Michael Pastore has a nice essay in ePublishers Weekly titled “10 Popular Myths About Ebooks.” If you are interested in dispelling the myths about DRM, killing the publishing industry, reading devices, and not enough ebooks to read, check out his article.
The April 1, 2009 “Off The Shelf” column features an article on E-book usage data. The article surveyed 10 e-book vendors and aggregators for information on their usage data. A comparative chart accompanies the article, which is only available online, on the NSR articles page.
7 vendors replied to the survey, 1 couldn’t participate due to usage data restructuring, and 2 did not reply. The 2 no replies serve primarily the public and school library markets, so this usage chart is heavy on academic providers.
From the EBL blog:
We’ve recently announced that EBL titles can be downloaded to the Sony Reader, but did you know that EBL’s new reader is already accessible on an iPhone and iPod Touch?
Patrons can access EBL titles on their iPhone or iPod Touch through the normal webpages. The image view in the reader will render the full book. Scrolling works by using two fingers. We’re planning to offer a scaled down view more suitable for mobile access later this year.
And news just in… downloading EBL ebooks to the iPhone/iPod Touch is soon to follow. Adobe have just announced a partnership with Stanza Reader, the reader application designed for the iPhone. Read more here.
From Teleread, author not listed:
Posted: 26 Mar 2009 09:39 AM PDT
I have had a day to think about what I saw at the FTC’s town hall meeting on Digital Rights Management yesterday, and what it might mean for the future of DRM. The conference fell into the classic “good news, bad news” scenario.
The good news is that the FTC is now more aware than ever of the difficulties to consumers implicit in Digital Rights Management (especially since they received over 800 public comments, which they admitted during the meeting they had not managed to work all the way through yet). The bad news is that it is not the FTC’s brief to adjudicate matters relating to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and fair use, or even anti-trust concerns relating to non-interoperable DRM.
The FTC is chiefly concerned with unfair and deceptive business practices. (For example, in the other big FTC story of the day, the FTC announced yesterday it was suing Dish Network for making telemarketing calls to people listed on the national Do Not Call Registry.)
If companies make deceptive statements in advertising about the limitations of their DRM, the FTC will look into it. If companies release DRM that harms the consumer (as in the infamous Sony rootkit debacle), they will investigate and possibly sanction. But they can’t do anything to let you copy DVDs to your video iPod when the DMCA forbids it. Talk to Congress about that.
That being said, the meeting was of great interest just for the open discussion of DRM among big guns from both consumer-advocacy and commercial trade groups. Anyone who did not realize DRM was a contentious issue before would certainly have gotten an earful.
Though some speakers were not terribly exciting (one read a ten-minute prepared statement in a sleep-inducing monotone; another rambled on at length about a “thought experiment” involving taking a bus full of developing-country representatives to a shopping mall that made no sense either during or after the speech), most of them had good points to make, pro or con.
Several potential DRM remedies were discussed, including
- a logo-based disclosure system like ESRB or MPAA ratings so consumers would be able to see at a glance what DRM was on a product
- making DRM systems more interoperable, or adding “exception handling” so DRM would permit more fair uses
- DRM-using companies depositing keys and source code in escrow so that if they went bankrupt consumers would be able to crack the DRM and have access to the media they paid for afterward.
These took on a character of “pie in the sky,” however, given that imposing such solutions is generally outside the FTC’s brief. For example, making DRM more interoperable would be difficult given that companies generally have a vested interest in making sure their DRM works for them alone. (Apple’s stranglehold on the digital music industry due to its Fairplay DRM was brought up more than once.)
The FTC Takes Questions
One of the more interesting panels to me was the very last, in which representatives of the FTC got in the hot seat to field questions and comments as to what they might actually do about DRM. The answer: as stated above, not a whole lot.
Nonetheless, the first question fielded was one that I emailed, and I was even mentioned by both real name and moniker. (I had asked that TeleRead be mentioned as the source, but they forgot.) I pointed out that Amazon owned the Mobipocket e-book format, currently used by many of its e-book competitors, and asked what the FTC would be willing to do if they decided to stop licensing that format.
The FTC panel replied that they could not address specific what-if scenarios, but they could talk about similar investigations they had done in the past. They talked about their investigation into Microsoft when Microsoft wanted to get out of the music business and shut down its DRM servers—meaning that consumers would no longer be able to play the music they had bought from Microsoft. They closed the investigation after Microsoft agreed to keep its servers turned on.
All in all, the FTC town hall meeting was an interesting event, and worthwhile in that it fostered public discussion and debate about DRM that might end up educating more people about its disadvantages. But those who expected any solid commitments will be left disappointed.
Here is a roundup of other articles I have found covering the town hall meeting.
Oren’s Weblog has excellent panel-by-panel summaries of the event (though Oren did not chronicle the sixth panel, in which the FTC answered questions about what measures it might take):
- intro & first panel: Overview
- second panel: The Legal Landscape
- third panel: DRM in Action
- fourth panel: Informing Consumers
- fifth panel: The Future of DRM
- Oren’s final thoughts
Content Agenda looks at the meeting here; the Copyright and Technology blog has coverage here. Brad’s Reader looks at some implications for e-books here. Here is a PDF article laying out a system of logo-based disclosure of DRM on download products of the sort that was proposed at the meeting.
