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.

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3 thoughts on “Another reason to HATE DRM

  1. yeah, xanedu is much easier, but you can’t view your articles on xanedu after they expire in 2 months, unless you print them out and save them… good idea with the ads

  2. One of the reasons I never buy etext, I don’t want the restrictions. I work with disabled students at a community college and our bookstore opened up the option of getting e-text for certain books. It sounded like a great idea for accommodating students with visual impairments, however we quickly found out what they were selling wasn’t the book itself just the right to use it for a few months. The student we were helping needed the book for multiple semesters and as a reference thereafter, so the etext the bookstore was offering was worthless to her.

    Personally I would never buy a book that I could only use for a few months. I would love to have electronic copies of some books I own but I won’t pay for something with those kind of restrictions. I think every book you buy should come with a free pdf copy, yes some people would take advantage but most wouldn’t. The ones that would take advantage could already do the same thing right now without a copy from the publisher.

  3. Jen,

    Thanks for that thoughtful comment. “eText” is only appropriate in certain situations. It is perfect for a school curriculum where and when courses are only a few weeks in length and only a small portion of the book is actually assigned (such as in business school).

    There are people that may take advantage of looser DRM policies but that is the risk you take for the tradeoff. A smart publisher would build those costs into an electronic version of the book. The electronic version should be cheaper than the paper copy (even if it is the entire book).

    Publishers need to realize that we are moving into a world where everything is going electronic. You can fight the tide or go with it. If you fight it, you end up like the music companies. If you go with it, you could end up with a model more like newspapers (i.e. making all content digital and earning money through ads).

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