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When Microsoft's eBook store closes, your books disappear too (bbc.co.uk)
347 points by yawz 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 289 comments



I don't buy ebooks, and this is just one reason. This is the complete list:

1. For some reason they cost a similar amount to print books

Sometimes a bit less, sometimes the same, sometimes more. Distributing a physical book means you have to print, handle, store, transport, store again, handle again and transport again (using a simplified model of the journey a book takes to the end user). That costs money, and it costs effectively $0 to get an ebook to a user. I don't see that saving being passed on to me, the consumer.

Not only that, you're generally paying for less than you get with a physical book in terms of rights and (IMO convenience)

2. You can't (or maybe you can) lend them freely.

Last I checked there were limits on lending with the kindle/amazon. Maybe that's changed, but I don't want to have to think about that, I just want to lend the book to someone.

3. You can't give them to someone.

Maybe this has changed since I last looked, but passing on the book to someone else and it now being "theirs" isn't possible. Again perhaps that's changed these days.

3. Cognitive overhead

Can I do this stuff? Can't I? How do I do it? I don't want to have to think about that. Last week I gave a book to my daughter by just putting it on her desk. It was easy.

4. Longevity

In 10 years will I still be able to access my books? 20? Yes, because they're over there, on a shelf.

If ebooks cost a fraction of what they cost today then I would totally consider them. It's a tradeoff. Right now ebooks don't swing the balance towards them.


All your points are dead on. I'll throw in these cons as well:

5. visibility (as noted by angrygoat) and browseability is terrible.

6. Flipping through an ebook looking for something is impossible.

7. Illustrations or drawings are rendered terribly.

The list of pros of ebooks:

1. It's just a better experience. Ebooks are lighter than their equivalent books, easy to use one-handed, fonts can be adjusted, you can carry as many as you want with no extra weight, you can search within a book, you have access with wifi to your entire library at any point in time without having to fill up a cramped apartment. Browsing for books to read is terrible, but I can browse at my local B&N and then buy the ebooks on Amazon (which makes me terrible, but what can you do).

In balance, this means that I've switched almost entirely to ebooks.

The objections that you give (1-4) are the ones that are fixable by hoisting the Jolly Roger. This a step I am reluctant to take but if point 1 keeps going in this direction, then I can't really convince myself that I can justify the cost. A literally out-of-print book [1] selling for $13 is so outlandish that it makes my head spin. A book where the e-book is twice as expensive as the paperback [2]? What on earth is going on here.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009FKTTMQ

[2] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003XT605Y


> visibility (as noted by angrygoat) and browseability is terrible

Great point. I picked up The Linux Programming Interface from a Humble Bundle, knowing nothing about it, and my first impression was "This is a terrible book: very dry and not engaging." My manager mentioned it was excellent, though, so I actually picked up a hard copy, and then I saw what was going on: it's a Linux textbook, not the kind of programming book you'd really read from cover to cover.

I know this story sort of shows my cluelessness a little, but it also shows how having the ten-pound tome on my desk gave me insights into how the book was meant to be interacted with, that the ebook didn't.


Technical books are the exception for me. My entire library of physical books today is almost entirely technical books. Fiction and nonfiction are all ebooks. I read about a (fiction/nonfiction) book a week and am almost always also working on a technical book in the background (I run a technical book club in my company's engineering department).


> The objections that you give (1-4) are the ones that are fixable by hoisting the Jolly Roger.

I think that that's solving the wrong problem. Just pirating ebooks that are offered under crappy Amazon and B&N style licensing agreements may get you a book that's more palatable to you, but it doesn't do anything to improve the ebook market itself.

There are many, many publishers selling DRM-free ebooks out there, and manufacturers of e-readers that don't try to lock you in. If people who don't like DRM aren't willing to help them make money at what they're trying to do, they're going to go away, and DRM is going to become an even more pervasive problem because of it.

It's true that their offerings can be more expensive. They're smaller outfits and can't afford to be vicious with economies of scale the way Amazon can. This is one of those spots where "freedom ain't free" is a statement you can take quite literally.


> but it doesn't do anything to improve the ebook market itself

shrug

I don't want to have to change the world first and then read the books I want to read. For the moment I'm willing to pay, but I'm inches away from opting out.

I've even seriously considered building or purchasing a bulk book scanner and just ripping old mass market paperbacks for personal use. Or starting some sort of collective that does this.

The signal that I want to send to Amazon (and, as I understand it, to the publishing houses that desperately want to kill ebooks in general and are trying to do so by forcing Amazon to honor their price floors) is that the prices are just too high. They could dramatically increase revenue simply by lowering the prices. A premium for "early access" is fine -- if I want to buy a book the day that it is released, I'm willing to pay a "hardcover" premium. But I want the option to wait for the "trade paperback" price or the "mass market paperback" price, or the "gently used" price.

The DRM stuff I don't like but I'm not as passionate about, especially since I'm confident that Amazon will stick around a while. 84% of the reason that I accrued a personal physical book library (instead of borrowing from a library or donating or selling books after I've read them) over the years is with the memory of browsing my own parent's book collections and discovering amazing things and wanting to pass that experience on to my children. Amazon has their "family library" concept, so even though the browsing experience is currently terrible, I hope some day it will be better and all the ebooks I have acquired will afford my children the same experience as I had.


> The signal that I want to send to Amazon... is that the prices are just too high. They could dramatically increase revenue simply by lowering the prices.

They might be too high for you, on the specific books you want to read. But cutting book prices to maximize book revenues is Amazon's first and oldest game, and I have a hard time believing that they suddenly became clueless about how to play it when they entered (created, really) the ebook market.

Offhand, I can think of two explanations for the price of Amazon ebooks that seem much more likely. I'm not sure if either are true, but I wouldn't be surprised both are:

First, it could be that they have agreements with publishers, who have an interest in keeping the price of Amazon (and Nook) ebooks relatively high in order help keep non-Amazon booksellers in business. They've seen what Wal-Mart does to suppliers, and naturally would want to guard against ending up in that situation.

Second, it could be that Amazon has figured out that they really do maximize Kindle revenues when they don't discount their ebooks very cheaply. That would be the case if Kindle readers generally buy what they want when they want to read it, regardless of a few bucks' difference in the book price. (It's not beyond the pale to think that might be true of people who, almost by definition, are willing to spend $1-200 on an e-reader.) Or, alternatively, they've found that they can price discriminate more effectively through their subscription service.


I think the publishers strong-armed Amazon on this one. For a long time Hatchette would not allow Amazon to list its books unless they supported a price floor, and Amazon refused to comply. Eventually [1], Amazon crumbled, and now the prices are mandated across the board.

Your assessment (protecting non-Amazon booksellers, or Walmartization of the book market) is generous, and probably correct. My less generous assessment is that the publishers would prefer to completely kill off ebooks, lest authors notice that by employing a skilled editor they can just sell their books directly to customers for a fraction of what a book publisher charges, if they can live without the marketing spend and the addictive pull of advances on sales revenues.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/13/amazon-hachett...


> It's just a better experience.

That's rather subjective which is why I left most of this stuff out. Some people really like reading on a kindle or iPad, I don't particularly (the Kindle is "OK").

> Ebooks are lighter than their equivalent books

It depends on the book TBH. A lot will be heavier, many won't. The book I'm currently reading ("Medium Raw" by Anthony Bourdain) is 49g heavier than a kindle (the cheapest in the UK), which for me is effectively the same as 0g in terms of wether I will notice.

I am a relatively strong man, throwing a book or two into my bag doesn't make a difference to me.

Of course, if I were to carry my entire library around that would be a significantly different story :) But then I just pick books I want to read and take them, and if I change my mind later I do something else.

> easy to use one-handed

Never had a problem with this.

> fonts can be adjusted

Never wanted to do this.

> you can search within a book

I rarely want to do this, so it's not a particularly big deal when I can't.

> you have access with wifi to your entire library at any point in time without having to fill up a cramped apartment

I mentioned in another comment, I am lucky in that I don't have that issue where I live. The balance might be altered if I lived in a small Tokyo apartment (for instance) however.

> The objections that you give (1-4) are the ones that are fixable by hoisting the Jolly Roger.

I can buy ebooks and strip the DRM if I want, I tried it (on ebooks I legitimately bought) so I could make sure I always had the book. It was a PITA and didn't (for me) swing the pendulum enough to choose ebooks.


