10/15/08

E-Books, Again

Lots of good input on my question from yesterday. I really appreciate it.

Let's use coloring books as an example, because they're close to what we're looking at, although some will be more workbook style, or crosswords, or word searches or whatever. Ideally, we'd produce locked pdf files, where people can't change anything in the file. We'd want our customer to be able to download it and print it from their computer. Also, we have no problem with a customer printing multiple copies for their own children, or for their Primary class. What we don't want is for the Stake Primary president to buy it, then print copies for every teacher in every ward in the stake. We also don't want individuals to buy one copy, then e-mail it to all their siblings, aunts, cousins, neighbors, etc.

Now. My personal belief is that if people want to cheat and want to "steal" copies, they're going to find some way to do it. Even if they buy a printed book, they can always take it down to Kinko's and print a million copies on the self-serve machines and no one is the wiser. Also, I believe that most people are honest and when you explain about copyright and what is and isn't allowed, they will follow that. Especially if they're LDS.

But, one of our authors is refusing to let us do it unless we can somehow make sure that their book can't be easily stolen. They feel that because it's so much easier to e-mail a file than it is to physically photocopy it, that they'll lose control over their product which they've worked very hard to create.

Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? Thoughts? Feelings?

9 comments:

Wm Morris said...

A few thoughts:

No DRM is unhackable. The question is what can be done to address the "easily" requirement and what "easily" means for your target audience (e.g. what is easy for some of us, might not be easy for your target audience).

I don't really know how to answer that question without knowing more about your audience.

But...

As mentioned in the previous thread there are ways to require authentication or lock down PDF files. For example, there are plug-ins that limit the number of times a PDF file can be printed or that limit the PDF to one computer. The problem is that both of those penalize your customers. What happens if someone gets a new laptop? And/or are they going to be content with a print limit? As the music industry has discovered, most consumers feel that if they buy a track or an album, that they should own it for life and should be able to load it on to any device that they own.

My biggest question is if coloring books/work books are worth the effort and cost of applying DRM. Because there will be a cost associated with any sort of authentication program.

I mean, there's so much available for free on the Internet these days anyway.

There is one rather inelegant solution that I can think of. Instead of using a pdf file, you could create each page as an image file and load it onto a print-formatted Web page. Customers would then be issued a login to use to reach that page. There's even code that you could insert that would keep them from right clicking and saving the file to their desktop.

The major problem there is that the print quality wouldn't be very good.

You could possibly also do something with a Flash file, but making it so that it prints well across browsers might be difficult. I don't really know.

I think your best bet is to offer the basic content as a low price PDF File with light DRM (if any) and then make premium print-only content available for purchase (and advertise it in the PDF file).

Wm Morris said...

Here's an article discussing various pdf DRM tactics. I can't vouch for it because it's one of those write content for free so you can promote yourself sites. But it's the only good overview I could find quickly (most Google results were how to unlock DRMed pdf files).

Anonymous said...

Make sure your photo copy instructions/warnings are easy to read, short, to the point and will attract the attention of the user.

Statistic: nearly 80 precent of photcopy violators are people who glossed over the warning because they had seen it so often that it didn't register as something they should read OR they assumed it was an advertisement they didn't need to read.

Good luck.

Mojo said...

Okay, I'm going to say something very unpopular:

Church members will feel entitled to it and won't take it seriously anyway.

Why?

Because they're trained to expect cheap/free materials at/from/for church members. The church trains them to expect it, the ward budgets have always necessitated that things be acquired cheap/free, and the hue and cry that something must be ::gasp:: paid for will instantly turn someone off.

What we don't want is for the Stake Primary president to buy it, then print copies for every teacher in every ward in the stake.

No matter what you do, this WILL happen because she won't think to do otherwise. I can tell you that the first words out of her mouth, when presented with your product, will be, "Oh, I'll just buy one and print a bunch of copies for everyone."

We also don't want individuals to buy one copy, then e-mail it to all their siblings, aunts, cousins, neighbors, etc.

No matter what you do, this WILL happen because she won't think to do otherwise. I can tell you that the first words out of her mouth, when presented with your product, will be, "Oh, I'll just buy one and print a bunch of copies for my family."

There's a sense of entitlement amongst members with regard to church materials, books, and kitsch.

Also, I believe that most people are honest and when you explain about copyright and what is and isn't allowed, they will follow that. Especially if they're LDS.

I wouldn't. Because of aforementioned feelings of entitlement and because people in general don't feel that what is artistic is worth money and because society doesn't really understand copyright or intellectual property. It's there, it must be ripe for the picking. And church members aren't immune from common theft, either, even if they do know.

Ideally, we'd produce locked pdf files, where people can't change anything in the file.

That's simple and easy and absolutely reasonable. I don't want my work changed, so we lock it so it can't be.

We'd want our customer to be able to download it and print it from their computer.

