Friday, October 09, 2015

The eBook is dying. I'm the only person on earth who blames the DRM.

My main workaround for eBook misery has been to buy from Google Play, strip the Adobe DRM, and store the ePub (really should be written EPUB but nobody does that) files in folders in Google Drive.

I do this because Apple is incompetent and, among other things, can’t produce a workable iOS eBook reader (Wait, audiobooks are now worse). A set of folders and descriptive file names is the most scalable solution we can manage across iOS and OS X. Yeah, I could leave Apple — if I cut off my right arm. Apple and Google live and breathe customer lock-in, and i’m well locked.

Since iOS 9 and some Google Drive update this no longer works. It still works for dropbox, so this is probably Google’s fault.

Nonetheless, it makes eBooks suck even more. 

Which brings me to those recent articles pointing out that people now buy paper books, not eBooks. I’ve read explanations ranging from mystical beauties of paper to the high cost of digital books. Nobody mentions the DRM (FairPlay, Adobe, etc) and the data lock, including proprietary file formats, that block development of decent cross-platform eBook solutions.

I feel like a raving loon. Or like the sighted man in the country of the blind ranting about the approaching lava flow.

Damnit Jim, it’s the DRM. 


Charlie Stross said...

Those recent posts about ebooks dying are based on bad data. What's happening is that sales of ebooks by the Big Five publishing conglomerates and other traditional publishers have shrunk slightly. (Paper sales are also declining marginally.) But this study ignored the self-published sector entirely and we know self-pub sales have become a major sector of the ebook market in their own right. Also, books are rivalrous goods -- time spent reading book A generally precludes spending time reading book B (at least for folks with set amounts of discretionary reading time).

I may be an anomaly but I'm seeing up to 75% of my sales coming from ebooks, even though the books I have sales figures for are sold with DRM (which, like you, I despise).

JGF said...

So not thriving, but not dying. I think I'm also misled by disappearing use of Kindle and and iPad in my neighborhood -- perhaps most eBooks are now read on large size Android devices.

Would love to see another Stross post on state of eBook industry and prospects for an open DRM solution.

I think we need/want a DRM option for EPUB file format, even if just watermarking, but it can't be owned. Hard to imagine who would do the work though. Google has been showing signs of life ...