The Futility of Digit Rights Management

... why I don't bother with turning on DRM for my e-books...
hen I was in high school, a bunch of years ago, one listened to music from a radio or a turntable. You know those machines with a needle on the end of an arm that went round and round. Yeah, there were tape cassettes and some still had 8-tracks but mostly it was vinyl. Pirating was about B movies at the Saturday matinee. There was bootlegging, something about secret recordings of concerts, but I was never part of any in-crowd so I only heard a few words from a distance.
Fast forward a few years and the digital world turned the music business upside down. Pirating took on new meaning and things haven’t been the same since. The book business was slow to see the effects because people weren’t willing to read books on their computers nor were they willing to spend a small fortune for a portable device. Enter Amazon and its Kindle. They sold it at a loss to create a market. It’d say it’s worked because in the last three years we’ve seen a revolution in the book business. No going back.
One aspect of downloading e-books to your e-reader is DRM or Digital Rights Management. BigAl gives an account of it on his blog here.
I won’t repeat this thoughts, but add a couple of points.
DRM is too easy to circumvent. It does not limit pirating.
Anything digital can be copied. It doesn’t matter what hoops you put in the way. If you think DRM is protecting you from lost sales, then you don’t fully understand what is going on.
I can go to a legitimate download library for e-books (part of my local public library) and sign out a load of e-books for use with Adobe Digital Editions. It’s set up to allow me to view them for one, two or three weeks. I can load them on my Kobo and use it with the same time constraint. All legit. After the expiration date, I can’t view the files on my computer or reader. But I could run some software and within seconds the DRM is gone. The time restriction is removed. I can now view those files next month or next year or send it out into the world for others to use.
DRM for e-books is a failure. It doesn’t work.
The only saving grace is in places like the US where there are laws against cracking DRM. But what is gained? Does the FBI go around to people’s home checking their computers and e-readers?
As well, if you have a download from Amazon (MOBI / AZW format) you can easily convert it to EPUB format for use on a Kobo or Nook or any other file format like PDF, TEXT, Word .DOC and so on. The same is true if you are starting with an EPUB file.
I don’t use DRM on my books because it doesn’t work and I don’t feel I’m losing any revenue. If people are passing along copies of my book, not likely, it is helping to build my brand, such as it is.
Posted 2012/06/15 at 15h50ET in E-books.

If Only We Could Agree

... have you been accused of misspelling a word you know is correct...
usanne O’Leary wrote an interesting article on her experience with the variations of the English language in different countries. You know the obvious ones like colour with or without a “u” but less obvious ones like travelled versus traveled. Growing up in Sweden she learnt English in school—the UK variation. In publishing her books, she read reviews where she was criticized for improper spelling. False accusations as it turns out. While I write tire and cozy, it’s not incorrect to write tyre or cosy. Same language. Both accepted. Just different.
You can read her write-up here along with the numerous comments posted by readers. I found it interesting, but that’s me.
As a Canadian I deal with this issue everyday.
I feel her pain when she’s criticized for something based on ignorance. No fun. I was told by a boss that “data are” isn’t correct. It should be “data is.” Read most popular media and you’d think the word data is singular. Read scientific writings and you realize it’s plural. Few seem to know the word datum, the singular, exists. Such is the perils of being a writer. Use ‘data is’ and appear to be correct but piss off the few in the know or use ‘data are’ and get the reverse. It seems you can’t win except for: use another word.
I used the word media and the same applies. Media—medium. Stadia—stadium. And other Latin-derived words.
I write with Canadian English. It does exist. It’s a mix of UK & US variations with a sprinkling of unique Canadian idioms plus meanings to certain words that would confuse most non-Canadians. But even in Canada, there’s no consensus. Some don’t know. Some don’t care. You’re just as likely to see someone write about getting their driver’s license as they think about getting their pilot’s licence. Most don’t see the difference. The Globe & Mail has a style guide that is uniquely Canadian and it does have some effect on the words used in newspapers, but people are largely apathetic about it.
I use Microsoft Word. It was a feature I like. Set the language for spell check. My version has English (US), English (UK), English (Canada). I use the latter and it works for me.
I have a preference for using learnt and dreamt instead of learned and dreamed. Just me. Some oppose. But how can you predict who will react negatively? You can’t. I think the key is to be consistent. Unless you’re righting for affect. I mean, writing for effect.

P.S. Tack Susanne.
P.P.S Thanks Rags. I knew later should have been latter, meant to change it and managed in the rush to forget to do so. That's the nature of writing. It's fixed now.
Posted 2012/06/11 at 10h42ET in Writing, Words.

First Sentences From the David Baldacci Novels

... if you want to grab a reader, you hit the ground running, right?...
ere is a summary of the first sentences of the novels written by David Baldacci. Do they meet the requirements of agents, editors and, most importantly, readers? You be the judge.

"He gripped the steering wheel loosely as the car, its lights out, drifted slowly to a stop. A few last scraps of gravel kicked out of the tire treads and then silence enveloped him. He took a moment to adjust to the surroundings and then pulled out a pair of worn but still effective night-vision binoculars. The house slowly came into focus. He shifted easily, confidently in his seat. A duffel bag lay on the front seat beside him. The car's interior was faded but clean."

"The apartment was small, unattractive and possessed of an unsettling musty odor that suggested long neglect. However, the few furnishings and personal belongings were clean and well organized; several of the chairs and a small side table were clearly antiques of high quality. The largest occupant of the tiny living room was a meticulously crafted maple bookcase that might as well have rested on the moon, so out of place did it seem in the modest, unremarkable space. Most of the volumes neatly lining the shelves were financial in nature and dealt with such subjects as international monetary policy and complex investment theories."

