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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 rights management. Instead everybody in charge of administering DRM would be re-trained overnight as digital priests. They would certify "trustworthiness" to those seeking to download e-books.

Before downloads, customers would be visited by digital priests of their respective religious persuasions. With great pomp and circumstance, they would "pledge" not to forward their books to everybody in the world without compensating the authors and publishers. Break the pledge, and you'd find yourself in purgatory, hand-copying old encyclopedias.

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

The Real Point

See my real point here? No easy way exists to loosen the DRM grip--this complicated issue can't be addressed with good old-fashioned guilt and fear. But e-book standards for DRM and formats would help. I am counting on the laws of capitalism, which always prevail. A demand will eventually be met with supply, and I'm hoping that the right set of standard will break from the pack and simplify the digital content landscape. That will be a blessed day. Microsoft, Adobe and Palm and the others now have their own special technology fee tacked on to the price of e-books. And that complicates merchandising. We e-book merchants would rather not have multiple cost structures for the same e-book.

Nor do we like consumers to be limited to books published in their chosen format or suffer multiple technologies just to enjoy a story. Nothing is more frustrating than having three different libraries on your handheld and forgetting where your recent fiction resides. I don't just hear customers complaints--I myself own a handheld.

Villains not

Who's to blame? I'm thinking nobody. Many authors and publishers break 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 desire for more content in digital form.

If a publisher has faith in their work, it's now accepted that expanding to e-book will deliver extra profit and drive hardback sales. Not all understand this. I still hear some authors express misguided fear that e-books will cannibalize their hardback sales. Publishing is not a zero-sum game, however--and that actually can be good. E-books add incremental value to the equation. Granted, companies tasked with encrypting content for them are an easy target, for they create the hoops through which we must jump. But the DRM heavyweights like Microsoft, Adobe and eReader are simply business people satisfying a need with existing technology.

No glass chin

Let there be no mistake, the future is bright for e-books--sales are on a steady rise. The industry took a couple of jabs during the Internet correction, but you'll find no glass chin here. More students are beginning to see e-books as an alternative for those pricey hardback textbooks. The computer savvy are learning the ease in pasting code directly from their favorite Java e-book manual, and there's even speculation that men are reading more romance as they no longer fear being seen with a floral book cover. Moreover, the Tablet PC is maturing, and the publishers are slowly but surely putting even more content in digital form. It takes courage, but we're getting there. Though it is a word often used in excuses, "patience" is needed by digital downloaders, me included.

Article by L. Scott Redford - scott@diesel-ebooks.com Scott 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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