Posted by: crudbasher | November 8, 2010

DRM + Libraries = Insanity

I had a very interesting experience this weekend with my local library.

I live in Orange County, Florida and have for 20 years.  My local library system seems to be pretty decent. It has a nice service where I can get a book on their website and they will mail it to the house.  Very Netflixish. (did I just invent a word?)

Anyway, this weekend I wanted to see if they had a book by Neil Stephenson called Diamond Age.  If you are interested in personalized learning I highly suggest this fascinating book.  I have read it before but it’s been about 10 years so I wanted to get it again.  Well the libraries online catalog said it was checked out.  (their website is very non intuitive and about 5 years behind the technology but that’s another story)  I did see however that they have a new program where they can loan out eBooks!  I was really impressed!  Apparently you use Adobe Digital Editions and can download an eBook for a certain period of time, then it disappears. Ok that’s fine.  I went to do this and found out the eBook was also checked out.

Wait, What???????????????????

The eBook was checked out!?! Yep, I had to wait until someone else had finished reading the eBook on their computer and it “checked back in” before I could download it and read it.


Firstly, I don’t blame the library entirely. This ridiculous artificial scarcity was probably forced on the library by the publisher.   Even so what is the point of this?  How does it hurt the publisher in any way if I can read the eBook at the same time as someone else?  Seriously, what is accomplished by this stupid restriction besides make me mad?  I just don’t see any upside.

The book industry is in a state of transition. They are fumbling around trying to see what level of annoyance people will put up with while still buying their books. I don’t like it and this kind of stupidity makes me less willing to buy eBooks in the future.

Earth to media companies:  If it’s electronic, IT”S NOT SCARCE ANYMORE!!!



  1. When I was a librarian, I received a ridiculous number of calls and visits from sellers (Follett, Ingram, etc…) trying to pitch their ebooks to me. I politely told all of them that I was not interested in the least. They all had their own proprietary filesystem or DRM; one even made the books into programs. ALL of them had the same stupid checkout procedures.
    The only ebooks I would consider are ePub without DRM. The reason is simple. ePub is open-source and can easily be read on PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iOS, Android, etc… Lack of DRM allows the most people to have access at one time.
    I was initially really excited about Barnes & Noble’s Nook because it was going to use ePub and allow sharing. Then I found out that you can only share a book once, ever, and only for a two week period. On top of that, they add their own DRM to it.
    Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to find ebooks without DRM. On top of that, fragmentation is great. Kindle has its own format; Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Borders, Sony, etc… all have their own brand of DRM on their books. The ebook industry is where music was around 5 years ago. You could buy a song on iTunes and then only play it on 5 authorized computers. Eventually Apple and the music industry realized this was stupid (and we were getting around it anyway by burning a CD and then ripping the files), and now most music is sold without DRM. Here is hoping the publishing companies get with the times, although that is probably asking way too much of them.

    • Oh I bet people try to push stuff like that on libraries all the time. Thank you so much for adding this fascinating prospective!!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Andrew Barras. Andrew Barras said: New Post: DRM + Libraries = Insanity […]

  3. First of all, jealous of your netflixish library. What a cool service!
    Second, same problem with my library digital downloads, they can be checked out and you have to wait for them. Totally defeating the purpose of digital if you ask me!

  4. […] remember when I first tried to “check out” an eBook from my local library. The whole concept just seemed a fake as a two dollar bill.  What is […]

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