"Jackson studied the shopping mall’s long corridor, noting haggard mothers piloting loaded strollers and the senior citizens group walking the mall both for exercise and conversation. Dressed in a gray pinstriped suit, the stocky Jackson stared intently at the north entrance to the shopping mall. That would no doubt be the one she would use since the bus stop was right in front. She had, Jackson knew, no other form of transportation. Her live-in boyfriend’s truck was in the impoundment lot, the fourth time in as many months. It must be getting a little tedious for her, he thought. The bus stop was on the main road. She would have to walk about a mile to get there, but she often did that. What other choice did she have? The baby would be with her. She would never leave it with the boyfriend, Jackson was certain of that."

"At this prison the doors are inches thick, steel; once factory smooth, they now carry multiple dents. Imprints of human faces, knees, elbows, teeth, residue of blood are harvested large on their gray surface. Prison hieroglyphics: pain, fear, death, all permanently recorded here, at least until a new slab of metal arrives. The doors have a square opening at eye level. The guards stare through it, use the small space to throw bright lights at the human cattle on their watch. Without warning, batons smack against the metal with the pop of gun reports. The oldies bear it well, looking down at the floor, studying nothing--meaning their lives--in a subtle act of defiance, not that anyone notices or cares. The rookies still tense when the pop or light comes; some dribble pee down their cotton pants, watch it flow over their black low-quarter shoes. They soon get over it, smack the damn door back, fight down the push of schoolboy tears and belly bile. If they want to survive."

"The somber group of men sat in a large room that rested far belowground, accessed by only a single, high-speed elevator. The chamber had been secretly built during the early 1960s under the guise of renovating the private building that squatted over it. The original plan, of course, was to use this “super-bunker” as a refuge during a nuclear attack. This facility was not for the top leaders of American government; it was for those whose level of relative “unimportance” dictated that they probably wouldn’t be able to get out in time but who still rated protection afforded no ordinary citizen. Politically, even in the context of total destruction, there must be order."

"The air was moist, the coming rain telegraphed by plump, gray clouds, and the blue sky fast fading. The 1936 four-door Lincoln Zephyr sedan moved down the winding road at a decent, if unhurried, pace. The car’s interior was filled with the inviting aromas of warm sourdough bread, baked chicken, and peach and cinnamon pie from the picnic basket that sat so temptingly between the two children in the backseat."

"Web London held a semiautomatic SR75 rifle custom built for him by a legendary gunsmith. The SR didn’t stop at merely wounding flesh and bone; it disintegrated them. Web would never leave home without this high chieftain of muscle guns, for he was a man steeped in violence. He was always prepared to kill, to do so efficiently and without error. Lord, if he ever took a life by mistake he might as well have eaten the bullet himself, for all the misery it would cause him. Web just had that complex way of earning his daily bread. He couldn’t say he loved his job, but he did excel at it."

"Tom Langdon was a journalist, a globetrotting one, because it was in his blood to roam widely. Where others saw only instability and fear in life, Tom felt graced by an embracing independence. He’d spent the bulk of his career in foreign lands covering wars, insurrections, famines, pestilence, virtually every earthly despair. His goal had been relatively simple: He had wanted to change the world by calling attention to its wrongs. And he did love adventure."

"It only took a split second, although to Secret Service agent Sean King it seemed like the longest split second ever.
They were on the campaign trail at a nondescript hotel meet-and-greet in a place so far out you almost had to use a satellite phone to reach the boonies. Standing behind his protectee, King scanned the crowd while his ear mike buzzed sporadically with unremarkable information. It was muggy in the large room filled with excited people waving “Elect Clyde Ritter” pennants. There were more than a few infants being thrust toward the smiling candidate. King hated this because the babies could so easily shield a gun until it was too late. Yet the little ones just kept coming and Clyde kissed them all, and ulcers seemed to form in King’s belly as he observed this potentially dangerous spectacle."

"The man in the rain slicker walked slightly bent over, his breathing labored and his body sweaty. The extra weight he was bearing, though not all that substantial, was awkwardly placed, and the terrain was uneven. It was never an easy thing to tote a dead body through the woods in the middle of the night. He shifted the corpse to his left shoulder and trudged on. The soles of his shoes bore no distinguishing marks; not that it would have mattered, since the rain quickly washed away any traces of footprints. He’d checked the forecast; the rain was why he was here. The inclement weather was the best friend he could ask for."

"HE WAS RUNNING HARD, BULLETS embedding in things all around him. He couldn’t see who was shooting, and he had no weapon to return fire. The woman next to him was his wife. The young girl next to her was their daughter. A bullet sliced through his wife’s wrist, and he heard her scream. Then a second bullet found its target and his wife’s eyes widened slightly. It was the split-second bulge of the pupils that signaled death before one’s brain could even register it. As his wife fell, he raced to his little girl’s side to shield her. His fingers reached for hers but missed. They always missed."

"Roger Seagraves walked out of the U.S. Capitol after an interesting meeting that, surprisingly, had had little to do with politics. That evening he sat alone in the living room of his modest suburban home after arriving at an important decision. He had to kill someone, and that someone was a very significant target. Instead of a daunting proposition, Seagraves saw it as a worthy challenge."

Posted 2012/06/01 at 22h25T in First Sentences.