At the Teleread blog, where I blog, regular visitor Roland Rohde was talking about the troubles he had with DRM, and in the run-up to his story he casually remarked that: “[the book] had a rather complicated installation routine, I canâ€™t exactly remember what I had to do to get it working“.
A book with an installation procedure!
Now in the the days of yore (that is to say, before the mid-1990s) I would have smiled had I read that, because it would have meant that digital books were finally becoming a reality, and the teething problems we were experiencing were proof of that.
Today however, even though e-books have not caught on yet, there is no shortage of e-book standards and e-book readers, and even if you do not use these specialized items, there are enough wide-spread technologies that can be used to read electronic books, such as HTML and MP3 for file formats, and iPods and mobile phones for devices.
You know the story; this bloke John Gutenberg “invents” movable type. Publishers take authors’ books and make thousands of copies, without reimbursing the authors. Other publishers (“pirates”, as one author once called them) copy these books, not reimbursing the original publishers (or, indeed, the authors), thereby greatly upsetting these original publishers. Publishers get laws passed that evolve into so-called “copy rights”, so that other publishers can no longer “steal” from them.
Then the digital age comes along, and publishing changes from being “fairly easy, if you know what to do and own a printing press” to “so trivial, even a legless goat could do it”.
There is a popular argument that says we need DRM, because otherwise publishers won’t jump on the e-book bandwagon. Somehow the people who claim so fail to mention that readers won’t jump on the e-book bandwagon unless they can do more with e-books than with p-books.
Unless of course publishers are going to play the same sort of shell game they did with the LP/CD, where from one day to the next you could no longer buy vinyl, and had to go for CDs (at extremely inflated prices). In which case we’ll be able to do less with p-books, because there won’t be any.