>> fonts can be adjusted >Never wanted to do this

You are probably young. Trust me -- when you are approaching 50, if not sooner, this is extremely helpful. And my father in his 80s has started reading again because he can make the fonts on his Kindle basically gigantic. There are of course a small number of printed books in large print editions, but ebooks allow this to be done on any book.


For better experience I don't know if I can convince you -- the Kindle Oasis is just ridiculously ergonomic. I'm a voracious reader. Reading a paperback without breaking the spine is an annoyance that I'm glad to have put behind me. Reading a full-size hardcover is just not doable one-handed or lying on your side in bed. The front light is easy on the eyes at night and doesn't disturb other sleepers in your bed. I've tried to go back especially to re-read treasured classics, like Hitchiker's Guide, and just went ahead and bought the e-book version.

> I am a relatively strong man, throwing a book or two into my bag doesn't make a difference to me.

I've put a lot of work and streamlining into not carrying a bag at all. Carrying my kindle in my back pocket or jacket pocket is easy enough. Similarly carrying a book depends on the book.

> > easy to use one-handed

> Never had a problem with this.

How do you turn pages? I used to have to do the awkward reverse flip - half close - move finger - let hang - flip up, or just free up my other hand for a second. On a crowded train neither of these work particularly well.


I'll bear the Oasis in mind if I see it.

> I've put a lot of work and streamlining into not carrying a bag at all.

I mostly have to carry a laptop so getting rid of my bag isn't an option. When I do leave my bag at home I might put a slim book into my pocket (I've got "The old man and the sea" to read at some point) or I'll read the news on my phone, listen to music, or just sit and think.

I did streamline my wallet though. Thin nylon all-ett wallet, one card, some cash.

> How do you turn pages?

I mostly free my other hand (it's rare I'm doing something particularly involved with my "spare" hand while reading). This is mostly in the form of "put down my up of tea for a moment". If I'm in the kitchen I might put the book down on it's back and use the reading hand to turn the page while also holding it open.


I only consider the option for ebooks in linear reading ones, like novels. For non linear ones I don't, so cookbooks (cooking or any other subject) or manuals I can't use them , I need paper. And you're right don't even began talking if there's a diagram/image/map.


Definitely, and I should have included that caveat. Kindle/epaper is ideal for linear books in my mind, but for non-linear, paper still rules, though I'm hopeful that some day someone will figure out a better way to use phones/tables for accessing that sort of content.

Cookbooks are strange. With the number of recipes out there in electronic form it seems like the tide has shifted, but I still buy cookbooks for general cooking stuff, and still find myself printing out recipes that I find online (like an old person!) so that I can actually use them in a kitchen environment.

Technical books, reference books, textbooks seem so incredibly natural for an interactive format, but I'm not aware of anyone that has cracked this. The closest metaphor I've found is having tabs in a browser, so I can store a limited history of my exploration of a topic, but it rapidly becomes an unnavigable mess.


I do the same with recipes, the ones I find interesting on the net I import them to a recipe manager (Gourmet) but when I'm going to use them I print them and keep the paper copy in a folder .


> A literally out-of-print book [1] selling for $13 is so outlandish that it makes my head spin.

You got that completely backwards. The book is freaking out of print. You can’t buy a physical copy anymore without a lot of effort. $13 seems a fair deal for conveniently getting a book you’d otherwise have a hard time obtaining.

For that matter, out of print books being rare and thus more valuable and selling for (sometimes much) higher prices are not unheard of in the physical world either.


I buy ebooks for two reasons:

1) To give some money to the authors (I'd rather bitcoin them)

2) Because it is a reasonable format for books I'll read once from start to finish.

Searchability is baloney in most cases (index is better), and it's definitely not a better experience, even on paperwhite type technology -the only way any sane person should read an ebook other than quick lookups. I de-drm everything, because it's mine, so that's not a consideration.

Textbooks, ebooks are basically useless unless you're remote and have no other options (and in this case; koreader on rooted hardware). It's for novels, philosophy, history books which are for fun; that sort of thing.


I read a lot of textbooks in DRM free eBook format lately, strictly for the weight. However, some of my books have licenses on them stating its a crime to even create a copy and worded so poorly that even personal backups are illegal, and I certainly am not allowed to share them with family members, resell, or let somebody inherit it. Same for almost all of my DRM free audiobooks. I don't find this acceptable when it comes up.


> Flipping through an ebook looking for something is impossible

If you're looking for something in an ebook, wouldn't it be easier and more effective to just search for it?


Much of the time, which is why I highlighted search. But especially for technical books, being able to put your finger in one place and flip back to where you are and glance back at where you are holding your finger is a physical metaphor that does not translate. Similarly for maps or lists.

"Wait, didn't that character die in the last chapter" is easily solved by flipping back a couple of chapters. If you search for the right thing you can find it too, but it's relatively painful for quick checks.


I mix eBooks and physical copies, and I agree with your list, but here are a couple advantages of eBooks:

1. Space -- I have an entire closet full of books. Every time I buy another physical book, I am slowly crowding myself out of a little more space in my apartment. Electronic copies take up no physical space.

2. Can read anywhere (using my phone). I don't like this for every book, but some books are good for reading in little bite-sized chunks. I read a page here and a page there while I'm taking a break at work, waiting at the post office, whatever. The constant availability makes it a lot easier to increase my reading bandwidth vs. trying to always have a physical book on me. Plus variety--I have hundreds of books in my pocket at any given moment, and can choose whatever I'm in the mood for.


Regarding space, totally, and I realise I am fortunate that I live in a reasonably sized suburban house (at least in terms of space). If I lived in a house share, in SF or in Tokyo I might feel differently.

The one thing I would say is that I do have to dump books sometimes due to space. That's no bad thing, there's not a hell of a lot of books that I actually want to keep forever.


Between ebooks and my local public library, I purged my entire personal (physical) library.


I never understood the argument that ebooks should cost less. The price of a good usually isn't determined by the cost to manufacture and sell. Why should books be different?

For me, I'll pay more for an ebook than a paperback because it's a more valuable format for me. Aside from being more compact and searchable, I can select a larger font. If it's more valuable, why shouldn't it cost more?

One thing we do agree on though is that DRM on books should be banned. At the absolute minimum, it should have a failsafe built in so that users never lose their books and when copyright expires, all protection is removed.


Good for you that you get more value out of them. I won't pay more though, because I personally have less rights and convenience with ebooks.

There's also an element of being taken for a ride here. I can afford the $8 snickers bar from the minibar in the hotel, but I won't buy it because I feel like someone is taking the piss. Attempting to use their position to extort me.

Same for ebooks. When your costs are lower, but you're charging more, I'm not going to buy the book because though I can afford the book I feel like I'm being somehow extorted.


How are you taken for a ride? The kindle version is almost always cheaper than the retail price of the physical version, and usually cheaper than the discounted price as well.


I can find examples on Amazon where the ebook is less, the same as, or more expensive than the physical copy.


Well, yeah, there are no absolutes, but it's usually something like the book has just been remaindered and not a permanent situation or is a textbook. In general if you're picking up something current the ebook is a few dollars less, which seems right for printed material.


Typically, the price of books is largely a function of the costs of manufacture and distribution. There are some fixed, up-front costs that don't vary with print run (editorial, typesetting, proofreading, cropyediting and so on), which is why a bestseller novel is way more profitable than a complex academic book that is expensive to produce and limited in sales, even though you're probably spending more on royalties and marketing support for that.

For ebooks, you can reduce your distribution costs (there's some cost of creating the file and distributing it, but you don't have shipping costs or returns), but of course you still need to make back your fixed costs. I manage ebook production for a university publisher (but I have no say on pricing decisions, only the technical stuff), and for us, the savings for ebooks doesn't really translate into a big price difference, because our fixed costs are such a large part of our expenses. In our market, ebooks still don't amount to a big percentage of sales, because the reader technology doesn't provide enough support for complex books.

I do argue as much as I can against DRM, but so far I have lost that fight.


> Typically, the price of books is largely a function of the costs of manufacture and distribution.

I don't think that's always true. The cost to print and ship hard cover vs paperback books is less than the price difference between the two.

I'm surprised about ereaders not supporting what you need for complex books. When I looked at Apple's version of epub it I thought it was pretty impressive. The Kindle format is more limited, but if you can represent something with html, css, and javascript, iBook should work.


You’re right. It’s pretty much never true. The publishing costs are dominated by the fixed costs.


