Are Kindle Hacks good for books?

Just deleted a post that linked to two Kindle hacks and 1 Nook hack -

  1. How to get free browsing and US range and prices outside the US. 
  2. How to break DRM of Kindle for PC books (although Amazon has already fixed that).
  3. How to get Nook books to work on Sony Reader.

The reason is that it was really hard to decide whether these hacks are good for books and for people who love books.

DRM Hacks have lots of consequences – only a few of which are good.

It’s very fashionable to break DRM. You are the grand protector of poor, trampled rights.

However, what does it really do?

This is what happens when you hack the DRM of books -

  1. The hacker and anti-DRM people get a sense of satisfaction. 
  2. Ethical people feel that they can now share their ebook with friends. They do.
  3. Unethical people feel that they can now get ebooks for free. They do too.
  4. Publishers get even more paranoid.
  5. The amount authors make becomes less.
  6. Publishers push back even more against eBooks and eReaders.
  7. Progress is stalled.

Why do ‘Good and Open’ people and companies want to impose their moral values on other people?

Who owns the right to decide what moral or ethical model books are sold under?

  1. Is it the author?
  2. Is it the Publisher or the store?
  3. Is it readers?

If a hacker says that things should be free or free of DRM – Is he really entitled to decide that?

Or is it a prerogative of the content creator which the hacker is usurping?

What will free international Internet browsing do?

Nothing much. Amazon was going to release the feature in 2010 anyways.

Bandwidth isn’t free so if people start abusing the workaround too much, Amazon will have to shut it off until the formal feature release date.

What will international kindle owners buying US books from outside the US do?

Just give Publishers another reason to stall on eBooks.

Consider the cycle -

  1. Someone in Spain feels they are entitled to read whatever they like.
  2. They figure out a workaround.
  3. Just to make sure everyone knows how cool they are – they publish it on a big, huge blog.
  4. Now 50% of international kindle owners start buying books whose international rights aren’t allowed for the Kindle.
  5. Publishers freak out. In this case especially so as the payments will go to whatever Publisher has the US rights.

You’ve just managed to get Publishers even more stressed out.

It makes them less likely to embrace eReaders and eBooks.

Don’t think all these hacks serve books or people who love books in any way. Can’t really peek into the future so who knows what effect these hacks will have.

What do you think – Do hacks like these accelerate progress or stall it?

2 Responses

  1. Do hacks like these accelerate progress or stall it?

    Probably neither. Pubishers will use hacks as an excuse for their heel dragging… the heel dragging they’d be doing anyway if they didn’t have an excuse. They’ll drag their heels until they have a financial incentive not to, such as such as high percentage of their customers switching to ebooks that not offering ebooks in a timely manner merely loses them money.

    Observe what happened with music: First music publishers were so rabid about DRM that the DRM-laden devices that came out used DRM so onerous that nobody would tolerate them, and the stuff didn’t sell. Eventually publishers were forced to face the reality that the lack of legally available music in tolerable formats with tolerable DRM was driving customers to piracy, so they made a deal with Apple, and came out with music with… let’s call it “less intolerable” DRM. This worked for a while, but a lot of customers continued complaining, and it became clear that even Apple didn’t like the DRM because it caused too many problems for customers (even those trying to use it in legitimate, approved ways). Eventually Apple and other vendors started demanding DRM-free music, and eventually they got it… and what do you know, sales rose, and customers were even willing to pay a little more.

    We can expect a similar cycle to occur with ebooks. It may take a while, but publishers will eventually be forced to confront the fact that DRM merely costs them money, and they’ll dump it.

  2. One other thing to keep in mind about DRM: it’s trying to do the impossible. You can’t give someone encrypted media (music, ebook, DVD) in a manner such that they can play it but can’t decrypt it. It’s not possible. Once you’ve handed them the encrypted data, if they’re sufficiently determined they can eventually hack the key used to encrypt it, and decrypt it. Or they can use workarounds to get at the un-encrypted data. (This is how iTunes DRM was broken.) Or hack the playback software to get the key. (This is how DVD DRM was broken.) Or just reproduce the encrypted data in whole, and let the playback software decrypt it when they want to see it. (This is probably how pirate DVD manufacturers do it.) These are not novel methods, these are known flaws of a DRM encrypted system that are obvious to any computer scientist.

    As a consequence, DRM is relatively easy for an actual criminal who actually wants to commit piracy to break, and merely make things annoying for an honest guy who wants to purchase media and use it on the playback device of their choice.

    So, this is another reason publushers will dump DRM: they’ll eventually realize that it doesn’t actually work, costs them money, and annoys their customers. It may take them a while to realize these things, but EVENTUALLY it’ll happen.

    This leads to a “what happens when you hack the DRM of books” not listed above: You get your book (that you paid for) free of the clutches of the publisher, such that if they ever go out of business and/or disable all content protected with their DRM (as Yahoo has done) or change their DRM system to become incompatible with your playback device (as Microsoft and Yahoo have both done), you can convert your book (that you paid for) into a format compatible with a contemporary reader device. So, even an honest customer who wants to pay for their books and doesn’t intend to “share” them with others still has an incentive to hack the DRM of ebooks.

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