Ars Technica also has an article summing up the first few panels that came before the lunch break.
npr’s All Things Considered program had a really nice piece on ebooks and DRM – the good and the bad. You can listen or read it here.
In the story, authors are presented as anti-DRM, no restrictions, they want people to read their material not be locked out by restrictions. In contrast, the Amazon Kindle VP states that they have very little complaints about DRM restrictions and a publisher is portrayed as a DRM supporter. The author, Laura Sydell, says “But DRM could become a problem if the Kindle goes bust — then all those people who bought Kindle eBooks with DRM will have no way to read them because no other device can open the files.” I think that VP of Kindle will start getting the complaints then! Guess this shouldn’t surprise me, the companies who will make the most profit from publishing a title want restrictions and the authors, who probably only get 10%, want it open!
You’ve probably read the news about the University of Michigan Press going digital only with most of their titles. They’ve decided to jump to the future business model ahead of many publishers, by going digital now, rather than later. I like their reasoning for the move. Phil Pochoda, Director of the UM Press was quoted in the Inside Higher Ed article to say “Why try to fight your way through this? Why try to remain in territory you know is doomed? Scholarly presses will be primarily digital in a decade. Why not seize the opportunity to do it now?”
Another reason for the decision was to increase the number of titles that UM Press could publish. With the cost of printing and distribution, only titles that would sell, sell, sell were printed. Publishing digital only means more titles from more scholars on more topics, not just those that fit the mainstream. I think that’s good for everyone.
UM Press can also utilize the new Espresso Book Machine acquired by the UM in 2008 (see NSR post). The print on demand (pod) machine has the ability to offer print versions of the digital titles for those who aren’t quite ready for the ebook world.
From the wired.com blog
Sony Adds Half a Million Public Domain Google Books to Reader
By Charlie Sorrel March 19, 2009 | 5:36:39 AMCategories: Books
Sony has inked (e-inked?) a deal with Google to bring half a million public domain books to its Reader e-book device, but surprise! Being a Sony service it looks to be awkward to use and no better than just grabbing the texts from Project Gutenberg.
Google has been scanning and textifying public domain texts in its attempt to organize the world’s information, and now they’ll be available for Sony’s e-book reader. This initiative, while certainly laudable as a way to get free books properly formatted for the device, really shows up the Sony Reader and its lack of a wireless internet connection.
First, you need to go to the Sony eBook Store and grab the PC software. Then you can search from the comfort of your own computer the half million books Sony has grabbed from Google. Then you need to sideload the content onto your Reader.
Worse, try going to the eBook site to find the Google link. You’ll have to scroll around. Sony’s web designers have decided to make the word “Google” appear only in jpeg form, so no quick page-search to find it.
Oh, Sony. It’s a nice try, but we think you already lost this one. The Kindle is currently the iPod of e-book readers, and while it doesn’t do everything, what it does do it does right. Plus, you can download any of Project Gutenberg’s free books, or even Google’s, directly, even on the beach. If you really want to read Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”, that is.
Product page [Sony]
Thanks to the 100+ Librarians who attended our ACRL session on Patron Initiated Purchasing. During the presentation, Alice and I surveyed the attendees, using audience response systems. These results have been posted to the ACRL Virtual Conference. In a nutshell:
85% of you have collection development responsibilities
94% purchase ebooks
61% were familiar with patron driven/patron initiated models
13% already use it, 68% are interested, and only 2% would not use it, the rest were uncertain
Reasons for using patron driven/patron initiated models include:
save time 11%, increase usage 25%, give patrons choices 25%, just in time resources 27%, provide chapters 11%
We had a great Q/A discussion afterwards as well. During this I mentioned several resources on the blog. They are linked here:
Poll on PDA – currently on the homepage of the blog
interviews with publishers, aggregators, librarians
Glad you could attend.
Sue Polanka, Alice Crosetto,with Kari Paulson (President, EBL)
Concerning my previous post on Gale/YBP, I had a chance to talk with John Barnes at Gale/Cengage regarding the pricing of GVRL titles through the YBP service. According to him, GVRL prices will remain the same using various tiers, based on FTE. Within the next month, YBP will load all of the Gale patron data into their system and this data should indicate each library’s tier level. While searching YBP for GVRL titles, the title price, based on your library’s tier, should be displayed. Thanks to Nader Qaimari from Gale/Cengage for commenting with the same.
Great news from Gale/Cengage and YBP (Baker & Taylor). GVRL, LitCrit and Gale Directory titles can now be purchased through YBP services. This is wonderful news and comes on the heels of the recenet B&T and ebrary partnership. Clearly publishers and aggregators are finally working together to make purchasing ebooks as seamless as the print book. It’s about time! What is unclear in the press release is the pricing of Gale titles. Typically these are sold on a Tier model, based on FTE. I’ll post more once I hear about the pricing.