The price of a good usually isn't determined by the cost to manufacture and sell. Why should books be different?

When the market structure of a good results in full competition, then the cost of a good is going to tend toward the cost of producing the good plus basic profit (if a company raises prices past this, another company can enter the market to produce the good more cheaply).

When the market structure of a good involves an effective monopoly, the cost will tend to whatever price the monopoly thinks will generate the most total profit (and that depends on the supply curve).

Naturally, you have markets that inbetween these two poles (economists talk about oligopolies and "monopolistic competition").

As far as what the price of books should be, if you think of a publisher as naturally having monopoly since each book is unique, then it makes sense for ebooks to not cost less. But if you imagine a look of books could be substituted for other books (one c++ manual versus another) then it makes sense for the price of ebooks to be less than that of regular books.

http://www.amosweb.com/cgi-bin/awb_nav.pl?s=wpd&c=dsp&k=olig...


Actually the price of a good is almost always the cost to manufacture and sell. If it were not, someone else would manufacture and sell it at cost. Bear in mind that the profit inherent in captialism corresponds to the cost of the capital required to run the manufacturing and sales process.

Of course, goods fall on a commodity range. Some things are entirely fungible, others less so. The less fungible a good is, the more the cost can move away from the cost to produce.

Books sound like they aren't fungible - after all one title isn't an exact replacement for another. But, they are quite fungible in the sense that one murder mystery can in some sense substitute for another.

Very few things are not fungible at all.


I agree with all of this, but I'd add:

5. Visibility

A physical library can be browsed, including by a visitor, and serve a useful social purpose.

I often find it interesting to see what books someone has on their shelves, and it can lead to interesting discussions. I can't recall a time when I've discussed the contents of a Kindle library with someone.


If you so desire, Kindle has GoodReads integration. I don't personally bother, but when I talk books with people online they'll occasionally link me their list :)


To the price thing:

The fact that you have to store print books is a factor in why they can be cheaper. It costs money to maintain inventory - both the physical costs associated with warehousing those books, and the opportunity costs associated with devoting space to them instead of other books you might sell more profitably.

That creates an incentive to cut costs on books that aren't moving quickly, in order to get them out of your warehouse. No such incentive exists for ebooks, so the incentive to keep on charging the sticker price in order to keep yourself out of a JC Penny's situation becomes relatively stronger.

Not to say that this isn't a valid reason to like print books. Just wanted to point out there can be legitimate economic reasons for this sort of situation.


Piracy is a good option for popular titles and for more smaller titles usually you can get an epub version outside of the amazon store so buying is still a good option.


A good option, but unfortunately technical, is to buy ebooks and strip the DRM so that you can keep them outside of the store's ecosystem, back them up, read them in your choice of reader, etc. This is also useful for library ebooks.


I once looked into cracking the DRM on Amazon ebooks (that I had bought legitimately). It worked, but was a PITA.


No idea what you tried but I use the deDRM plugin in Calibre and it is very easy. If gen lib doesn't have the mobi, epub, or pdf I just buy it on amazon, and strip the drm so i can send it directly to my friends.


It was using Calibre. I may have different ideas about what is a PITA to you though. Whatever, the effort involved, + my other points didn't move the needle far enough for me to choose books.


Correct your first sentence and I agree with everything you said.

I don't buy ebooks at amazon.

I have hundreds of books in my collection. You will never catch me buying a book with drm on it. Get drm-free ebooks from a store or from project Gutenberg-type places.


Publishers can request DRM-free regime. Tor does on both Amazon and iBooks as a matter of policy, there are others.


I love my Kindle but because of similar reasons I am usually reluctant to buy any book on it. In my mind, whenever I buy a book for Kindle I assume it is long term rental and one day it would go away.

The things I like about Kindle are:

1. Reading at night. This is number one reason for me. With Popsocket on back, I can hold Kindle for hours in bed. Without Popsocket, it is awkward to hold while laying down.

2. Waterproof. You can read paper books in hot tub or pool too, so this is not that important.

3. Personal Documents. You can send pretty much any text/blog post to your Kindle via browser plugin. A lot of reading I do at night is blog posts.

4. Text to Speech. When I really want to be lazy, this is great then.

A few years ago when my Kindle Keyboard died, I tried going back to paper books 100% but I didn't read as much as I was reading on Kindle. So I am back on Kindle with the assumption that I will lose all my books sooner or later.


While I love the convenience, especially while travelling, I'd add 5. Fraudulent publishers; you can't easily see how 'thick' the book is. Some 'novels' turn out to be 70 page short stories.


I pirate ebooks for this reason.

If I like the book or the book has valuable illustration done in color I will purchase the physical copy, otherwise backing up my calibre library according to 3-2-1 is easy peasy.


No, you pirate because you're selfish and self-entitled.


The same thing can be said about the publishers who add DRM.

They dont want to loose money? I don't want to loose my book!


Thank you so much for the analysis, I will file it accordingly.

I must be very self entitled for downloading a digital representation of a book which I have paid for.


I have a large collection of technical books on my ipad. I can choose to read any one of them at any time in any place. I just need my ipad. This is both fun and educational. You appear to have completely missed the point of ebooks.


What app do you use for this?


> You appear to have completely missed the point of ebooks.

And that point is?


That they have a much higher density of information per kilogram than paper books.


That's not "the point" of ebooks, it's just one attribute they have.

I'm well aware that you can fit lots of ebooks in one device, but so far I've not been particularly limited by the information density of regular books.


No, ok, fair enough, but it’s pretty easy to imagine scenarios where the information density makes a difference. Any working trip away from your home/office bookshelves, for example.


I do both, but for cost - often there are specials. www.informit.com often has 2 for 1s or 50% off on black friday etc where I have loaded up. I still prefer books, but have run out of space at home.


To me, ebooks are an alternative to amassing huge quantities of paperback sci fi novels that I'll likely never read again. I also get to read them on my phone which often means the difference between me reading them at all or not. For any book I'll likely want to refer to again, art book, graphic novel, etc. then print is far better for the reasons you say. The general question I ask is, "Would I buy this in hardcover?" If the answer is no, then I'll get the ebook.


Do ebooks cost a similar amount to print books? If you limit what you're buying to recent bestsellers and the like, sure. But many ebook sellers, including Amazon, routinely have massive sales. I've bought ebooks for $2 or $3 apiece. I don't see similar discounting for physical books unless they're secondhand and well-worn--and usually even in that case the price doesn't go so low.

I use ebooks for books I think it's less likely that I'll reread, when I can get a bargain.


It depends on the book. A few months ago I bought "Kitcen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain). Back then ISTR the ebook was similarly priced. Now it's way cheaper.

I can go on Amazon and find ebooks that are cheaper, the same price, and more expensive than the print versions.


A few days ago there was a discussion in another thread about whether there were any practical uses for blockchain and someone mentioned eBooks & other digital content. An author/creator could upload the content and then the "right" to access it could be bought, sold, rented, gifted, loaned, etc.

I don't know enough about blockchain to know whether that's actually feasible but it was the first proposed use I've come across that seemed like it might actually have potential.


I use ebooks and physical books, but I am regretful of some physical books mainly because:

1) They take a lot of space. I have bookshelf's full of them.

2) They can get damaged by humidity and mold.

3) I am prospecting travelling/moving/migrating, and I will likely sell/donate my books in this case.

That being said I want to support the authors I read, and wish I could buy the digital book directly from the author (100% of the money goes to him/her), and get an electronic copy.


All of this is why my primary use case for ebooks is actually borrowing them from the library. It's super convenient because I don't have to worry about returning it on time -- it'll just disappear from the my device! But if I'm going to buy a book I almost always want a physical copy. (I've bought digital of a few of my favs that I often re-read on vacation but I do own physical copies of them too)


I have only really been buying books from Manning lately. When I do, I end up getting the physical copy + eBook combo. It costs a little more than if I were to just buy one of those items individually but what I have found is that I can offset the cost by selling the physical book if I don't like it or don't have a need for it anymore. The ability to do that helps offset the cost of both.


I like having a physical book, but the ebook is nice sometimes. I typically only buy the bundle now. Physical book + non DRM ebook. The last few times have been the same price. The ebook is more convenient sometimes.

If they don't include the ebook in a suitable format I'll just pirate it.


On the other hand, with e-books, I can put 5000 of them in my pocket and carry them around with me.


