eBooks, DRM & a very sore neck…

On September 22, 2011

Until today, I have always kept many of my books at work. It is helpful when students come knocking and the subject they want to discuss is well documented in the cupboard behind me. A quick browse, a jot of the title/author and off they go. As my own studies have started up again, I decided that many of these belong at home with me, where they will be of use while also keeping me propped up at 3am and acting as unwanted soaker-uppers of many a splash of super-hero-strength coffee. Yet the issue that faces me is not one of whether their place on the bookshelf is correct, but whether I can summon the motivation to get these damn things to my car and then to my front door…


Admittedly, the Apple “crack addict”-like band wagon has got me again with the iPad, which is making the archaic task of carrying a book (let alone my mini-library) the more annoying. I need a fix, a way out of this book-carrying madness while still retaining the information I need. I could re-purchase all these books as eBooks and blow another load of cash. This could also lead to DRM (Digital Rights Management) controls which will stop me moving these files to the next platform Apple convince me to purchase (I know, I’m a sap). I could just keep them in the boot of my car so that they are almost always with me (although I could see my fuel economy go into meltdown). Or, I could do what many poor buggers out there are being paid to do by the likes of Google… DIGITISATION!!! [cue big roar and cheer]

Well, maybe not a roar, and probably replace the cheer with the sound of a million iPad screenlock clicks, but unlike the luxury of what many of us have experienced with a quick import of a CD into iTunes, book digitisation is for many a mundane process of scanning and photographing page after page of information they may never have wanted to look at. Brave digitisation people – we salute you. Yet, I probably couldn’t because of copyright grey area.

This might seem like a sudden tangent for a Music Industries student, but my thought pattern of looking at my iPad, back to my Box, back to my iPad made me wish all those pages would be sucked into the Asian/Californian tech and I could continue out the office with the same bag I walked in with. How many of us have trailed through the stacks of CDs in our home, deciding if their content was worth giving up the 20mb or so it deducted from your overall storage, and then probably never listening to the album again?

Digitisation makes me wonder. Is turning everything into 1s and 0s going to turn us into the same information hoarders we became with our mp3 players? A mini-culture grew out of having more on your iPod than the next person – but will that ever be the same with books? Music is cool, it’s popular, it’s almost always there. Music has become the background noise to our lives; our own soundtack if you will. The car, the train, the workplace: we all want to drown something out and music has become the best tool for that. It allows us to continue in our daily pursuit, screaming at us through many a poorly designed transducer device and with such levels of loudness that any lyrical meaning is lost in a mess of distortion and hearing damage. Generation “i” was born – those who could not live without the constant barrage of media streaming to them any place, any time. Mobile internet has even enabled the masses of TV zombies to continue their viewing away from the sofa. For some, unplugging is the hardest thing in their day.

The book remains partially safe. It has not yet developed a culture of hoarders who are desperate for every piece of text to fill up their e-readers. This is not to say there is no fear in the literary world that this will not occur.


Copyright and Digital Rights Management is a hot topic. Long gone are the days when a cassette tape recorder was the music industry’s biggest threat to their profit margins, and photocopiers sent shivers through the spines of the biggest publishers. Digitisation of media and the convergence of technology in the past two decades have brought about many methods of unauthorised sharing and distribution. The rise of the internet, peer-to-peer networks, bittorrents; we now have access to one of the greatest means of file distribution. It is an enabler for those media hoarders to easily compile vast libraries for “Free”. Quoting Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility”. The ethical responsibility here lies with the end user.

I don’t want to get into the illegal downloading argument too much. To be honest, it’s kind of boring. The failure at business level to adapt and evolve fast enough to cope with evolution of technologies has left it knee deep in an outdated business model. There is a huge list of other issues involved in this, but overall the network that could have given us so much is now tainted.

So, my neck hurts. I woke up this morning with a pinched nerve – it sucks. Lifting this box is not a pleasant task. It’s now on a wheely office chair to aid its journey to my car. Sadly there is no such simple mechanism to get these books into my iPad.

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