Monday, July 07, 2008

BPN 1151 E-books and security

I travelled to Cergy, near Paris, yesterday; a comfortable train ride of six hours. I was able to work on my presentations on board. I heard something about being able to use wi-fi on board; however it was not advertised during the trip. I would have loved to experience it. But now I am in a hotel with paid wifi.

I will be the guest of ITIN, an ICT college. ITIN is one of the partners in the EMIM Master’s program on Interactive Media. The ITIN students are doing two projects on e-books. In the morning they will present their projects and we will discuss the difficulties they met so far. I will be talking to them about the history and the future of e-books. It tells the students about the four waves of e-books: the Sony EB of 1991; the internet download e-book; the mobile book or movel. The latest wave is the e-reader decked out with digital paper. I also show the new direction indicated by XO-2 with a two page e-reader.

The second presentation is about content security and DRM. I am not going into real bits and bytes of DRM, which is a field in itself. DRM can be managed with hardware, software, networks and combinations of these, ranging from simple passwords to intricate combinations of software and network facilities. Yet I want to argue that technical solutions are there to be broken. E-book marketing should take a close look at the iPod business model. It needs an industry champion, a broad offer of content products, reasonable pricing, easy access and a device price of maximally 400 euro. But that is not all.

I read a good article today. It was written by Adam C. Engst. It is in fact a reply to an article on illegal copying of e-books in the New York Times. He argues that authors of e-books can also do something to promote their books in order to keep people from copying their books. They can pose some rules to the publisher, but they can also help their own sales. In the article he published 10 rules to be followed. And they sound very interesting.
- Upfront statement on the site saying that no DRM or copy prevention measures are used in the eBook;
- Yet, the server protected from illegal copying;
- Pricing should be reasonable;
- Purchase process simple;
- Prominent display of the price of the e-book;
- Marketing of free samples of other published-books;
- Create a friends and colleagues discount program;
- Treat e-books as printed books with respect, no copying;
- Updating and upgrading content is a weapon;
- Forget about voluntary payments.

I love the updating and upgrading rule for e-books. The reasoning is simple. By updating the old e-book is going out of date and whenever copied an old e-book is copied. Of course this is true for the computer book business of Adam C. Engst. But once you have written a book on history, there is not much chance to update it; although the book can be expanded with other view points and avenues. It is just a matter of creativity.

Combining this marketing method by authors and publishers and using social DRM could go a longer way than any technical DRM solution, for technical riddles are there to be solved.

Blog Posting Number: 1152

DRM, social DRM, piracy.

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