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Amazon is not the enemy [Jul. 17th, 2009|05:40 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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Everyone who's flipping out about the Orwellian Kindle fiasco needs to relax.

Yes, Amazon did something stupid. Yes, DRM is bad for consumers and bad for society. But Amazon is not the enemy here, the publishers are. Right now, the balance of power is still with the publishing houses, so Amazon needs to play with them. When it comes to DRM, people at Amazon "get it." They're techies, after all. If they do evil things, it's because their hands are tied. It is the publishers who are pushing for DRM. Market forces are going to push them out of existence, and they will do all they can to prolong their misery.

Dramatic as the current incident may be, the same story has already played out with Apple and the iTunes store. Apple bent over backwards for the labels in order to sign them up to sell their wares online, but once they came on board, the power shifted to the technology companies, and Jobs turned around and attacked DRM (the "Thoughts on Music" letter.) By now, just two years later, everyone agrees that music DRM is on its way out and the future of recorded music is Free.

So please do express your outrage, but make sure you have the right target :-) Do complain to Amazon about how much DRM sucks, go write reviews of the product on their site and others, but don't "boycott" the Kindle. That's just plain counterproductive — books aren't magically going to become DRM-free without first becoming digital, and there's no way that's going to happen except under whatever terms the publishers choose to impose.

There's still quite a ways to go before all the major publishers succumb to the pressure of growing Kindle sales and start offering their content digitally. For that to happen, the Kindle userbase needs to grow a lot. Paradoxically, now, more than any other time, the Kindle needs your support.

Oh, and while I'm at it, can we stop making silly comparisons between the Kindle and Sony's or whoever's two-bit book reader that no one's ever heard of? Without the EVDO network and Amazon's catalog behind it, it's not even the same category of device as fas as the average person is concerned. Thanks.

[User Picture]From: psydeshow
2009-07-18 06:51 pm (UTC)

2004 all over again

Kindle DRM is breakable, just like iTunes was (good old jHymn). Nobody has cared enough to wrap the command-line Python scripts that do it into a shiny one-click GUI, but there you go. Perhaps that's because it's still a USA-only phenomenon.

See http://nyquil.org/archives/1128-Converting-Kindle-Books-a-painful-process-that-works-for-reading-Kindle-books-without-a-Kindle.html

I love my Kindle. I wish that I wasn't annoyed by Amazon's PR missteps (and this was definitely one of those!), by some publishers shoddy e-book conversions, or by other publishers' heavy-handed approach to rights management. But all things considered, it's a fantastic product. Amazon realized that the hardware is just the beginning, and it has changed the way millions of hardcore readers read books, practically overnight.
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