Note to self: On (not) buying books

Dear Future Me, I know you’ve hit that point again. You’re about to buy a few books, you’re this close to hitting “Buy”, but you keep thinking — there must be a better way! You ran out of space on the shelves a while back. The books are stacking up high on the remaining available surface. You joke about how you might die in an avalanche of books if there’s ever an earthquake (but you secretly think that it’s not such a bad way to go).

Aaaand you’re thinking, maybe I can solve this problem for once and for all. Surely advances have been made in the field of ebooks and ebook readers. Surely consumer pressure has jerked book publishers awake to the fact that DRM is truly a disservice to users. Possibly ebook reader hardware has solved the contrast and UX issues that make them just a bit of a pain to read and clunky to boot.


You’ll spend the next 2 hours looking up current ebook reader specs, getting excited about them, priming your credit card, then checking out what kind of DRM Amazon, B&N, Kobo, or whoever else has joined the game are shipping. Then you’ll realise you only have two options: rely on people being able to reverse-engineer the DRM forever, or start pirating ebooks, sullying that last bastion of purity in a world that renders consuming art while rewarding artists essentially a non-option outside of some parts of the western world.

So really, do yourself a favour. Go ahead, buy the books. You’ll find a way to make space for them. There might be some under the bed.


Add yours →

  1. Or you could ‘download’ dead works of dead authors

  2. Some booksellers (O’reilly and Baen for certain, perhaps Tor) sell their ebooks sans drm. But you have to buy from them directly. O’Reilly has a cool deal where if you buy the dead tree version and register it, you can get th ebook for 6 bucks and subsequent editions for 30% or 50% off. iirc.

    • I think Tor are the ones that jumped on the DRM-free boat first, and that’s quite amazing of them and others who did the same.

      The O’Reilly thing raises an interesting question. Is 6$ after you buy the physical copy fair? Is it fair to pay the same amount for the ebook as the paperback, when there are no distribution or storage costs? None of this convinces me as a consumer that the publishers are working in good faith, just that they’re trying to maximise revenue without adapting to changes in the world around them.

      And the recent price-fixing judgement didn’t really do much good either:

      • Actually, Baen was first. They’ve always been DRM-free. Plus, they have the free library, for free and drm-free. Was great back during school when cash was low.

        Regarding six usd for an ebook of a book you have in paper: i think so. Or should you also get a free second copy of the book because you already have one? 6 bucks isnt free but its not exoensive either. And they should be auditing their ebook formats, so it’s not free to them. Not to mention that zhe ebook purchase includes all supported formats, so probably reader format of your choice plus pdf in all likelihood.

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