next one almost immediately and be well into Chapter 1 without taking the time to really savour the flavour of the previous meal. That’s not really about the e-book though, that’s about my personal reading style with e-books. Nothing would stop me from savouring it the way a closing of a book does.
Sure, he also argues that e-books don’t engage the senses, there’s lower retention and comprehension, etc., and most of the science around it is complete crap, so I’m ignoring those points. I also find no resonance with arguments about more easily distracted by e-mail or games on tablets, etc. — when I’m reading, I’m reading. Earthquakes don’t distract me. I don’t even pretend to understand his complaints about more difficulty navigating though.
Yet, as I said, I`m glad I clicked. Those three points were interesting and quite different from what most people write on the subject.
I admit that I have developed an almost unhealthy fascination with the publishing industry’s changes over the last five years. Separate from my own vested interest, I am also interested from an analytical perpective. People argue that “self-publishing” or “ebooks” are the changes that are sweeping their way through the publishing world, but I personally feel that it is more about the disentanglement of a previously integrated and controlled business model.
In the past, you had authors who produced content as a raw product, agents who marketed those raw materials to publisher after publisher, or editor by editor at each publisher, and publishers who took the raw product, massaged it, processed it, turned it into a final product, and took the sellable version to market. And there were huge barriers to entry into the market — agents wouldn’t take just anyone, publishers often wanted only agent-repped products, stores and libraries would mainly take books only from the Big Six publishers or their subsidiaries. Breaking into those areas would give you huge leverage, but they were jealously guarded corridors of power.
However, in recent years, the whole business model has been disrupted end to end…authors can get their books on Amazon and in ebook form without an agent or a publisher. They can get their own ISBN numbers, they can form small publishers to hide their “self” status if they want. They can hire copy editors, substantive editors, cover artists, publicists, anybody that the Big Six used to hire for big names. And, shhh, don’t tell anyone, but a lot of those editors and artists and publicists are the same ones the Big Six use, just selling their wares as freelance.
It’s a fascinating time for disruptions in the industry, so I was excited to see what the Guardian published on “Ten Ways Self-Publishing Has Changed the Books World”:
After a boom year in self-publishing, the headlines are getting a little predictable. Most feature a doughty author who quickly builds demand for her work and is rewarded with a large contract from the traditional industry. <snip> 1. There is now a wider understanding of what publishing is… <snip> 5. The role of the author is changing… <snip> 7. New business models and opportunities are springing up
I don’t agree with most of the conclusions of the author of the article, or at least not the nuances, but I do agree with the general trend. I was surprised though that they didn’t hammer home more on the issue of “time to market”. Overall, that is the largest single change that is disrupting the industry. Within days of the selection of the new Pope, authors were putting up books on Amazon. Some of them quite substantial and high-quality. In traditional publishing, the window would have been 18-24 months normally or super high rush could do it in 6 perhaps. I think too that Indie bookstores who are excited about getting in on Kobo sales should look instead at the POD market — there are printers that you can have in your shop, giant photo copier/printers essentially, that can print and blue-bind a book with a glossy cover in about an hour. Any book, any time, hard copy. That’s disruption.
Dean Wesley Smith is one of my favorite bloggers. As another blogger described him, Dean is an ex-midlister who has drunk the self-publishing Koolaid, is happy with his success in multiple worlds, and is happy to share his approach and results with others. He has a couple of blog-based ebooks going, where he writes a chapter at a time and posts it for digestion and comment. Then he cobbles them all together into an actual book. His latest endeavour, the second edition of “Think Like a Publisher”, is being “reposted” with updates in close sequential order. Here are some excerpts from Chapter 1:
Some of the earliest decisions a publisher has to make can be changed down the road easily. Some are difficult to change. So, I’m going to break down some of these early decisions into basic groups. And keep in mind, there are no correct answers on any of these decisions. Just what you want to do. … Get the business set up, do the chores, look at your start-up inventory, and then look hard and fast at what kind of publisher you want to be.
As I said, Dean’s one of my favorite bloggers but sometimes I think his approach to publishing is a bit, umm, influenced by his past lives. Almost like he’s willing to go self-publishing, but then tries to pull back in some of the things he misses from the traditional world. For example, near the end of the chapter, he talks about High-End publishers vs. Discount Publishers vs. Traditional Publishers. It’s a useful comparison, and he expands on this in more chapters, but it does heavily lean towards a division based on a “paper-based” view of publishing.
For me, and I am not Dean’s direct target audience, that division is a bit skewed to the paper world, and thinks in “paper” terms. Instead, as an aspiring author, I’m more interested in the author’s perspective of “choosing a publisher” than “becoming a publisher” for others. In this case, I think a more likely perspective for aspiring authors is between “Traditional Publishing” (Large press and small press) or “Self-publishing” (through third parties or as a full-fledged DIYer).
The difference, for me, is that some of the “discount” publisher categories are only applicable if you think of it in paper terms. Someone who publishes ebooks only and sells them at 99 cents is not discounting them if they’ve never sold at a different rate. Nor are they choosing to consign themselves to a bargain bin, one of Dean’s frequent suggestions on his blog.
It’s just a price point, and while I have a bunch of upcoming posts regarding “pricing” paradigms, I will satisfy my urge to be a gadfly towards the “discount” label to say that it is a point of view, but not one I share (nor do much more experienced and famous authors than me like Konrath and Eisler).
Good first chapter, though, and I look forward to the future updates…like all published items, you take from it what you can, and mileage may vary!