Excuses for my absence; an ebook DRM rant

Soooooooooooooooooo, been a while, eh?  I do apologise; RL has been a bit busy, not to mention the minor matter of a month-long migraine that pretty much wiped me out for August.  (My doctor and I suspect it’s jaw tension and night-time teeth-grinding;  rather than pay $600 for a splint right before I leave for North America, I’ve ordered a nightguard from Dr Brux.  STAY TUNED.)

Also, the prospect of typing out large chunks of text has been … well, not all that enticing.  And I don’t think it could be avoided by having the Malory Towers books available in an ebook format, since generally DRM and copying and pasting are not considered compatible for some reason.

Now, I love ebooks!  I have a Kobo reader, but these days most of my reading is done on my lovely iPad, so I can jump between ePub and Kindle formats at will.  I still buy paper books, but frankly, I don’t have that much bookshelf space, so I try to stick to ebooks.

But just of late I’ve had some problems with DRM.

First I was no longer allowed to download new copies of the Laurie R King novels I bought back in 2009 and 2010, because the store no longer had the rights to sell them to Australia.

Fine, I thought, and eventually managed to find the ePub files I had downloaded back in the day.  No biggie, they were sitting on my old EeePC.  Only took half an hour!

BUT WAIT.  These DRM-locked files can only be managed through Adobe Digital Editions!

And ADE doesn’t acknowledge the existence of my iPad!  Something about the ongoing war between Adobe and Apple re Flash means hardly any Adobe things will work with iThings.  REAL MATURE, GUYS.  Thank God there are non-Adobe PDF readers, or I’d be screwed!

(Notability: for that happy moment when your friend has sent you her manuscript, and you need to scribble notes all over it but don’t want to print it out!)

In short, if I wanted to read these novels — for which I had paid AU$20 each, since at the time they weren’t out on Kindle and I could only find one store that would sell them to an Australian — I’d have to do it on my laptop, which is uncomfortable and not hugely mobile compared with the iPad, or I’d have to buy them again.

(Where was my Kobo, you ask?  Lent it to a friend.  Well, I wasn’t using it!  I FIGURED MY iPAD WOULD TAKE CARE OF ALL MY NEEDS!)

So I bought them again.

A few days later, I had inhaled all of King’s Mary Rusell novels (a cross-dressing 1920s theologian who is married to Sherlock Holmes and occasionally investigates crime herself?  SIGN ME UP.  SIGN ME UP TWICE) and I desperately needed more.  And bitter experience has taught me that this is not a fandom that produces much good fan fiction.

Then I remembered “Beekeeping for Beginners”, an e-novella published last year.  I had even bought it at the time!

Oh.  Adobe Digital Editions again.

Well, it was pay week, and the Kindle version was only $2.  So I bought a second copy.

Then I read it, and loved it, and tried to send a copy of the Kindle version to my friend Branwyn, who has long been my partner-in-crime when it comes to this series.

Oh no.  Amazon took my money, then told Branwyn, “Nope, this is the international version.  No can do.”  And gave her a $2 gift voucher in substitute.

I mean, seriously.

I’ve never really given much attention to the arguments about locked versus unlocked ebooks and consequences with sales, but I’m generally in favour of paying for things that I want to read (or at least going to the library) and hence not pirating books.

But I do not understand how restricting electronic sales across arbitrary geological boundaries is in any way a good idea.

(See also the Sarah Tolerance novels by Madeleine E Robins – the first two are available again in Kindle format, but only in the US.  I had to go through a lot of user-unfriendly rigmarole to get the first one via an inter-library loan.)

If a customer can jump on Amazon or BookDepository and buy a physical book, why is that same customer unable to buy the electronic edition?  Is this good for business?  It’s not as though Australia is teeming with ebook sellers, and those that we have tend to be ridiculously overpriced.

(I worked at Borders for a long time, and I was very glad to be getting a much higher wage and better working conditions than, say, Amazon staff.  But staff expenses alone don’t justify the difference in pricing between American and Australian ebooks.)

And I like Apple products, but there’s a lot of “I’M TAKING MY TOYS AND GOING HOME” where they’re concerned, and it’s customers who suffer.

There, I have ranted!  Now I shall make an unprecedented second post of the day, dealing with chapter 9 of First Term at Malory Towers!

Author: Liz Barr

Words written. Opinions expressed.

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