Seems like most of the downsides you list are solved by DRM-free ebooks


I didn't start buying ebooks from Amazon/Kindle until I realized it was relatively easy to break its DRM. I've never used the files anywhere else but I keep a cracked copy of every purchase just in case. That old story about "1984" being removed gave me too much of a negative impression.


So they still get your money and you deal with the inconvenience?

Try buying from https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebooks where possible (DRM-free).


There's actually quite a few eBook stores out there with DRM-free options, you just have to know where to look, and they're usually publisher-specific.

Humble Bundle does a weekly Book Bundle. Wiley, O'Reilly, No Starch, and several other publishers all regularly participate with tech books, geek books, comic books, and manga.

No Starch itself deserves a separate mention just because they're awesome. On their own site, if you buy the print book, the eBook comes free, a nice courtesy you won't pick up buying on Amazon. And of course, all of their stuff is DRM-free.

Informit, which is Pearson's programming and IT book site, sells watermarked, but otherwise DRM-free content (if you really care, watermark stripping likely isn't that hard, but as long as they're not trying to tamper with my ability to open the file where I want to, I don't mind watermarks, I ain't a pirate). Informit includes Adobe Press, Cisco Press, Microsoft Press, VMware Press, Sams, etc. I've gotten a lot of textbooks from here.

Manning Publications sells DRM-free too.

If you're a Trekkie, Simon & Schuster sells Star Trek novels DRM-free on their site as well. They have monthly sales that bring a set of them down to 99 cents a piece, which is good, since their standard prices are obscene.

Even Comixology (from Amazon, of course), has joined the DRM-free game, though only for specific publishers. Neither Marvel nor DC participate, mind you, but many of the smaller publishers do.


Wow, thanks for that list, in particular for Simon & Schuster. I am a Trekkie (that's the origin of my handle, too), and I sometimes bought Star Trek e-books on Amazon (most recently, Department of Temporal Investigations series). I'd much prefer to buy DRM-free.

> I don't mind watermarks, I ain't a pirate

That depends; pirates mind water marks on goods they liberated on the high seas, as they reveal the provenance of the merchandise. They like the marks left by water on their equipment, as a proof of prowess.

(Yes, I had to.)


Can I add Tor (publisher of SciFi, Fantasy etc) who also sell most of their eBooks DRM free.


One thing I got confused about was where they actually sell these DRM-free ebooks. (Apparently not on their website.) I went out on a limb and bought some Tor books from ebooks.com and they did turn out to be DRM-free, but there was no way to tell in advance.


Tor's Kindle books are also DRM free, although IIRC the process of exporting the DRM free files outside the Kindle app is somewhat non-intuitive.


Thanks to lawyer back and forth Amazon now has an explicit note on Tor (and Baen and a few other similar publisher titles) making it clear that the file is DRM free at publisher request. It seems like funny language in Amazon's store pages because it sounds like they are treating it like a book defect the way it is written, but the bonus is that you can look for that "warning"/"acknowledgment" when you want that best of both worlds situation where you want to get Kindle features on a book but support a DRM-free publisher over alternatives.


Didn't O'Reilly stop selling ebooks and now only sell paper books and online (Safari)?


They stopped selling ebooks directly to consumers. They still publish them, but now sales are all through third parties. You can get them in PDF or ePub format, DRM-free, from ebooks.com.


Yup. Hence why I only mention them as contributors to Humble Book Bundles. Their site only has what you mention, but Humble Bundle (and other sites like ebooks.com) still sell DRM-free O'Reilly titles outright.


Thanks for mentioning Manning; they are great, love buying from them - including their Early Access versions such as Jon Skeet's C# in Depth.


I try not to forget any once I know they are DRM-free! When music switched to DRM-free, it was pretty much just "Apple says all songs are DRM-free now, but books has been a much longer, harder fight. I think it's important we recognize, promote, and patronize DRM-free retailers and publishers.


Baen is also 100% DRM free. They're kind of a niche publisher but I've bought a few things from them.


Hadn't heard of them before! Thanks for letting me know!


Inconvenience?

It's really not that complicated. You download them from a web interface and you drag and drop them into Calibre (with a de-DRM plugin installed). Done, they're now available together with all the ebooks that you got from other sources.

Having all the purchased ebooks in one place is more convenient for me, not less. The alternative isn't a different book store, it's pirating. While I do have an appreciation for all the books I got from DRM-free places, I don't pick what I'm going to read next based on where it's available. The majority of the books I want to read are available on Amazon, and breaking their DRM is very easy. They wouldn't get my money if any of those two were untrue. I'd probably revert back to pirating.


one could argue that you not paid for that kind of usage and basically pirating in the sense that you use it without permission. It has probably even been denied explicitly to you to break the DRM too. In some countries its even illegal by default to circumvent digital protection measurements.

Just saying, you probably could directly pirate the books too. Putting your money where your rights are respected and you are given the freedom to read your books on any device you want is probably a better idea. Even if it is just to make them grow more.


There are far worse intellectual property offenders all around me, and I've never heard of a single person that ever got into trouble within my country. (Coincidentally, I've heard of dozens of cases of people from my country getting slapped with hundreds of euros of fines for pirating while being abroad, all of them in Germany).

The worst thing that could happen to me is that I could have my Amazon account terminated. Everything physical on Amazon gets slapped with an additional $60-80 of taxes (even if the item itself is $10-$20), so I really don't use Amazon for anything else but its bookstore.

Books take months or years to write, and I want to award that behavior with whichever percentage of my $10 ends up in the author's pockets. Don't get me wrong, if I see a book I want to read on Humble Bundle on Kobo, I'll click on it first. But if I don't, I'll pick Amazon over Google Play Books, this Microsoft's one, or any other DRM-enabled store. Not because Amazon is in any way better than them, but because I know I can break the DRM effortlessly and reliably, while still pitching in something to the author. If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't look for a different store — I'd still be pirating.


I respect your choice and would likely do the same now and then. However, i think it could be beneficial if publishers realize DRM free books get pirated less or even bought more often :)

I said publishers but i am not sure who wants this to be enforced in this case. Its just usually the case that its the rights holder like film studios or music labels but in this case i could see amazon wanting it for themselves too.


> Inconvenience? It's really not that complicated.

You're joking, right? DRM-stripping is inherently unreliable, by definition. It's a last resort only, and we shouldn't be expected to deal with it.


Untrue for ebooks - I doubt a week's gone by without me having done this for years, without a thought or a problem.

> we shouldn't be expected to deal with it

Agreed, and with this as for many other things perhaps one day (after the revolution) we won't. But railing against the universe won't make books available for me to read today.


> "DRM-stripping is inherently unreliable, by definition."

Which definition is that? I've owned an old model 'Kindle Keyboard' for many years. The only thing needed to strip DRM from those ebooks is to type in the serial number of my kindle into calibre. It's never not worked for me; in actual practice it's very reliable.

I must admit though, these days I typically just go to Library Genesis. Because I'm a dirty rotten thief.


By definition?

Not a heavy eBook user but I buy all movies and TV shows through iTunes because I have a (lossless) De-DRM program I can use. Works consistently every time on everything. It may stop working altogether someday, but if that happens I’ll stop buying from iTunes. Until then, the program is 100% reliable.


We're a small independent ebook retailer and we're pushing for DRM-free content with publishers. We've added a DRM-free section to the site: https://www.ebooks.com/drm-free and any search that run you can filter by DRM-free content.

We also offer DRM-free PDFs that are correctly formatted, unlike what you'd get from the Google Bookstore (they convert from ePub). This is particularly important for publishers like O'Reilly who no longer sell copies outside a subscription from their site. Some authors help us out a lot by linking to us directly: https://dataintensive.net/buy.html

It's a slow process getting publishers on board, but more are moving across to DRM-free or social DRM (watermarking) which is a step in the right direction.


"We're a small independent ebook retailer"

How does that work? Independent in a physical sense, generally translates to 1 or very few outlets. Online is only ever going to be 1 outlet. Plus none of the independent bookstore features seem amenable to translating to the internet.

So is it ownership structure? 'vibe'?


> "We're a small independent ebook retailer"

> How does that work?

Small: They're not operating at Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Amazon, or any other major book retailer level. Measuring by revenue seems reasonable in this sense. Pick arbitrary numbers to define small/medium/large.

Independent: They're not affiliated with any one single publisher.


Yes, I possess a dictionary too :P

Independent suggests more than just being independent, and very little of that seems to be compatible with being an internet company (local, passionate knowledgeable owner, community hub).


