Archive | March 2012

Harry Potter eBooks

The big ebook news this week is that official Harry Potter ebooks are now available on the Pottermore website.

When I read about this, the first thing I wondered about was what format the ebooks were being made available in, and what kind of DRM they were using. From looking at their supported devices FAQ page, at first it appeared that they were using typical Adobe DRM, since they mention the use of Adobe Digital Editions. Harry Potter eBooksHowever, it seems to be more complicated than that. In order to get ebooks onto a Kindle, for example, they’ve somehow set it up so that you link your account so that the ebook can be delivered to your Kindle. The same goes for your Sony Reader, Nook, or Google Play accounts. Additionally you can download an ePub to your computer. It also appears that you can transfer the ePub to other eReaders with ADE in the same way I’ve outlined on this blog before.

There seems to be more to it, though. Apparently when these ebooks were first announced, the people behind Pottermore claimed that the ePubs would be without DRM. Now it’s become clear that there is some kind of DRM on them, which people are calling “watermarking”. I’ve never even heard of that term being applied to DRM. The Digital Reader has a post about this DRM method and how it was already hacked.

This article on The Guardian is quite interesting. It talks about how Pottermore has managed to force Amazon to bend to its will.

“Instead of buying the ebooks through the Amazon e-commerce system, the buy link takes the customer off to Pottermore to complete the purchase, with the content seamlessly delivered to their Kindle device. It is the first time I’ve known Amazon to allow a third party to “own” that customer relationship, while also allowing that content to be delivered to its device. Amazon gets something like an affiliates’ fee from this transaction, much less than it would expect to receive selling an ebook through normal conditions.”

This is very unlike usual Amazonian practices. I assume it’s because Pottermore wouldn’t allow them to sell the ebooks in any other way, and it shows how much power the Harry Potter brand has. There is another article at FUTUReBOOK by the same author that delves more into this Amazon situation and how DRM is applied across different platforms. The whole system must have been a pretty big undertaking for all companies involved.

All in all, it’s cool to see that there are now official Harry Potter ebooks because that only enforces the idea that ebooks are here to stay, in one form or another. I probably won’t buy them myself since I already own the whole series in old-fashioned paper. Will you?

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Recent Stories of Piracy and Plagiarism

eBook piracy and plagiarism are two of the worst fears of authors and publishers. Just like with music and movies, there are now websites that offer many pirated ebook downloads. Plagiarism has been happening for ages and it’s only become easier with books in digital format.

This article on The Guardian paints a new picture for plagiarists, though. Even though it’s easier to copy the contents of an ebook, it’s also easier to get caught now that everything can be scrutinized online. This article is about an author who discovered someone ripping off many of her romance books, only changing major details like names and places. After one instance was discovered, others joined the author in researching the plagiarist’s work, and more and more cases were quickly found. The plagiarist was outed online and forced to pull her stolen work.

In this age of blogs and Twitter, a reputation can be ruined pretty easily. It seems to me like all the trouble of trying to plagiarize isn’t even worth it. If you’re interested in being an author, write your own stuff. If you don’t have any talent for writing then find something else to do.

Piracy is probably the bigger threat since it doesn’t require any work like editing details of the story. Instead, all a person has to do is strip the DRM (if it even exists in the first place). Recently one company was caught selling $99 e-readers pre-loaded with 4000 pirated ebooks. From the article:

An Australian group-buying site owned by Microsoft and Nine sold e-book readers bundled with a treasure trove of thousands of pirated books including the full Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series.

The matter has prompted a rebuke from the NSW Fair Trading Minister, Anthony Roberts, who claims group-buying sites cannot simply blame vendors when they are caught running dodgy deals.The book industry has reacted angrily and HarperCollins, publisher of some of the major titles contained on the CD including those by J.R.R Tolkien, said its corporate solicitor ”will be ringing them today”.

The site, Cudo.com.au, this week advertised a $99 e-book reader that came with ”4000 e-books you can load from a CD”. Thousands of people signed up for the deal, but the company claims it discovered the books were pirated before orders were shipped.

Cudo’s advertisement originally linked directly to a list of books that came on the bonus CD, and the list contained thousands of books that were still under copyright and available in stores. The site later removed this link from the advertisement, but the original ad is still visible in Google’s cache.

”It’s extraordinary … there’s piracy taking place on a grand scale,” said Australian Booksellers Association chief executive Joel Becker when shown the list of books.

Whether you hate or just tolerate DRM, most publishers will continue to require it as long as they feel that their ebooks will be pirated without it. It’s unfortunate that the average law-abiding user is the one who gets punished by having to deal with DRM restrictions. Authors deserve to get paid for their work just like everyone else, though, so what are they supposed to do? And this time there won’t be another iTunes that comes along and sort-of-transforms the situation like they did with MP3s, because we already have Kindle software and iBooks and other paid ebook services. Unless all of humanity suddenly comes to a state of enlightenment where nobody wants to steal anymore, I don’t know how pirating will ever stop.

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