Don’t Blame The Kindle For Piracy

December 4th, 2007 · 10 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

I am cranky. You’ve been warned. So I’m minding my own business, or, rather, minding other people’s business as I cruise the Internet when what has to be one of the dumber notions to cross my screen appears. Given the stuff I read online every day, this is really saying something.

Devices don’t make pirates. Unreasonable barriers make pirates.

In what has to be a desperate attempt to find a new angle on the now-waning Kindle story, a few writers have speculated that the Kindle can spark book piracy. Yeah. That’s what the world needs to worry about. The Kindle and piracy. Uh huh.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of faith in the ingenuity of my species. There has always been and will always be a percentage of humanity that believes it’s better to live outside the law. Even though Amazon made it near-impossible for people to share books with members of their own family, I believe that there are busy little beavers out there trying hack the Kindle’s DRM. And, frankly, the way the DRM on this device has been implemented, there’s a certain level of begging people to thwart the system.

The music industry — and to a large degree, the motion picture business — really screwed up when it became obvious that consumers wanted to access music online. Rather that making it easy and affordable for customers to get the music they wanted in the format they wanted, the music industry spent a good decade, untold millions, and countless hours of meetings trying to create a standard or process or method that worked for the industry.

Had the music biz thought, “Wow, we should listen to the people who want our music”, I would wager that piracy would be a much smaller problem. By continually and repeatedly erecting concrete blast walls and — you gotta love this approach — treating all customers like criminals, the music industry turned piracy into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If iTunes has taught us anything, it is that flexible, easy-to-use, affordable music will get people to open their wallets.

You know, this is so obvious that I feel kind of dumb saying it. Again. Devices don’t make pirates. Unreasonable barriers make pirates. Most people are happy to pay for convenience — and let’s all be perfectly frank here: pirating books is not necessarily the most fun thing you can do on the high seas (it’s also not that hard if you’re seeking current releases). If it were easy for me to get all the ebook formats I can purchase on the Kindle, man, I’d be ordering two (one for me, one for the husband, we don’t share well).

If book piracy increases, do not blame the Kindle. It’s shooting the messenger. Blame Amazon and the publishing industry. I can’t download a book from the eHarlequin store and store it on my laptop and a Kindle. I have to buy the Kindle version. This means I have to commit to my reading device when I make a purchase. That’s just wrong.

I can’t buy a PDF ebook from another retailer and easily read it on the Kindle. Amazon, maybe not fully grasping the beauty of the iPod, has chosen to try to lock device to retailer.

Bad move. Very bad move. I am a grown human with a decent job. I pay my taxes on time (or rather, someone in my household ensures I am not committing a crime). I read like I breathe. I take far too many books on vacation. I am never more than five feet away from reading material. All I ask is that the people whose job it is to get books to me (you know who you are) make it as easy as possible for me to read those books.

I am tired — tired!! — of reliving the Beta versus VHS scenario. I don’t want to buy any media in any format while living in fear that my hardware (or software) will be obsolete in a year. I am not a pirate. Never have been, look lousy in an eyepatch (also horizontal stripes? Let’s get real.). Is it so hard to understand that treating the customer like someone who is giving you money for goods and services is a good thing?

The Kindle will not spark book piracy. Pirates aren’t nuts about putting several hundred dollars into a device unless the return on investment is worthwhile. As long as the publishing industry, and this includes Amazon because I am convinced they worked more with the industry than the consumer on the Kindle, treats its customers like pirates, these same customers will decide that that publishers don’t value them.

That’s what sparks book piracy, gang.

Piracy lives in the DNA in some people. But most of us just want to get our entertainment media in a convenient, affordable manner. Rather than building better pirates, maybe more time should be spent on creating happy customers.

[tags]kindle, amazon, amzn, piracy, copyright, drm, digital rights management, eharlequin[/tags]

File Under: Non-Traditional Publishing

10 responses so far ↓

  • Jim Murdoch // Dec 5, 2007 at 6:12 am

    All very valid points. My main issue with what I’ve read so far is the price of the books. What exactly am I paying for? There are so many books available I don’t need to rush out and buy them hot off the press. Words don’t go off. I’m quite happy to wait till the price goes down and mostly I buy used books anyway unless I’m giving them as a gift.

    I have an old Rocket Reader and I like it but, despite its age, it still is far more use to me than a Kindle will ever be.

  • Joe Wikert // Dec 5, 2007 at 9:08 am

    While I agree that the Kindle can’t be blamed for any potential increase in book piracy, the Kindle’s success could be a contributing factor. After all, if there’s not much interest in e-books why pirate them? But if pirates suddenly see a platform to leverage, well, they probably will. It’s not the Kindle’s fault though…this would be the result of *any* device that takes off.

    While I too am not thrilled with Amazon’s decision to go with a proprietary e-book format (didn’t they learn anything from Sony?!), I can’t help but wonder if this is just Step One. Get the gadget out there. See how it does. Make adjustments as necessary in Kindle 2.0, 3.0, etc. If Kindle 1.0 is an enormous hit Amazon will be less likely to open it up to other e-book formats but if there’s resistance, well, supply-and-demand will take over and they’ll have to rethink it a bit.

    As I’ve said to several people already, Kindle 1.0 is kind of interesting but I’m looking forward to the second and third generation of this device, not the early adopter model that exists today.

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  • Gar Nelson // Dec 7, 2007 at 9:46 am

    I like buying ebooks from Baen. Older titles they offer me for free. I can experience unfamiliar authors, and more often than not, buy many more books than I would have otherwise. When I do buy ebooks from them, I can put the book on my laptop, my desktop, even my palm pilot. Baen treats me like an adult, so I happily buy Baen products. If someone is going to assume I’m a nefarious criminal before I ever make a purchase, I’ll just as happily say ‘no’. If Amazon adopted a similar model as Baen, I’d already have a Kindle.

  • El Mike’s Internet News Blog » Blog Archive » Tools Don’t Make Pirates. Unreasonable Barriers Make Pirates // Dec 7, 2007 at 10:02 am

    […] lead to an increase in e-book “piracy.” Reader Carolyn writes in to point to a terrific rant about how this assertion is misplaced. The writer, Kassia Krozser, notes that it’s not the Kindle’s fault that people will […]

  • Tools Don’t Make Pirates. Unreasonable Barriers Make Pirates | www.theirway.net // Dec 8, 2007 at 2:03 am

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  • Anonymous // Feb 11, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Even the romance “we all love each other and our fans” authors are jumping on the “readers are criminal thieves” train.

    http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/piracy_still_not_the_good_kind/

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