The e-Book User’s Bill of Rights

After last week’s announcement that publisher HarperCollins is putting a cap on the number of times their e-books can be checked out from OverDrive, I’ve been even angrier than I usually am about the way publishers and distributors screw consumers and users of the rights they have with non-digital content. One of the main reasons why I don’t think e-books will make bound books obsolete any time soon is because bound books are so much freer in use than e-books. You can’t use e-books on whatever device you want without using some third-party software (and sometimes circumventing DRM). You can’t lend e-books for however long you’d like. You can’t resell or donate e-books. In many cases, you don’t even really own e-books, you just pay for the licensing to read them.

So I was very happy to read Sarah Houghton-Jan‘s post this morning of an e-book user’s bill of rights she created with Andy Woodward. I don’t think this bill of rights is the end of the discussion, but the beginning. Luckily, she’s released it into the public domain, so I’ll reprint the entire blog post (as she’s asked people to) and hope the discussion continues. Libraries and e-book users can’t just shut up and take what corporations are offering. We have to fight against this money-grubbing insanity.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.




My mother bought herself a new Kindle for Christmas and passed her Kindle 2 along to me. I have some pretty major problems with e-books, but I’m generally not one to turn down a gift, so here I am with a Kindle.

I read my first book on the Kindle recently. I have to admit, it was a pretty great experience all around. The Kindle is lightweight and small enough that it’s really nice to carry around. It’s also nice having a device with a bunch of books on it. It’s nice to be able to hold the Kindle and turn pages with one hand. The text size and display is really good, too. Overall, I’m glad to use the Kindle.

That being said, there are things I can’t do with the Kindle that I often do with books, like quickly flip back and forth between widely-separated pages. There’s also the question of DRM. I absolutely refuse to put anything with DRM on my Kindle. I can remove DRM from books I buy from the Kindle store, but I’m not very happy giving Amazon money for products with DRM, even if I end up removing it. Still, there are a lot of free (and DRM-free) books out there to keep me reading for a while.

So it turns out I’m pro-electronic reading device and pro-digital book, although I think we’re a long, long way off from e-books actually replacing bound books.

Your Future, Now With Extra DRM!

Utterly despicable.

New federal legislation says universities must agree to provide not just deterrents but also “alternatives” to peer-to-peer piracy, such as paying monthly subscription fees to the music industry for their students, on penalty of losing all financial aid for their students…

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) applauded the proposal, which is embedded in a 747-page spending and financial aid bill. “We very much support the language in the bill, which requires universities to provide evidence that they have a plan for implementing a technology to address illegal file sharing,” said Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA.

According to the bill, if universities did not agree to test “technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity,” all of their students–even ones who don’t own a computer–would lose federal financial aid.

Because nothing, not even the education of the next generations, is as important as the entertainment industry’s profits.

If you live in the districts of Rep. George Miller (D) of California or Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D) of Texas, please call and remind them it is not the responsibility of schools to protect the entertainment industry’s interests and denying a college education to lower-income students to make the entertainment industry happy is reprehensible.

New Jack City

I popped over to my local Borders this afternoon to burn a couple of coupons and was surprised to find they had done some redecorating, including a new multimedia center where you can burn music tracks to your own CD or download them directly to your MP3 player. I had a few questions, so I tracked a clerk down and politely interrogated her.

Me: Can you download tracks to any MP3 player?

Clerk: We’re not compatible with iPods or Zunes, but any other MP3 player should work. If you bring your MP3 player in, we can hook it up to our computer and check its compatibility.

Me: Once I’ve downloaded tracks to my MP3 player, is there a limit to how many times I can copy the tracks to other computers or MP3 players.

Clerk: No, there’s no limit.

Me: So, no DRM?

Clerk: No.

I didn’t check to see if there’s a “user agreement” to downloading music that violates fair use as Amazon’s DRM-free MP3 store apparently does, and it’s not good that you can’t download music to iPods or Zunes (although considering those are Apple and Microsoft products, I’m betting that’s the decision of Apple and Microsoft, not Borders, because of the lack of DRM), but so far, Border’s music download system looks promising.

Rotten at the Core

Am I the only biblioblogger who isn’t drooling over the unveiling of Apple’s iPhone? Sure, it looks pretty. But with any new gadget coming out, I have two questions that help determine whether or not I’m going to want it:

1. Will the gadget be affordable to someone with a public librarian’s salary?

2. Will the gadget be easy to hack, free to modify, free of murky encumbrances?

A gadget doesn’t need to fit both for me to want it (and eventually buy it), but in the iPhone’s case, it fits neither. A 4GB iPhone will cost $500, which is well out of my affordability range. As for it being free to modify and free of encumbrances…that’s a big NO.

Back in the mid-1990s, I shunned Windows PCs and was loyal to Apple. Apple was the alternative, the anti-big soulless corporate machine. At least, that’s how Apple portrayed itself, and I believed it. Not anymore. If Microsoft is McDonald’s, Apple is Burger King. It’s just as corporate, just as soulless, and just as enamored of locking its products up in pointless DRM. Sure, Apple likes to portray itself in commercials as “hip” and “young” and “cool,” but that’s in commercials on primetime network television, which means Apple is really anything but “hip” and “young” and “cool.”

Ever since Steve Jobs announced the coming of the iPhone, I’ve been wary. After reading Cory Doctorow’s post on Boing Boing this morning, I’m thinking I was right to be wary. Maybe some folks are greeting the news of the iPhone with salivating, and that’s fine for them. Me? I’m giving the iPhone a big ol’ yawn.