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Last post Author Topic: Why ebooks are bad for you  (Read 21024 times)

zridling

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Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 10, 2011, 05:10:00 AM »
kindle_newspaper_s.jpg

That old guy Richard Stallman makes the case against ebooks vs. print because they go far beyond copyright restrictions (and I agree):
http://www.pcworld.c...are_bad_for_you.html

-- Books printed on paper can be purchased anonymously with cash without signing any kind of license that restricts the purchaser's use of the book, Stallman notes. No proprietary technology is required, and it's sometimes even lawful under copyright to scan and copy the book.
-- Once it's paid, the purchaser owns the book, and no one has the power to destroy it.
-- Contrast that situation with Amazon e-books, where users are not only required to identify themselves to purchase an e-book, but also to accept "a restrictive license" on their use of it, Stallman notes.
-- "In some countries, Amazon says the user does not own the e-book," he asserts. "The format is secret, and only proprietary user-restricting software can read it all."
-- Copying such e-books is "impossible due to Digital Restrictions Management in the player," he adds, "and prohibited by the license, which is more restrictive than copyright law."
-- Not only that, but Amazon can remotely delete purchased e-books through a back door, Stallman points out, much the way it did in 2009 on "thousands of copies of George Orwell's 1984."

Deozaan

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2011, 05:39:58 AM »
What about e-books published in open formats that are DRM free? :huh:


johnk

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2011, 12:00:26 PM »
Firstly, as Doezaan suggests, the correct title for this short article would have been "The danger of DRM-protected ebooks".

This article says nothing new. I agree that from a practical point of view, the only viable method to reward book authors in the long-term is likely to be voluntary payments by readers.

We've all watched idealistic software authors make their software freely available, inviting voluntary donations. And then a 100,000 downloads later, they notice they've earned just enough to pay for the bandwidth used by the downloads.

So I am pessimistic. People's mindsets will have to change. Today, people don't think about the welfare of individual authors, or singers, or software writers. That's something they'll have to learn.

There are green shoots. I remember the author of Instapaper inviting "subscriptions" to support the service, while offering nothing new in return. I think enough people signed up to give him some hope that voluntary donations could be part of a viable model (I signed up - Instapaper is a fantastic service, and I'd hate to see it disappear). But I'm pretty sure his paid-for apps are still the mainstay of his income. Most people only pay when they have to.

At the moment I'm in the "I don't like DRM on ebooks, but I don't see a viable economic alternative" camp. So despite having a Kindle, I still buy printed books. I only use the Kindle to read my Instapaper feeds, and other documents I email to the Kindle.

johnk

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2011, 05:37:57 PM »
Worth reading on this topic: Seth Godin's recent blog on the "free-gap":

"Creators don't have to like it, but free culture is here and it's getting more pervasive"



Renegade

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2011, 05:39:06 PM »
The ability to remotely delete content is damning as far as I can see, with much more serious implications than just purchased books. For phones and tablets, could you run a business on them with the shadow of that eternally hanging over your shoulder? Could you deal with having things wiped? A sales guy is out in the field, visiting a potential customer and goes to pull up some... oh, wait... it's gone... Ummm... Who looks like the idiot?

I don't agree with everything Stallman says, but he's got some very good points. Here he's bang on.

DRM would be ok if it actually worked to enable people. But it doesn't. And I can't see the behemoths of industry endorsing a version of DRM that does work well.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

mahesh2k

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2011, 02:44:37 AM »
Is Nook also enforcing DRM deletion like kindle ?

zridling

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2011, 03:54:55 PM »
Is Nook also enforcing DRM deletion like kindle ?
No, but Barnes&Noble typically charges slightly more for books than Amazon.

It's ironic that if someone posts a nude picture online, it's permanent. But if I want to buy an ebook, I'm the last one who has control over it, from DRM to which device I can download it to, read it on, whether I can save it onto my HD and then transfer it to another device of mine, whether I can donate it or give it to a friend or pass it on to the next generation, what happens if the company loses my purchase data -- how can I get access to the book again? and at least a dozen other issues no one in the industry wants to talk about. Stallman's point is that the distribution and control of ebooks already go far beyond copyright law.

doctorfrog

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2011, 11:29:03 PM »
What about e-books published in open formats that are DRM free? :huh:

The device is still capable of tying personally identifiable information about you to the book, and remotely deleting or modifying it. There are no laws that I'm aware of that would keep Amazon, or any other company, from doing either of these things, or simply recording your behavior quietly, as the collected data awaits a sales opportunity or subpoena. Can't do this on a massive scale with physical books.

