The e-book industry has come a long way in the past few years. E-readers such as Kindle have given the industry a lot of momentum. The fact that Amazon sells more e-books than paperback books or hardcovers is pretty exciting too. But all is not right with e-books. They are frustrating in many ways and give their buyers less control. Richard Matthew Stallman, the man behind the GNU Project, certainly has his doubts about e-books:
With printed e-books:
- You can buy one with cash, anonymously.
- Then you own it.
- You are not required to sign a license that restricts your use of it.
- The format is known, and no proprietary technology is needed to read the book.
- You can, physically, scan and copy the book, and it’s sometimes lawful under copyright.
- Nobody has the power to destroy your book.
Mr. Stallman makes a lot of good points. E-books do have restrictions on how we can use them. Buyers do not exactly own the titles they pay for. Reselling digital books is not possible at all. He is certainly not a fan of Amazon:
- Amazon requires users to identify themselves to get an ebook.
- In some countries, Amazon says the user does not own the ebook.
- Amazon requires the user to accept a restrictive license on use of the ebook.
- The format is secret, and only proprietary user-restricting software can read it at all.
- To copy the ebook is impossible due to Digital Restrictions Management in the player. and prohibited by the license, which is more restrictive than copyright law.
- Amazon can remotely delete the ebook using a back door. It used this back door in 2009 to delete thousands of copies of George Orwell’s 1984.
Amazon is not the only party to blame here. We have all seen how greedy some publishers can be. Boycotting e-books is not an idea that will fly unless publishers start messing up with their prices and terms again. E-books won’t be perfect anytime soon. At this point, we all have the option to buy paperback and hardcover books though. The final chapter on this industry is not written yet.