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eBooks: With Courage and Patience, We Are Getting There


Just how do we make the "e" in e-books stand for "easier"? Well,how about this? Let's scrap the existing digital rightsmanagement. Instead everybody in charge of administering DRMwould be re-trained overnight as digital priests. They wouldcertify "trustworthiness" to those seeking to download e-books.

Before downloads, customers would be visited by digital priestsof their respective religious persuasions. With great pomp andcircumstance, they would "pledge" not to forward their books toeverybody in the world without compensating the authors andpublishers. Break the pledge, and you'd find yourself inpurgatory, hand-copying old encyclopedias.

Or maybe a totalitarian law would work instead. First-offendersguilty of unlawful content reproduction would have to wear ascratchy wool eye patch for one year. For a second crime, thepatch would be now a mask. We could set up toll-free hot-linesand reward people for spying on their neighbors.

The Real Point

See my real point here? No easy way exists to loosen the DRMgrip--this complicated issue can't be addressed with goodold-fashioned guilt and fear. But e-book standards for DRM andformats would help. I am counting on the laws of capitalism,which always prevail. A demand will eventually be met withsupply, and I'm hoping that the right set of standard will breakfrom the pack and simplify the digital content landscape. Thatwill be a blessed day. Microsoft, Adobe and Palm and the othersnow have their own special technology fee tacked on to the priceof e-books. And that complicates merchandising. We e-bookmerchants would rather not have multiple cost structures for thesame e-book.

Nor do we like consumers to be limited to books published intheir chosen format or suffer multiple technologies just to enjoya story. Nothing is more frustrating than having three differentlibraries on your handheld and forgetting where your recentfiction resides. I don't just hear customers complaints--I myselfown a handheld.

Villains not

Who's to blame? I'm thinking nobody. Many authors and publishersbreak out in a cold sweat at just the mention of the word"Napster" and can you blame them? Their livelihood is at stake.They should, however, strive to better satisfy consumers desirefor more content in digital form.

If a publisher has faith in their work, it's now accepted thatexpanding to e-book will deliver extra profit and drive hardbacksales. Not all understand this. I still hear some authors expressmisguided fear that e-books will cannibalize their hardbacksales. Publishing is not a zero-sum game, however--and thatactually can be good. E-books add incremental value to theequation. Granted, companies tasked with encrypting content forthem are an easy target, for they create the hoops through whichwe must jump. But the DRM heavyweights like Microsoft, Adobe andeReader are simply business people satisfying a need withexisting technology.

No glass chin

Let there be no mistake, the future is bright for e-books--salesare on a steady rise. The industry took a couple of jabs duringthe Internet correction, but you'll find no glass chin here. Morestudents are beginning to see e-books as an alternative for thosepricey hardback textbooks. The computer savvy are learning theease in pasting code directly from their favorite Java e-bookmanual, and there's even speculation that men are reading moreromance as they no longer fear being seen with a floral bookcover. Moreover, the Tablet PC is maturing, and the publishersare slowly but surely putting even more content in digital form.It takes courage, but we're getting there. Though it is a wordoften used in excuses, "patience" is needed by digitaldownloaders, me included.

Article by L. Scott Redford - scott@diesel-ebooks.comScott is the President of Diesel eBooks with over 35,000 popular and professional eBooks organized by 50 categories. Visit the free download section at http://www.diesel-ebooks.com

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