Readersforum's Blog

March 14, 2013

Do you truly own your e-books?

Amazon and publisher restrictions control your access, but a bookstore lawsuit could change that

locked_kindle-620x412By Laura Miller

To the casual observer, the e-book revolution has produced two bumper crops: smutty trilogies à la “Fifty Shades of Grey” and lawsuits. First there were the authors (as represented by the Authors Guild), who sued Google Books for digitizing their work without permission. Then the Department of Justice sued five publishers and Apple for adopting a policy known as the agency model. Finally, a trio of independent booksellers filed a class-action suit last week against the six largest book publishers and Amazon, accusing them of collaborating to create a monopoly on e-book sales and shutting small retailers out of the market.

The booksellers — Fiction Addiction of Greenville, S.C., Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, N.Y., and Posman Books of New York City — are demanding the right to sell what they term “open-source and DRM-free” e-books, files that can be read on a Kindle or any other e-reading device. The publishers are accused of entering into “confidential agreements” with Amazon making this impossible.

The dispute and the situation that fostered it are confusing, and it can be difficult to suss out how either one affects readers. To put it simply: The Big Six publishers require that all their copyrighted e-books be sold with DRM (digital rights management) protection. DRM is coding designed to prevent the people who buy an e-book from making copies of it. A Kindle will only support DRM-protected books that are in a format that Amazon owns and that only Amazon can sell.

 

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