I think I may have been wrong regarding independent. Given the context of the thread, it sounds more like platform-independent, rather than publisher-independent. The previous comments are about platform-specific stores.


Do you think I'm reading too much into the word then?

If some one told me about a small independent record store, or small independent coffee shop, I would have certain expectations.

Platform independent seems reasonable given the context though.


I don't understand the question. All online shops have one outlet. That doesn't mean the distinction between small and large doesn't exist anymore.


I was picking up on the independent aspect, not the size aspect, although independent bookshops don't tend to be national chains.

Independent in this context includes many different things, most of which I'm not sure are particularly relevant to an online business.

You don't get a knowledgeable enthusiastic shop owner to talk to, it isn't a gathering space, it doesn't keep money in the local community.

So I'm asking what independent actually means in an online context.


Kobo is not always DRM Free. I see plenty of mention about Adobe DRM on a lot titles, especially those published by big five.


Thanks for the tip, will consider it next time. I guess I was non-mainstream enough to look into breaking DRM, but not non-mainstream enough to consider less popular sources.


>Try buying from https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebooks where possible (DRM-free).

I have a Kobo. Every book I've bought from there has DRM.


The books I've bought through Kobo are DRM-encumbered. They work on my PocketBook, but only after I set up some Adobe DRM thingamabob. Not sure whether it's easy to break.


Good point. I actually looked for some "No DRM" marketing on the website before I linked it and didn't find it, so I wondered if I was even correct that it was one of their objectives. I've only noticed that the books I've bought from them had no DRM and that's apparently unreliable. Too bad.

Thankfully, better options have been linked in the thread.


It's often not possible, particularly with niche books from small publishers. Many of my sailing books, for example, were available from Amazon only. A DRM copy is always my last choice, but I'll get one and strip DRM if necessary.


Kindle is actually very convenient. I wouldn't mind buying elsewhere but the reason I usually buy on Amazon is convenience.


So they get the money and you deal with the inconvenience of getting the files onto your ebook reader...?


The Japanese eBook store BOOKWALKER, owned by publishing giant Kadokawa, is by far the most draconian I've seen in recent years when it comes to eBook DRM: https://bookwalker.jp

Some examples of the lengths they go to:

- They used to have a desktop app that allowed reading offline. Not anymore. They're phasing it out in favor of their web reader which has no offline reading functionality. Presumably because people were cracking the DRM there.

- Their Android app detects root/custom roms and disables itself and starts spamming you with a new browser tab every few seconds, even if you don't try to open it at all (I have no idea why this is even possible on Android). It doesn't just use Android's built-in SafetyNet APIs either, it uses some custom methods that somehow managed to bypass Magisk's root hiding feature until version 18, when I discovered that it finally started working. But soon after that I found my account mysteriously locked, and upon contacting support it sounds like they were able to find out I was running under root somehow, and reinstated my account with the caveat that the next time they catch me my account will be disabled for good. That was the last straw for me, and I vowed never to do business with them again.

With that said, I do hope someone who's more well versed in the dark arts of reverse engineering than I am could take a crack at breaking the DRM in their Android app or Desktop app (they still post a really old version on their site, not sure if it's still usable) dump their entire library on a torrent somewhere and show them the futility of their ways. I honestly think their DRM only survived for so long due to sheer obscurity because they have a such a limited audience and not enough smart people are interested in fucking with them. I'd love to have some means to liberate the library of books I've already regretfully purchased on there (they lured me in with their frequent sales and rewards program).

They have an English site too if language barrier is an issue: https://global.bookwalker.jp/


By the way, if anyone's interested in buying Japanese eBooks, my current go-to store is Kobo (owned by Rakuten): https://books.rakuten.co.jp/e-book/

The biggest differentiator for them is they don't compress their images to oblivion like Amazon and Google Play does, which is really nice for light novels and manga where image quality makes a huge difference. Being Kobo, they also happen to be the only eBook store other than Amazon to offer their own line of eBook reader devices, most of which can be hacked to use a bigger sdcard for more storage (they literally use an sdcard for internal storage instead of emmc).

Of course, their DRM is easily crackable, but I would love to hear recommendations for DRM free Japanese eBook stores if anyone is aware of any.


I was happily surprised to find at least some of the manga (my Japanese is not good enough for light novels just yet) series that I read (or have read) on Kobo. My previous impression was that every publisher was pushing their own application and/or online store with DRM from hell. Unfortunately they seem to price digital editions the same as new physical copies (about JPY 600, which is ~USD 5.50), even for volumes that are well over a decade old. Thus I will probably stick to my current strategy of browsing the Book Off JPY 100 (plus JPY 8 tax) section and carry on reading physical copies as I rarely read the latest stuff anyway – still, wonderful to know that one has an option when you are out of the country. Lastly, bonus points to Kobo in that they appear to run campaigns with a free selection of manga volumes at the moment to get you hooked on a number of series.


Literally the only thing I miss from Bookwalker is their sales. They frequently have sales of 50% off + 30%+ cashback (mostly on Kadokawa published books, but sometimes from other publishers as well), which fueled a lot of my past impulse purchases that I've now come to regret.

The best I've seen so far on Kobo has been a 30% off coupon that requires a 10k yen minimum purchase. If you're price sensitive then used physical books is probably still the way to go. I couldn't recommend Bookwalker in good faith to anyone until their DRM becomes trivial to break, because if they pull what Microsoft pulled here all of your purchased eBooks would disappear without any possibility for recourse.


Ideology aside, my main practical reason for breaking DRM is that I want to read all my books in a single reader of my own choice. With hundreds of books, I'm certainly not willing to try and remember whether I bought each one from Amazon or wherever else. I wouldn't shelve physical books by purchase origin so I'm damned if I'm going to do it with ebooks.


I also prefer Amazon over other ebook stores simply because I know I can break the DRM effortlessly and reliably.

I am well-aware that it's a bad thing to do from a legal perspective (and especially encouraging others to do the same), but legal =/= moral. I'm paying a full price for them and treating them as my property. That includes being able to read them on any screen I want with whichever reader I want, even if I do end up mostly reading on a (physical) Kindle.


I do the same, break drm on every ebook I buy from amazon. I think little of it—I pay a premium for their ebooks and I buy a fair amount of them.


I do the same. For a few of my books, the publisher imposed a max number of devices. Around 3 or 4 devices. That limitation especially pissed me off. Whenever I get a new phone or tablet, I make sure I always copy over the de-drmed ebook which previously had the device limit. Kind of a pointless gesture, since I'll probably never re-read those specific ebooks, and the publisher will never know I'm spitting in their eye. But it's a good feeling.


I do the same with Audible. As far as I can tell, there's no way to remove the DRM that is both easy and free, so against my better judgement, I paid $30 for a program to do it for me[0]. I now have every audiobook I've bought in mp3 format, split by chapter and tagged with the correct metadata. Now I can dump them on a USB drive and plug it into my car stereo for road trips (I don't mind listening to good books more than once).

[0] It's called Tuneskit Audible Converter, and I'm surprised they haven't been sued by Amazon yet.


There's a RainbowCrack plugin which allows you to extract your activation_bytes which is both fast and free. Once you're extracted your activation_bytes, it can be saved and re-used to remove the DRM from all your audiobooks.

Then you can use ffmpeg to convert the .aax file:

    ffmpeg -activation_bytes $activation_bytes -i $audiobook_file -c:a copy -c:v copy $output_file
I'd suggest converting to m4b, which you can achieve by replacing the aax extension with m4b as part of the output_file. This preserves all chapters, metadata, and even the cover art. The m4b format also has a neat feature which lets you bookmark your last position in the same file.


Ah well, I bought the program years ago, and it is pretty convenient—just drag and drop. So I expect I'll continue using it. It has the option to use m4b files too, so maybe I'll try that.

I searched for days before I bought it though, and never came across the ffmpeg method. All sorts of hacks involving virtual CDs and whatnot, but nothing that scaled.


Keep your $30. Or... Pay me $30 :)

ffmpeg -activation_bytes 1CEB00DA -i test.aax -vn -c:a copy output.mp4


Does this leave enough meta data for other book readers? You can listen to them in a generic audio player but I like having something that understand the chapter breaks.


You have to copy the video as well if you want to keep all the metadata, chapters, and cover art. I'd suggest converting to m4b rather than mp4. I gave an example in my other comment in this thread.


