Digital Rights Management (DRM) is BAD for books. Go DRM-free.

Hear me now, lovers of books, authors, and civil liberties. Listen up: digital rights management is bad for books. DRM fetters the ownwership of e-books, enabling the bookseller to have power over your purchase.

Book ownership really can be embroiled in engrossing capitalist drama. Who knew?

Kindle et al

The issue stems from the Terms of Use – the Amazon Kindle Store Terms of Use is at least a good example:

Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you . . . to view . . .soley on the Kindle . . . by the Content Provider.

(True, I’ve chopped that sentence up and swapped it around, but it’s a shorter version, and it’s their words).

The e-book isn’t yours

The e-books don’t belong to you. They’re not like a physical shelf full of paper pages that you can bury under the floorboards to hide them from oppressors. Nope. If the sellers have made a mistake, or they just don’t like you, they wipe the book from your device. DRM says that they can.

The long arm of Amazon

When an ‘entity’ republished Orwell’s 1984 without publishing rights, and sold it on Amazon, the company deleted the copies immediately, from every device that had downloaded them legitimately. The irony was not lost, however.

If the DRM booksellers think you’re violating their terms of service, they have the power to delete your entire collection. That happened to a Norwegian lady after Amazon somehow linked her Kindle account with one that had been blocked by the company for the violation of their terms.

Locked into a cycle of consuming time-limited products

Other issues abound with DRM, too. Take music for example: when tapes were used to distribute music, they played in every device from the 50s till the 90s. When CDs were invented, they played in a multitude of devices from 1982 to the present day. Now we have the uber-cool MP3s and other formats that may not play with each new update or upgrade of your device. Great. My first gen iPod won’t connect to my much newer Kenwood car stereo. There’s only five years difference between them. That’s DRM.

A DRM-free book is for ever, not just for Kindle

It’s exactly the same situation for books. Buy a new Kindle, buy a new library. You already know that you can’t read a Kindle book on a Nook, so you’re  limited from the get-go, no matter what you choose. That’s what DRM does. Added to which, in this uncertain Western economy, any bookseller that goes bust will also go offline; just imagine if Amazon Kindle went to the dogs.

DRM is good for no-one but the biggest booksellers. It pretends it’s a stand against piracy, but it’s easy and free to remove from books, should anyone want to make a back-up copy of their library. Obviously anyone who did do that would be violating certain terms of use licensing agreements . . .

Fear not, however! DRM-free is here to save your library!

How does DRM-free bookselling work for the consumer?

The mobile phone shop analogy works best for me. If you want a mobile phone, you go to a mobile phone shop. Some are dedicated to one network, and some – like Carphone Warehouse – are able to sell lots of networks all at once.

Booksellers that provide e-books that are DRM-free are like Carphone Warehouse. They give us a chance to store our purchases anywhere, and use them on multiple branded devices. Or non-branded devices. They also give you the opportunity to stop funding the DRM Brigade.

It means the books are ours, just like they should be.

Image c/o David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliot, Flickr..

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