E-books are growing in popularity for their simplicity. Why keep dozens, or hundreds, maybe thousands of hard copies of books when you can have that all that same content stored electronically on one device? For some old-school avid readers, they will never let go of their precious paper text, and that’s fine, but for the growing population of Kindle and Nook users, paper copies may be a thing of the past. Okay, so most technologically advanced readers enjoy e-books for their ease of use, but there is a drawback. When a consumer purchases a copy of an e-book, it is for their specific e-book reader, it can’t be downloaded on another reader. Meaning they have only one copy of that electronic text, or in other words: they bought it but they don’t own it, entirely. This is because e-books are copyright protected.
David Pogue wrote an article on the New York Times blog about whether or not e-books should be copyright protected. First off, why are e-books copyright protected? They are protected to prevent piracy. Publishers are afraid of losing money if their copies of e-books are everywhere on the internet to download for free. Pogue’s initial reaction in the article was likewise, he stated that he too was “terrified by the thought of piracy.” However, he and his publisher decided to conduct an experiment of allowing one of his books to be downloaded as an unprotected pdf file. The thought was that if lots of pirated copies are downloaded, this would be a potential boost in advertising, and lots of people who never would have paid for the book in the first place will end up reading it since it’s free. The results of the experiment concluded that it was heavily pirated, and the sales of his book were actually up just a little for that year. It wasn’t conclusive enough to say removing copyright protection from all e-books will increase sales across the board, but for a small-scale experiment it didn’t result in economic loss which gives the idea some potential. Pogue also gave a comparison to the music industry. He states that “music files are no longer copy protected, and the music companies haven’t gone out of business.” This of course is in reference to music files for the iPod early on being restricted to only being import specifically to iPod, but now MP3’s can be imported onto any device and there are millions of free MP3 downloads all over the internet.
My reaction to e-book copyrighting is somewhat of a toss-up. I understand why the laws are in place, to protect those with the rights to the content. At the same time, Pogue’s experiment seems to have some merit. I think that further experimentation of this idea could result in more consideration of removing the copy protection of the e-books. Feel free to comment with your opinion of whether or not e-books should be copy protected.