Our platform focus continues this fine Sunday with the e-Book Echo, our take on the week in the digital publishing world. This week the NYT woke up to the realities of the DRM restrictions that affect the ability of libraries to lend e-books to members. We warned about this reality a while back, and folks are beginning to realize we were right. On the surface it sounds like a library can lend as many copies of a book as they wish, given it’s only a simple file that gets exchanged. The reality is much different, as even libraries must pay for each “copy” of a book they can lend. The financial obligations that libraries operate under are just as onerous for e-books as they are for physical books. This means that libraries typically only get a few licenses of a given e-book for lending, even though it would be better serving the community (and easy to do) to lend to anyone desiring to read a given book. Many online libraries have a “recently returned” section so members will be aware when that best-seller becomes available for borrowing, due to the few copies available. It is silly on the surface, but it’s the way it works.
Those of us not in the book publishing business are not privy to how authors get compensated for their work. The author of one book shares that information with us due to unhappiness with his publisher. The author of Beginning Ruby wants his publisher to give away the e-book copy of his book, to drive sales of the paper version. The publisher says no way, so the author is asking readers to pirate the digital copy of his book:
My reaction to seeing other Apress books getting the free, electronic version treatment is: I’m good with you pirating my book! Now, of course, I can’t actively participate in pirating my book but, heck, it’s around on plenty of “free e-book” sites and on RapidShare. There are even links on Twitter to torrents like this. I am happy for you to pirate my book, but I’m NOT A LAWYER, and I can’t guarantee what Apress would do about it – so you’d be doing it off your own back! So, uhm, don’t pirate it? ;-)
I have a feeling the publisher wasn’t too happy with this author, as his original blog post about it is no longer available. It’s kind of sad when the publisher ends up with more rights to a work than the artist, but that’s the way business works.