Does this really work?


Yes, it does. You'll have to use the correct activation bytes to decrypt, but those can be retrieved by signing into the audible account.


How do I read those out when logged in?



Probably easier to just plug my phone into the aux input and record with audacity.


Not really. The hardest part is getting the activation bytes and even that is actually quite simple and you only have to do it once. For the actual converting I have a bash script that can convert all the aax files in a directory and convert them to a m4b format with all the metada intact. Using your approach you would have to manually set the chapters and the cover art. I have thousands of hours worth of audiobooks but even if you only have a single 10 hour book I think this approach is still the easier of the 2.


Since breaking DRM is itself illegal, why not just torrent the content?


Because they're not both illegal under all jurisdictions. IANAL but breaking DRM for personal use is legal in the US.


Check out OpenAudible.


I also removed the DRM on my first Kindle books, found it way harder with the last book I bought (and gave up)


Same here, it seems that amazon has improved its protection and changed its ebook format to harden it against DRM removal.


Easy enough to bypass by staying with an older version of the Kindle client. This downloads books in a format that Calibre (amongst others) can strip DRM from. There are instructions on the Calibre help site somewhere.


They changed the format of the files they send to your kindle or to a kindle app/software, but it is still possible to manually download the old format from the list of your books on the Amazon website.


Yes I do the same. Just drag and drop into Calibre (with the right plugin) and you're done.


That's why I love the way we get ebooks in Poland. When we buy an ebook, we usually get a pack of files (epub/pdf/mobi), without any DRM, but with watermarks, some visible, some hidden. Same for audiobooks. There's no DRM, there's some piracy, as always, but the system works and it works pretty damn well. I wish american ebook and audiobook stores were like this.


Importantly, a digital watermark can also be used to track which citizens are reading subversive literature. I'll admit, the modern internet has so much tracking that this point is a bit moot. But, why add one more bit of tracking?


How does it track that unless you upload the file somewhere public?


This is how Pragmatic Programmer distributes their ebooks. I think it's a really good compromise, personally.


I get my books from Google play books and it does allow downloading as epub. I'm not sure if it includes any kind of drm in it though. I always assumed all of them allowed downloading

# Edit: apparently you need something called Adobe digital Editions to read that epub later. So there is some kind of drm.


Apprentice Alf will take care of that.


Google Play Books may or may not have ADE DRM; it varies from title to title.


Google's ebook store tells you below the description if a book has DRM.


Chosen by the publisher AFAIK.


I think the reason why no-DRM approach took off in Poland is because Amazon has been slow to enter the market. None of the competitors were large enough to develop and maintain a DRM ecosystem (with reading apps, readers etc). I'm sure they would have liked to (corporate brainlessness knows no limits), but they were not able to pull it off.

The result is indeed great: E-books are reasonably priced, they get auto-delivered (as "docs") to your Kindle if you wish, or you can get an ePub version if you prefer. You really do own them: the publisher might disappear, but if you keep your files, you keep the books.

I don't think piracy is a factor. It's way too easy to buy the real thing at this point.


also some publishers let you upload your books directly to Dropbox.


Why should your ebook files be watermarked? Your printed books aren't. Watermarks are ugly.


Because it's trivial to turn one ebook into a billion pirated copies, not so much with a physical book. It's a huge difference in logistics.


It's trivial even with a watermark and all other forms of DRM. As demonstrated by the article, DRM only punishes paying customers that don't understand what they're paying for.


DRM always restricts the paying customer. With DVDs they got the unskippable piracy warnings, while people who downloaded the ripped version wouldn't see it ...

The hope publishers have is that it slows distribution a bit and they use it as attempt to manipulate people to allow stronger punishment of infringers.


It's actually not that easy for most books, because most books aren't popular enough to sustain a torrent. A PDF of a book is usually tens or hundreds of megabytes, which is too big to get through most mail servers. Mass-sharing an ebook takes just enough work that it won't happen for anything that's not a best-seller.


Mass sharing a scanned book, particularly one that was not OCRed, indeed usually takes too much work. EBooks, or rather most of them, are tiny epub files with little to no images, 5mb maximum. There are sources distributing ebooks at scale, libgen.io is a prime example, the ebooks channel on IRC highway and myanonamouse, a private ebook and audiobook torrent tracker that some people apparently use also exist. There are rumours of private collections spanning millions of titles that fit on a single, albeit large, hard drive.


Gotcha -- an epub/mobi of a novel is tiny and easy to host. I was thinking of more design-heavy books with figures and images, which tend to be much larger.


Still, if people torrent audiobooks (and they do), then eBooks, even with figures, can't be that bad. I've seen hosted collections of audiobooks ranging in the gigabytes and they were not best sellers. No reason why you couldn't do that for ebooks.


Thanks for the warning. I've published a ~100MB niche ebook, and thought of publishing another. Now I need to reconsider.


What are you talking about? Ebooks are tiny. It's just text.


I'm fine with watermarks. The only downside to them is that they are traceable to the original buyer if someone else gets their hands on your and decides to distribute it online, so lending them to a friend is risky.

But the watermarks really only matter when they get illegally copied around, and don't hurt the owner in the way more restrictive forms of DRM do.


Risky how? Is there some punishment for not perfectly securing bytes? That would be insane because companies aren't punished for sharing your stuff by accident or even selling it on purpose.


Maybe they should be.


in the blind community I'm a part of, there are a lot of ebooks floating as plaintext files, with watermarks either stripped or replaced by something like "there was a watermark here, but it has been stripped. Keep trying".


There will always be hacking. When you sell ebooks without drm and with just reasonable watermarking, you remove all the incentive for ethical hacking. This remains only the unethical hacking (the thieves).


Well, that “downside” is the entire point. Czech publishers call this “social DRM”, which conveys the point well: if the book says it was printed for me, visibly, I won’t be inclined to distribute it illegally. It isn’t about enforcement (see sibling comment). And yes, you can strip visible watermarks, but this still discourages casual pirates well.


Because you can't trivially make identical - down to cuts, paper type, print fidelity - copies of a physical book. But you can trivially make identical copies of a digital one.

Watermarks are an attempt at reproducing rules of physical space in digital space.


By making the owned copy ugly and harder to read yet still trivially copyable? Something does not compute here.


These watermarks only appear a few times in places like beside the page number. You'll have to provide a darn good explanation to convince me it makes the book harder to read.

And yes, it's still trivially copyable, but that makes it better in any way than DRM: it can be traced back to the original owner but doesn't make it unnecessarily hard to read it on multiple devices.


Might be the next revenge vector. Share an ebook with faked watermarks.


Traced back for what purpose? What's the punishment? Any answer, other than "none", would be insane.


If your watermarked version appears online it is an indication that you might have uploaded (or not properly protected) it. This might not be enough to prove this in a court, but enough for the publisher's lawyers to annoy you.

But hardly any uploader would keep watermarks in, which makes them more of a way for faithful users to not give the book I.e. to friends since there is a visible reminder about being your personal copy.


An uploader can easily edit the watermark out of the book, if he is so inclined, and he probably is. It only annoys those who were not bent on uploading it in the first place.

Also, I specifically would not abide to any kind of law saying I cannot give a book I bought to a friend.


Many readers can't (they could learn it though) enough however indeed can.

That's why, from publisher's view, the second point is so important: Remind readers all the time that "it" (without going into details) is illegal so they continue buying.


Its still a legal environment where it is illegal to share or transfer ownership of books


It's not that kind of watermark. Rather, usually at the beginning, there'll be some text saying who bought the book, along with some kind of identifier. The id can also be hidden inside the file.


The books I've investigated had a text saying "This copy belongs to: %s" where %s was an email address at the beginning, and an invisible hex string at the end of every chapter. The string had a width and height of 1px, so most conventional readers didn't show it at all.


> Something does not compute here.

That's right. They are trivially copyable, but the copies are easily traceable. Compute now?


Unless you quite easily remove the watermark.


These aren't visual watermarks like what you'd get on physical paper. They just alter the digital copy so that it can be traced back to the buyer, and people are deterred from sharing it on the web. It's a very elegant solution if the 'watermark' can be made hard enough to remove, and I can see quite a few workable approaches.


> These aren't visual watermarks like what you'd get on physical paper.

Except they often are visual. "Owned by X" and such.


> Why should your ebook files be watermarked?

Because digital things can be copied for free without loss of fidelity.

> Your printed books aren't. Watermarks are ugly.

