Ebooks aren’t just electronic books. They are a combination of certain file types, certain readers and certain software designed to keep people from migrating away from the approved file type and reader combinations. Confused? Jason Griffey explains.
One of the things that’s so vexing about the ebook back and forth is the people who think that issues with ebooks are all about people being fussy about reading off of screens and the like. In fact, for me, it’s much more the availablility, DRM, licensing and other issues that make me feel that ebooks are not ready for prime time. To drive a point home, here’s Matthew Battles [of Unquiet History fame] with his notion of a Book: Terms of Service.
The new Sony Reader, the biggest competition to the Kindle, is supposedly going to be able to check out digital books from libraries that use the Overdrive service. I guess this begs the obvious question: why go to the library for this service at all? I guess that Overdrive just bulk offers the checkoutability service to libraries (hello restrictive DRM!) which is something but man I just wish their service were better and easier to use.
I don’t have a Kindle. That said, I accept the inevitability of the idea that more and more of our reading content is going to be delivered digitally. That’s why I think it’s important to understand these tools even if they offer limited utility for us or our patrons at the time. The Kindle has “accessibility” features built into it that allow a book to be read out loud via the Kindle. This is great news — and probably also legally necessary — for people with various reading disabilities ranging from visual disabilities to text-based learning disabilities. However, the Kindle also allows publishers to remotely disable text-to-speech (TTS) options in books that you may already have on your Kindle. And publishers are doing this, a little, at the urging of the Authors Guild.
The Authors Guild, for their part, has issued this statement about the situation which, on first reading, does make a certain amount of sense. As a librarian I’m more concerned about the overarching issues of digital rights management and the notion that even though you’ve nominally purchased a book (perhaps at a loss for Amazon) you still have an item that is, in part, controlled by its creator who can alter the item according to the license terms you agreed to. A little more about this on Slashdot.
Rochelle asks and Amazon answers: is loaning the Kindle (by libraries) a violation of Amazon.com’s terms of service. Answer: yes.