The software industry tried every method of copy protection they could come up with until they finally discovered two things. (1) It was a losing battle. (2) Enough people were honest enough that you could make a living without worry about the dishonest people.
Then it was the music industry. Despite all the hubbub over Napster, we now have unfettered mp3s from Amazon and iTunes Plus.
Content will be a serious obstacle for smaller developers. While there are free eBooks out there, and channels for procuring commercial eBooks illegally, to create a legitimate eBook reader, a company has to have a legitimate source of material that is desirable. This, of course, involves the potentially long and drawn out task of licensing material from a plethora of different publishing houses, something better suited for a larger company like Amazon. There also needs to be a way to track downloads and pay out royalties. Not necessarily something a small software house has the means to do. This leave us with the potential of large companies such as Amazon or ebooks.com commissioning someone, or writing an application in house, to take care of the task.
It used to be, you’d by a vinyl record and you could play it on just about any record player. You could buy an audio cassette and play it on any cassette player. You could buy a CD and play it on just about any CD player. You could buy a video cassette and play it on any VCR.
(Though there was hand-wringing about illegal copying all along.)
So why shouldn’t I be able to buy an eBook and read it on any eBook reader? Why should a developer who creates an eBook reader be worrying about licensing content?
It’s way past time for the book industry to realize that they need to stop worrying about the same old issues and move on.
Here’s another one: DriveThruRPG. They sold PDF role-playing books with copy protection. They and their publishers eventually figured out that if they got rid of the copy protection, they could succeed. I can buy an eBook from them and it will work with almost any PDF reader I care to read it with.
Even the one built into the iPhone!
If I want to write a PDF reader, I don’t have to think a minute about licensing content.
(Incidentally, I like PDF, but I think it isn’t all that good for as an eBook format.)
It’ll happen, but I keep wondering why we have to wait when we know where we’re going.
(Since I mentioned DriveThruRPG, I’d also like to mention Your Games Now.)
(And then there is the irony of the iPhone App Store using FairPlay just as it’s being used less and less by the iTunes Music Store.)