A digital watermark can be invisible.


Do you mean even books from Kindle store are without DRM?


There is no Kindle in Poland. In fact, there is no Amazon in Poland either(which is almost ironic considering that there are a couple huge Amazon warehouses in Poland - they serve customers of Amazon.de, as they are both very close to the German border - I suspect the labour costs are lower in Poland hence it makes more sense to have the warehouses there. Incidentally, going to Amazon.pl redirects you to Amazon.de instead).

However, in the absence of Amazon, domestic services have sprouted instead - there's a few very big ebook stores, an excellent Audible replacement(with huge superproductions involving famous Polish actors voicing the lines being made regularly), instead of Amazon and Ebay we have Allegro(which in my personal opinion has leapfrogged ebay by about a century worth of development, it's just a much nicer experience). Ebay tried entering the Polish market a few times with huge marketing campaigns and lots of deals, but Allegro's dominance is just so untouchable that I think they have just given up now. I suspect Amazon doesn't even try for the same reason - it's not even localized to Polish(although Polish customers can still order items from any Amazon site, they get delivered to Poland without any issues and for free if you have Prime).


Without amazon many smaller publishers would fill the market.


I believe he means polish e-bookstores. They're way more popular than Kindle store because they offer books in polish language. IIRC some of the stores started offering DRM-free books, others followed and generally it became kind of a standard in Poland.


Evolved the same way in neighboring Czechia.


What do you use for DRM-free audiobooks in Poland?


audioteka.pl. They offer mp3s. They're apparently pretty weirdly encoded sometimes, but there's no real DRM. Of course, if you want to, you can use their own mobile apps which don't let you extract the content and provide gimmicks like remembering your last position. There are also some smartphone-only deals, but you can usually get the book in mp3 for a higher price.


The Right to Read becomes more relevant every year... https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.en.html


> But with the 5G boom about to hit, experts will tell you we’re set to see a massive increase in connected devices and appliances, many of which we’ll probably only be able to licence, rather than own.

Why is this more likely with 5G than 4G? What appliances are not suitable for IOT right now, but will be with 5G? Would most of my appliances be in my home, where I have wifi?


This is the usual marketing nonsense. But unless mobile carriers start offering very cheap plans for IOT devices (which is in itself unlikely), I don't see this happening any time soon. WiFi is pretty much here to stay, and is much more reliable indoors than 4/5/6/7/..G


>But unless mobile carriers start offering very cheap plans for IOT devices (which is in itself unlikely)

Like this?

https://hologram.io/pricing/

https://www.particle.io/pricing/#cellular-data


Maybe manufacturers will pay a flat fee to carriers for all their devices in a country. Then when the manufacturer stops paying / doesn't pay enough / shuts down those devices become useless.


> But unless mobile carriers start offering very cheap plans for IOT devices (which is in itself unlikely)

I would have thought there was something equivalent of the electricity duck curve for *G and they've got plenty of bandwidth to sell at certain times of day.


For me it's not a matter of bandwidth, just the cost of the number of SIMs needed. I have hundreds of devices in the field, many in locations with no wifi or wired internet available. They all have sim slots, but the cost (in Belgium) makes it an impossible venture.


With 5G it will be faster and cheaper for IoT companies to unobtrusively collect surveillance data about you, they'll be giving them away.


If this is true, someone here will hopefully make an inward-facing firewall for home networks.


Now, now there is an idea!


5G is subject to more overhype than No Man's Sky. You'll be able to blow through the data cap on your "unlimited" plan in ten minutes instead of forty-five.


This is the second time I've lost eBooks to Microsoft. The first time was some time in the late 90s, when I used to read books on the bus on my Compaq iPAQ PocketPC PDA, using an app which I think was called Microsoft Reader? The books were of course DRM'd.

Eventually the app disappeared and those files are now useless.


Yeah, I bought a few LIT format eBooks off of Amazon back in the day (predating Kindle, I believe). I think I might still have them somewhere with the DRM broken, but obviously, newer formats are nicer.


Check out this list of DRM-free bookstores, maintained by Libreture [1].

I usully buy my DRM-free ebooks from Weightless Books [2], and also subscribe to "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction" and "Interzone" from that site.

[1] https://www.libreture.com/bookshops/

[2] https://weightlessbooks.com/


Thanks!


I pay for my content but I also pirate copies of everything I like. Every DVD, ebook, audible audiobook, favored Netflix series, and graphic novel has a version in my personal archive. Hell, I even keep offline copies of my favorite YouTube videos and site mirrors of my favorite webcomics. Go down the list of your "liked" YouTube videos and take note of how many of them are now lost to you, through account terminations or being marked private. If you don't take control of the things that're important to you, you leave the door open for someone to take them away.


I didn't even know Microsoft had an eBook store. Somebody in marketing needs to get laid off.


and replaced by many more people in order to have the resources to market their next product


Well, that's one argument for piracy. Or at least avoiding anything that you can't have DRM-free.

(I still like my Steam library, but the games I really care about are bought on GOG/HIB when possible.)


Note that some games on Steam are DRM free, you can download the game via Steam and then make a zip with the files for your own safekeeping.

Sadly it isn't obvious (nor mentioned anywhere, except some very incomplete lists in various wikis) which games are DRM free and which are not and the only way to figure out is to buy the game and try to run it outside of Steam (with Steam itself not running and its folder temporarily renamed to something else). In general if a game doesn't have steam_api.dll, it should be DRM-free but if it does then it is a crapshoot if the Steam integration is necessary or the game can function without it (e.g. Dementium II HD, a game i just tried yesterday, does have the DLL but it can work without it). Also some functionality that in theory could be available without Steam (such as multiplayer) will not work.


Sorry for the question, but what does HIB means?


I assume "humble indie bundle".


aren't those still mainly activated on steam?


Some yes, others no. Sadly HIB has a lot of games that are available DRM-free outside of Steam, but they only provide Steam keys.


Every game in a Humble _Indie_ Bundle has always been available DRM free. Titles in their "Humble Trove" (a monthly subscriber perk) are also DRM free. Other bundles Humble Bundle sells are often Steam only.


I find it slightly sad that Humble Bundle watered down their brand by allowing Steam-only sales in the (Not So) Humble Store, then further by increasingly having Steam-only bundles.


Well, I couldn't download half of the albums I bought 5-6 years ago in iTunes because they're no longer available in my country and there is no way to re-download them. An this store is far from being closed...


Same here. Every amazon book I've read has been on my kindle, after I've unnecessarily stripped the DRM. Just so I know that the process of removing the DRM was successful.

The instant I no longer can is the same day I'll stop buying DRMed books.


I like ebooks.

I like being able to resize fonts, I like looking up words immediately, I like carrying around dozens on a phone and/or kindle.

I like the sales. I follow reddit's fantasy and printsf subreddits, and there isn't a week that goes by without a book on sale for $1.99. Pricing could be more advantageous (lower for ebooks) but at the same time, I just bought a few of Greg Egan's books to fill out my collection (Diaspora and Quarantine) and they are right now on the US Store at least, $2.99 ebook versus $12.99 paperback. And, the ebook versions are loanable.

Yeah I could use my library more, and I use it plenty, but it turns out I LIKE AND WANT TO funnel cash towards authors I enjoy. That's how they make their living.

Physical books still offer better random access to content (flipping around from chapter to chapter) but ebooks won me over for technical books as well - simply because I can have them in multiple places (home, work, travel) without lugging them around. Yes I have a physical copies of certain key books but the convenience of having them all over wins out, for me.


This article is pretty ironic given this is exactly what the BBC did when they shut down BBC Store.


Support your local library!

Many libraries have tons of Ebooks to lend out. It's more convenient than going to the library (since it's all online), but otherwise the same deal. Check out, read it, and return it.

(1 crappy thing is that the library can only lend each copy a set number of times before it is 'destroyed', but I guess that's intended to match how physical books would fall apart. It's not ideal, but still - SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY!!)


Won't the books remain on the reader device, even if the store closes?

The discussion is also old. I realized that I end up lending only a small fraction of books to other people, and my kids will probably not care about most of my books. Storage of paper books also costs money, so rebuying the few books I want to pass on or reread may be cheaper than buying and keeping physical copies of books. So I chose ebooks.


I assume books are encrypted on the ebook reader and the reader operates by going to Microsoft each time someone tries to open a book and getting an encryption key show the book unencrypted.


