6 comments on “Broken by DRM: My return to paper books

  1. I’m a bit confused by this. What rights does DRM stop you having that paper books give you? Other than the ability to resell?

    • The basic issue is that DRM binds me to the company I bought the book from. In the extreme case, this means that if Amazon goes out of business someday – it probably won’t happen tomorrow or next week, but no one lives forever – then I don’t necessarily have any guarantee that my entire library won’t go away in a moment. But even looking at less dramatic scenarios – if they decide to change their terms of service in a way I don’t approve, if they decide to raise their prices, if they decide to change their Kindle software – I have nothing to do about it but either accept it, or abandon every book I bought up to that point.

      In addition to that, even if I do want to stay with the company I originally started buying books from, DRM has an alarming history of damaging user experience in another field of entertainment I consume regularly – video games. In the past few years, video game DRM has been getting more and more obtrusive, requiring permanent Internet connection (offline you can always cheat them, and they know that) and requiring their servers to always function – even a malfunction on their side can (it happened to me several times) make you unable to enjoy the game you bought. I think there’s a good chance of similar things arriving to the e-book market in the near future.

      I realize this stuff is not necessarily relevant for everyone (you have to be a certain kind of person to even imagine being concerned about “a change in the terms of service”…), and maybe I’ve read / watched a bit too much distopian cyberpunk, but I feel like it’s a risk I’d rather not take.

      • This is partly why I always stuck to paper books in the first place. Clear cut ownership and no need to worry about servers or battery life 🙂

  2. I didn’t realize things went that bad. There’s a good reason to pay 20% extra and have some paper delivered. Simply, exchange or buy&sell seems to be a good solution to get a great refund (so is hitting a library, not paying anything to start with).

    Regarding DRM servers or streaming services being shut down – it’s a part of the model. Not “if” but “when” is the question in every single case. There are some shutdown plans already tested on consumers in case of some of Microsoft and Walmart minor music services. In the land of freedom there’s no one that may be forced to do something against psychopathic mob of investors, and inert consumers will lose their “paid content” anyway – doesn’t matter if it’s with service shutdown or after changing a provider.

    CC-related activists are not really talking in couch animal language, to make it understand anything, you have to take some of it’s toys away first and later wait through a major frustration of “occupy” movement, wisdom may or may not come later – and it looks like it comes very locally. So, regarding our future, I hope you like storytelling.


    • I don’t think exchange or buy&sell are necessarily practical options when your taste in books is esoteric enough, but I’ll live with it. Still, I’ll keep snooping around for DRM-free e-book options, because I don’t really share your pessimism – I do think DRM-free e-books have a bright future ahead of them, it’ll just take a bit longer than I originally hoped.

      • Shai, with storytelling, well, it’s not bitter pessimism, rather lo-tech, oldschool (predates alphabet by eons) minimalistic approach (so Buddhist or “free as in freedom”).

        Business goes DRM-way for most of the time, but everybody noticed DRM only harms both sides: consumers have their goods unavailable, providers lose some reputation. And the only thing that holds it all together is money.
        Free, independent culture is not really doing well. There are relatively few great musicians without a contract with any major label, or widely accepted writers, that rely on self-publishing. But free (both “as in freedom” and DRM-free) stuff will accumulate, unlike streamed/DRMed goods, that can only go offline. So the “bright future ahead” may be the worst case scenario – worst, but not really a bad one! 😀

        My friend is swapping paperback books like mad, and she’s focused on recently written Scandinavian crime stories (translated to Polish) only, I guess that’s goes under esoteric taste. And it’s not a problem for her to meet her friends every now and then… If you’re in doubt, delete our conversation and in three months hit the surface with Hebrew book exchange startup, crowd-based library service or whatever you’ll invent or need.


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