P16: a blog by Matt Kangas home archive
14 May 2008

Why DRM and the DMCA sucks, part 27,541

Dear Amazon.com,

You really should get out of the business of making e-book readers. Not that there's anything wrong with the Amazon Kindle, your wireless reading device. But I don't want yet another gizmo to carry around. I want to read e-books on the devices I already have.

Please stop trying to build e-book readers. Instead, let other developers build them, legally. Let a thousand e-book readers bloom.

The Kindle uses an e-book format from your subsidiary Mobipocket. I bought an e-book from Mobipocket -- once. I read it on my Nokia E62 using the Mobipocket Reader for Symbian OS. It was a crappy experience. Oh, it was nice being able to read on the subway, one teeny screen at a time. But I would have much preferred to read on the larger screen of my Nokia N810.

When I was done, I wanted to refer to some passages I'd highlighted. Ideally, I'd do this on my Macintosh laptop. Unfortunately, Mobipocket doesn't have reader software for the Mac (!?!?). So I wound up using VMWare to run a copy of Windows to... just look up a passage in that e-book.

That was an awful set of hoops that you made me jump through, Amazon.

Oh the ironies of this situation. Amazon has an MP3 Download service, which offers non-DRM'd music unlike iTunes. But DRM copy-protection is exactly the thing that keeps me from reading that e-book on my N810 using FBReader.

Conflicting priorities:

Amazon -- you can fix this situation. Create a web service to decrypt Mobipocket e-books. Make it accessible to registered developers who sign a terms-of-use agreement and agree to take reasonable steps within their programs to prevent unauthorized copying. Heck, you can even verify ownership of the e-book when the service is called.

You already have a thriving web services business. This should be a no-brainer for you.

If you don't want to invest in this right now -- heck, I'm willing to build this service and market it to e-book software makers, if and only if you provide me with legal indemnification so none of your publishers sue me under the DMCA.

Because... even though this could be a really nice niche business, and it would clearly benefit the e-book and publishing industries if implemented, all I need is one publisher's lawyer with his knickers in a twist to make me a fuckin' grease spot.

Until then, I'll stick to paper books.