Another reason to HATE DRM

I am in a business school class called Strategic Management. The first two sentences of the course description say, “Organizations live in multiple environments. How they adapt and navigate their environments is a measure of their success.”

Note to the teacher — a measure of your success is how you stimulate the students to learn and do their reading.

Note to electronic document publishers/distributors — a measure of your success is how well your programs work. If they do not work or take an inordinate amount of time to work, then they are a failure. If they also clog up my desktop and taskbars, then your program is a double failure. I will never buy another book from you again unless forced. You have lost me as a customer.

Why is this pertinent? The textbook for the course is only available electronically. My professor assigned this version of the book with altruistic reasons in mind — to save the students money. Our version of the book only includes the chapters we are supposed to read, not all the superfluous (for the class) material. Educational books are overpriced (one of my business school books costs $190 new). I appreciate the professors effort to save us money. As one would expect with most everything DRM, the program was a huge hassle and I still can’t use MY book how I want.

A long discussion of what went wrong is below. However, to save time, I have put the pertinent points up top.

I gave away my personal information to two companies. I downloaded a program that is running all the time and slowing down my computer. It took me over an hour to make my book work. I saw a blue screen of death (first time that I have seen that since installing Vista Ultimate). Now that I can view my book, I might want to print it at school where I can print a few hundred pages with relative speed, double sided. That won’t happen, however, because installing programs on those computes is [rightfully] blocked. How about just saving the book so that I can read it when I don’t have an internet connection or in a few years when I have deleted the program (and the company that distributes it is out of business)? It is my book, is it not?

I don’t know whether to blame the publisher, author, or electronic distributor. Whomever is to blame, know that this model is a failure. You need to start thinking into the future and into a world where content is only a means to a different sale — think putting the book online for free, with printing ability, but filled with ads. You will have access to the most lucrative market on the planet (college age students). Stop making me hate your programs, make me hate the fact that I tried to pay for this, and make me want to find a free way to read this book. I am just itching to download Limewire right now.

The story of buying and reading the book:

To buy and read the book, we have to go through two different companies and give away personal information to both. One company is Cengage. The other is iChapters. I bought the book on Cengage’s website and then they moved me to iChapters. The purchase process with Cengage went smoothly. Viewing the book on iChapters was a whole other story.

I was first required to install an onerous copyright program from Oracle. Once that occurred, I could test the program to see if it’s DRM was working (note that this DRM program is now running, at all times, in the background and on Internet Explorer). iChapter’s website said it was working. Great. I then downloaded the book, which was zipped to save .02 MB. Nice. After unzipping, I tried to open the file and was told to either let Windows select the best program or I could choose it myself. I know something about computers (and know that Window’s and the internet won’t know), so I decided to do it myself. Heck, I knew the folder where the DRM program was installed. I found the program and…nothing. I tried opening it through Adobe Reader (the book is a form of PDF). Nothing. What to do?

Like any good techie who has failed to find a solution after hours of trying, I decided to actually read the “Help with installation” file on iChapter’s website. Unfortunately, the installation FAQ was not updated to include any Vista information (although the program I installed was clearly for Vista). Also, the program that the FAQ referenced was something wholly different than what I downloaded and installed. Now what? The help desk is closed. Good thing I don’t need to read this book for tomorrow.

Nevertheless, I gave it one more try. Internet Explorer is usually my go to program of last resort. Kazam…it worked. Hey iChapters, thanks for telling me that IE was the program I needed to use to open MY book.

Plus, iChapter’s left my computer buggy as all hell and me pissed. Nicely done. Good work. Great programming.

p.s. iChapters & Cengage, you should check out Xanedu. I have not had any problems buying, reading, and printing books that I buy from them for school.

A lot is coming

I have a lot of topics that need some blog time. Here are a few that are coming — whenever I find the time between Bschool/law school/bar app/and graduation…

1. My journey into “Parallels” usage (i.e. installing and then running Parallels for the Mac). Plus, one of these days installing Ubuntu.

2. Windows Media Center & Computing on your TV — a review, very basic how-to, and some Cogitatus’ thoughts.

3. Mac vs. PC – I think I have used my Mac long enough to begin to have a decent idea of why I like one versus the other.

4. iPod Touch.

5. Sprint + Google + Cable Companies + Intel + my mother = WiMAX nivana?! Check this article, among others.

6. Social directories.

7. Contract making websites (such as Agree2)– the doom of low-level lawyers everywhere?

8. Cricket Wireless’ $35 unlimited data plan — the slippery slope becomes steeper.

9. Netflix streaming movies to Xbox Live — it’s about time [that Microsoft did something to take the Xbox Live service to the next step].

10. The sad split of Motorola’s handset business from the rest of the company. This is a business failure of gargantuan proportions (from a management perspective). How could this happen? You had the Razor. Also to note, the provocative letter from a Moto insider — Numair Faraz. Go him!

Phew…that is it as of right now.


M:Metrics iPhone survey

Today, research firm M:Metrics released a January survey of 10,000 adults.  The survey’s findings are somewhat dramatic and the survey’s title, “iPhone Hype Holds Up” is apt.

The most dramatic findings of the report are that 84.8% of users go online and that 30.9% use their iPhone to watch mobile TV and/or video.  However, the most interesting nugget of information is that nearly 50% of iPhone users used their iPhone to access a social networking site or blog.  This compares to 19.4% of smartphone users who do the same.  20% of those iPhone users were going to Facebook (compared to 2% of smartphone users).  Interestingly, Facebook was one of the first web properties to customize its interface for the iPhone ans has been featured in iPhone commercials.

Since the official demographics of iPhone users are similar to those of smartphone users (i.e. ale, aged 25-34, earn more that $100,000 and have a college degree), a question arises — why are iPhone users so much more likely to use the internet?

There are several potential answers: 1. all iPhone plans come with unlimited internet use.  Once you have it, you begin to use it.  As I can attest to from experience, the internet on your phone might not be something you are willing to pay for up front.  However, once you taste its sweet nectar, you can’t go back to a life without it.  Unfortunately, I do not believe that this answer fully explains the disparities discussed above.  The fact is that many smartphone users (although not 100% like the iPhone) have free internet included in their plan.

A second potential answer is that iPhone users are not as similar a demographic as M:Metrics would have you believe.  On the surface, they are similar (i.e. age, education and earning power).  However, iPhone users may differ on one key component — net/tech savvy.  The current crop of iPhone users include many early adopters.  These are the people who buy the “cool” new product. They are the people who already live the digital lifestyle (and find it fun). They spend a large portion of their day online; the iPhone only makes it that much easier to stay connected.  The average smartphone user, on the other hand, may be more business focused, less interested in Facebook, and less likely to spend time going online with their phone because they are already receiving their email through a push mechanism.   I am making broad assertions but their are greater differences between the iPhone and smartphone group than initially shown.

A third option is that the iPhone is simply a much better internet device than any smartphone before it.  I have used and played with many smartphones and I can compare them to my iPod Touch (same internet surfing experience, albeit slightly faster over wifi, as the iPhone).  The iPhone is a better internet device.  It was designed with the internet in mind.  A finger is a better navigation device than a blackberry ball, a scrollwheel, or any other interface device (except for a mouse, which needs a computer).  The iPhone makes it easy and fun to go online.  It is a harbringer of things to come and I ardently hope for some strong competition.