Indie booksellers sue Amazon, publishers re: DRM

Seeing this news come across the blogs this morning: Indie Booksellers Sue Amazon, Big Six Over E-book DRM. (That’s a Publisher’s Weekly article.) Scalzi has commentary here and Cory Doctorow chimes in over here. Jane of, who is in fact a lawyer, has commentary over here.

The long and short of it so far appears to be that while there is a suit to be made against Amazon, this isn’t it. I am nonetheless following this story with interest. As a writer whose available books are all going to be specifically DRM-free (both the self-pubbed ones and the ones from Carina) for the time being, I am absolutely in favor of killing DRM with fire. And as a reader who just bought a second ereader for the express purpose of supporting her local indie bookstore, I’d absolutely like to see it be easier for indie bookstores to sell digital content.

But like some of the commenters on Scalzi’s post, I’m not entirely sure yet what this suit thinks it’s trying to accomplish–it’s unclear as to whether they’re trying to get DRM killed entirely, or whether they want in on the DRM action (I’m not seeing a link yet to the actual suit so I can’t dig into it). Doctorow and Dear Author are both pointing out that the suit’s badly presenting its understanding of the technical aspects of DRM, which is not helping. And from what I’m seeing so far, they’re right.

It’s important to note that the new partnership US indie bookstores can set up with Kobo does tie a customer into a specific ecosystem–i.e., Kobo’s. But that’s ultimately only really a problem if DRM is involved. If DRM is not a factor, and assuming that the content has in fact been cleared for worldwide sale (which IS a different question than ‘does it have DRM on it?’), then the customer can happily buy ebooks from her indie bookstore, other bookstores elsewhere in the country or even the world, Amazon, B&N, wherever the hell she wants. That’s ultimately the place where I’d like to see us get with ebooks, and it’s why I direct a LOT of my ebook purchasing power to support publishers who make a point of selling DRM-free content (assuming of course that they are books I actually want to, y’know, read).

But failing that, I can see an argument for trying to lean on Amazon to either a) back off using an exclusive DRM, or b) allowing indie bookstores access to the Kindle ecosystem.

That, however, I see happening approximately about the same time hell freezes over. So yeah, not sure really what this lawsuit thinks it’s trying to do. I’ll be over here munching popcorn and waiting to see if it figures itself out!

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