That's not how it usually works, does it with Microsoft? It would be very limiting and annoying to be unable to read books without internet access (say on the beach on holidays, for example). Certainly not the case on Kindle.

There were cases were people's Amazon accounts were cancelled, so they couldn't buy new books from Amazon. The books they already bought remained on their kindles, though.

There were also cases of Amazon deleting books from kindles, when the books became illegal.

Any reason to assume Microsoft operated in a very different way?


Presumably the tech is different, but Zune DRM for music bought before 2012 would've stopped working in 2017. The service itself closed down in 2015. So maybe they have a model where the license is valid for e.g. 5 years, and at that point in time the devices would've been clever enough to download new licenses.

Has anyone made "ZuneBook" puns yet?

Edit: hah Zunebook was an MS tablet that was supposed to compete with Amazon Kindle tablets...


Even borrowed Kindle Unlimited books can be read for a while if you don't connect your device to internet.


I seriously worry about this with Kindle books I get on Amazon. I hope Amazon never goes away, though I guess it could at any time.


Like another commenter has said, the DRM on Kindle e-books is pretty easy to break. https://apprenticealf.wordpress.com


Isn't it technically a crime though? That's the kicker: the legislative backing to the schemes. Its a matter of time until this GS are so locked down that circumvention becomes impractical, even if its several years in the future. The 'it doesn't work' argument is temporary unless there is enough pushback (as happened with music, thankfully)


DRM is technically a crime, too. It's infringing upon First Sale Doctrine. You, as someone buying media, actually have rights to what you purchase. The general public has just accepted the industry trampling on those rights and lobbying for laws that conflict with them.


If my understanding is correct, the Doctrine of First Sale only applies if you buy a physical asset, like a CD or an actual book.


Is DeCSS not illegal under the DMCA? Those DRM'd DVDs were no less physical than DRM-less audio CDs.


> DRM is technically a crime, too. It's infringing upon First Sale Doctrine.

First sale doctrine says that you aren't violating copyright by selling any lawfully made particular copy that you own. I don't see anything in it that says the publisher can't use means other than copyright to try and stop you from doing that.


You're not buying a book on Amazon, you're buying a personal license to use a book.


I would argue you're not, because when you buy a book you can choose between hardcopy and kindle - and there's nothing visibly telling you that with one option you get to own the book, with the other you're merely licensing.


Isn't it protecting their reproduction rights?


This lockdown is what organisations like EFF are trying to fight. Once I have paid for a product, I am its owner. I should be legally allowed to use it, disassemble it, or repair it in any manner I choose to.

My main concern is that my book collection in all probability will outlast Amazon as a company. When they go away, should my books be unreadable? Will I get a refund when Amazon goes bankrupt?

DRM violates the transactional nature of business by tying the product eternally to the seller to be usable at all.


>(as happened with music, thankfully)

The main reason it didn't happen with (sold) music was that audio cds were already unencumbered. So it made even less sense than usual to tack on additional DRM. And finally, the most popular form of consuming music now is streaming, which does have DRM generally.


It did happen with sold music. Most downloadable music sold in the early to mid 2000s had DRM. It wasn't until Steve Jobs wrote an open letter in early 2007 calling for the music industry to drop this did it start to change widely [1].

One label, EMI, then agreed to go DRM-free on iTunes. Another, Warner, said that Jobs was an idiot and they would never go DRM free. Within a year or so most labels came to agree with Jobs, and when Amazon Music launched in early 2008 it was DRM-free, including music from Warner.

It took something like another year for iTunes to go fully DRM-free, because Warner was holding out there.

[1] http://macdailynews.com/2007/02/06/apple_ceo_steve_jobs_post...


I'm aware of that, but the crucial bit is that CDs existed (and still do for the most part) as it is pointed out in the letter. So even if it weren't for apple, sooner or later things would have taken a similar turn. And that's also why this didn't extend to any other form of media.


> Isn't it technically a crime though?

Ten years ago, so was smoking dope.


Install Calibre and DeDRM, download everything to Kindle for PC and add to calibre, which will break the DRM and ensure you have a copy regardless of what happens with Amazon.

I've personally had an Amazon account blocked along with access to all my Kindle books, which sucks. Now I download every book as soon as I purchase it and add to calibre.


Then take the next logical step.

Quit paying them for the abusive media. Pirate. You have to break the law anyways even if you pay legit.


Books are often harder to pirate, especially less popular ones. It's rare to find a movie or TV show that's not available, it's common to find ebooks that aren't.


This is not specific to amazon, but I'm kind of OK with vendors who use mild easily-broken drm if it helps them (and the creators) stay in business. i.e., If they want to use it as a casual deterrent, fine by me. I'm not a casual user. So it doesn't affect me.


I always also get a pirated version of whatever Kindle book I buy to put in my personal electronic library. It's only fair to pay the author, publisher and distributor their price for it, but I also want to be able to re-read that book decades from now. I'm confident that I'll still be able to read a txt or epub file in 2050, but there's no particular reason to think that I would still be able to access my Kindle eBooks then.


After PlaysForSure and Zune this is the third time MS shafts buyers of DRM'd content.


I was just thinking that it was supremely ironic that the creators of the PlaysForSure brand are serial deprecators of DRM systems.


Mhmm, there should be a DRM-graveyard page...


I like to write using the Leanpub.com platform because book purchasers get PDF/Kindle/ePub formats. I also like to use other publishers who provide DRM free files, I don’t mind watermarks. (I also sell using a Creative Commons share for no commercial gain license so people who buy my books can give away copies to their friends.)

That said, Kindle books are very convenient and I like the ability to hilite text and add notes.

In any case, as long as Microsoft refunds their eBooks purchase price to customers, I don’t see their decision to get out of the business as a bad thing. Actually it seems like a classy move on their part making refunds.


For anyone in Sweden there is a nice e-bookstore called Bokon. It has DRM free books that can easily be synced to a Kindle or some other device.

https://bokon.se/


The whole point of the cloud is so you don't own anything anymore and so that companies can entangle you in a recurring revenue stream.


A thing I don't get about eBook sites is why they aren't easier to browse. Simply being able to scroll through a screen equivalent of a library shelf (Dewey Decimal or LOC system) would be nice.

Obviously, using libgen tends to avoid this DRM problem.

No doubt as the surveillance economy ramps up, getting every last penny for copyright will ramp up also.


Another curious situation drm-demanding publishers have created for themselves is the lack of control and leverage against the stores. With the closed Kindle ecosystem in such a major position, Amazon (with its poor drm) has tremendous leverage over the publishers.


Slight tangent.. where is the promise of books being printed on demand locally?


I REALLY don’t agree with giving Amazon money (ethically) but I am a hypocrite and end up buying a lot of ebooks and audiobooks from them, I do my best to back up the files using calibre but I‘m sure they could lock down devices / files using DRM and their latest DRM incarnation is very hard to remove. I try to buy DRM-free ebooks and audiobooks whenever possible but I think mostly due to market domination authors and publishers end up at least mostly exclusively providing content via Amazon.


If you are already using Calibre, it's not hard to protect yourself from Amazon. I have a Kindle PaperWhite that's about ~3 years old and it only connected to the Internet once during initial setup. I've put it in flight mode after that and it will never go online again.

As for books, when I buy them on Amazon I select "transfer via USB" which let's me download it and when I add it to Calibre, the DRM is stripped by DEDRM_tools [1][2] before transfering into the Kindle.

[1] https://github.com/apprenticeharper/DeDRM_tools

[2] Note that the tool only removes the DRM, it doesn't anonymise the file. It's still associated with your account.


Hey, thanks for your reply, I appreciate it.

I’ve used deDRM a lot in the past, but it doesn’t work with the latest DRM on (I think AWZ3 files) - but perhaps it’s been updated since I last checked about 6 months ago or so.


I use it with AWZ3 just fine, but then I also haven't allowed my Kindle to update its software in years, so maybe Amazon is giving me files with older DRM.


I bought a few books a couple of months ago from Amazon for use with their PC viewer and the first thing i did was to remove the DRM (so i can read it on my phone using my preferred ebook reader... and i trust myself more than Amazon to keep the books around) so i think they managed to break the latest version too.


Now that is interesting, I have a kindle oasis and mix between reading on that (which is glorious I must be honest) and on my iPhone.

If I can download a “legacy” file format - I might try that.

Thanks again for your input!


Are you doing "download" vs "send to PC"? These result in different formats.


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