Then you've just defeated your purpose. You can't lock it for file sharing and NOT lock it for printing. The programs that are out there lock for printing first, then sharing second. If there's a program that will lock it for sharing but not printing, I'd like to know about it.

But, one of our authors is refusing to let us do it unless we can somehow make sure that their book can't be easily stolen. They feel that because it's so much easier to e-mail a file than it is to physically photocopy it, that they'll lose control over their product which they've worked very hard to create.

And this thinking is what got the music industry in trouble and is keeping big publishing houses in trouble with regard to ebook sales--and will continue to.

That product would have to be tremendously unique for me, Random eBook Customer, to mess with it if it's locked down that tightly.

Considering the nature of the work, that the publisher's goals are mutually exclusive, and that the author is hesitant, I would not put this out in eformat.

Josi said...

this is way out of my orbit, but I'll give feedback based on being a member of your audience.

First, I have not had a lot of success from electronic media. I'm not computer-savvy and could right now go into my computer room and pull out three or four computer programs/games NOT being used because I can't figure out how to install/access the information. If it's hard for me, I won't do it. I also hate loading up my computer with things that I'm not going to be using on at least a weekly basis. I would probably not buy an electronic format of what you are proposing if I had to install it on my computer.

I would be far more interested in a web based product I could log into and print. I go online for 'free' things like this quite often. However, I would probably not think twice about making copies for my primary class if I had a membership-and I'm an author, I understand copyright. A bell went off in my head when the post said that church members feel entitled to free items when used for church. I do. I have received complaints from people that I don't give away free books, seeing as how my characters are mormon. I've heard people complain because the temple cafeterias charge for the food they sell, shouldn't it be free since we've gone to the trouble of going to the temple? However, I wonder if you had a VERY simple and basic 'disclaimer' that they had to accept which explained that items are not to be copied for anything other than personal use (which is rather broad in and of itself) and explained that copyright violation is a crime, then maybe people would be a bit more educated. And yet, I don't think there is any way of avoiding that people will take advantage of something like this. I think most, if they knew and understood the situation, wouldn't, but those ignorant (not stupid, just uninformed) wouldn't consider it at all.

It's definitely a catch 22--you want the e-format so it's more accessible to people, and yet it opens you up to be taken advantage of.

Maybe you could get a general authority to give a conference address on it, but then again, half the listeners would assume they were talking about someone else and it didn't apply to them because, after all, they are serving in their calling because of inspiration--how can it be a sin if they are only doing their calling?

Good luck :-)

Janice said...

I would use the e-format as a kind of advertisement. Put a few of the pictures/puzzles on a file that people can easily distribute with a link to where they can purchase the full version on hard copy. Then include a cd that is copy protected with the hard copy. The cd would include the free limited version software that people can send to whoever as an advertisement. I think people would be less likely to pirate the full version when there is also a free tidbit for the taking.

Anna said...

I agree with Josi and Janice. I also like to go online and find free stuff I can get.

I think the idea of a few "free" items online is a great idea. You can copy, pass them along. I may be hesitant to buy something if I'm not sure if I would use it or not. But if I had a free sample then I could judge if I would buy it or not. And of course, passing around the free copies would get more people interested in it.

I have a few friends that just aren't that into computers. I would group them with Josi. They can check email, know a few websites, but they aren't computer gamers. They don't buy things online, and just use their computer for a few things. Not stupid about computers, but just not their first source for entertainment or resources.

Rebecca Talley said...

I think people just don't think much, if at all, about copyright issues. I can't tell you how many times we've gone round and round about showing videos/DVDs for Mutual activities when it specifically states in the handbook that we cannot show videos/DVDs because it violates copyright.

Interesting discussion.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

I also go online for free stuff - clip art, custom word searches, cross words, etc. There are several sites that offer these things for free.

I very rarely ever purchase an electronic product that is downloaded to my computer. Especially since, because of my hubby's work, I upgrade or reinstall computers more often than the average household. When this occurs, I always end up losing something I wanted to keep. Hence the reason I don't like to purchase electronic versions of books, etc.

Now, if it was on a website that I logged onto and my items were stored there - then I might consider purchasing an item there. The catch here is that it would need to be a company I know really well & trust will stick around as long as I want access to that product.

Personally, if I am going to purchase an item for coloring, clip art, etc, then I prefer to have it on a CD I can pop into the CD drive, look up what I want, then take it out. (For example - Primary Partners CD's). I would much rather buy a CD and print images from home, than to purchase the book, then need to find somewhere to make copies.

As for sharing files - my hubby is actually very strict about that. He won't let anyone copy our music, software, or movies; and won't accept files that were copied from anyone either. For us, this was a very simple decision as my husband works as a custom software developer and detests pirated stuff.

In fact, when I edit someone's ms, I only keep the feedback & fixes documents I prepare for the author & make sure to delete the manuscripts from my computer. This way, it's never "accidentally" viewed or sent out to others electronically.

I hope this helps as you try to figure out how to produce these products!