OR CAN YOU (tinfoil)
« Last Edit: June 11, 2011, 11:31:12 PM by doctorfrog »

wraith808

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2011, 08:50:51 AM »
The device is still capable of tying personally identifiable information about you to the book, and remotely deleting or modifying it. There are no laws that I'm aware of that would keep Amazon, or any other company, from doing either of these things, or simply recording your behavior quietly, as the collected data awaits a sales opportunity or subpoena. Can't do this on a massive scale with physical books.

There are outlets other than b&n and amazon for purchasing non-drm books.  And if one of them actually modified something on the device that you didn't purchase from them, that would be a very bad thing for them (and pretty stupid also, as most would have backups - or in the case of a couple of outlets you can re-download).

Josh

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2011, 09:38:02 AM »
The device is still capable of tying personally identifiable information about you to the book, and remotely deleting or modifying it. There are no laws that I'm aware of that would keep Amazon, or any other company, from doing either of these things, or simply recording your behavior quietly, as the collected data awaits a sales opportunity or subpoena. Can't do this on a massive scale with physical books.

There are outlets other than b&n and amazon for purchasing non-drm books.  And if one of them actually modified something on the device that you didn't purchase from them, that would be a very bad thing for them (and pretty stupid also, as most would have backups - or in the case of a couple of outlets you can re-download).

Which sites do you know of? I am always looking for some good non-drm sites to buy ebooks for my kindle.

wraith808

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2011, 10:27:27 AM »
The device is still capable of tying personally identifiable information about you to the book, and remotely deleting or modifying it. There are no laws that I'm aware of that would keep Amazon, or any other company, from doing either of these things, or simply recording your behavior quietly, as the collected data awaits a sales opportunity or subpoena. Can't do this on a massive scale with physical books.

There are outlets other than b&n and amazon for purchasing non-drm books.  And if one of them actually modified something on the device that you didn't purchase from them, that would be a very bad thing for them (and pretty stupid also, as most would have backups - or in the case of a couple of outlets you can re-download).

Which sites do you know of? I am always looking for some good non-drm sites to buy ebooks for my kindle.

http://www.fictionwise.com (a shadow of their former self since b&n bought them... but still have multiformat non-drm books)
http://www.ereader.com (basically a different view of fictionwise.com in my experience)
http://www.fsand.com (science fiction and fantasy)
http://www.angryrobotstore.com/ (science fiction and fantasy - no kindle support, but they recommend using calibre to convert)
http://www.baen.com/ (one(?) of the only publishers that I know of to get on the non-drm ebook bandwagon - sci-fi and fantasy)
http://www.webscription.net (baen uses them for distribution, though they have publishers other than baen)
http://www.smashwords.com/ (indie authors and publishers)

MobileRead Wiki also has a list, though I haven't tried any of them not listed above.


TaoPhoenix

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2011, 02:49:00 PM »
Ebooks are coming.

We need to be accurate whether we're compaining about ebooks or DRM.
Staight Text books are perfect. Maybe PDFs if there's crazy formatting to be preserved.

doctorfrog

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2011, 05:48:02 PM »
The device is still capable of tying personally identifiable information about you to the book, and remotely deleting or modifying it. There are no laws that I'm aware of that would keep Amazon, or any other company, from doing either of these things, or simply recording your behavior quietly, as the collected data awaits a sales opportunity or subpoena. Can't do this on a massive scale with physical books.

There are outlets other than b&n and amazon for purchasing non-drm books.  And if one of them actually modified something on the device that you didn't purchase from them, that would be a very bad thing for them (and pretty stupid also, as most would have backups - or in the case of a couple of outlets you can re-download).

Correct. However, your activity can still be monitored and stored. What if something you downloaded one day was determined to fit a sought-after terrorist profile tomorrow? It wouldn't matter if it had DRM or not, or where you got it, the device itself has an umbilical to somewhere else, and there isn't anything stopping it from quietly storing records of your activity. The policy attached to devices is cause for concern as well as the files themselves.

I'm not personally worried about this happening to me, but that doesn't mean it isn't something that isn't going to happen to anyone, ever. Libraries stood up against US government demands to turn over book borrowing records. Verizon and other telecoms didn't. Would an ebook retailer?
« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 05:49:58 PM by doctorfrog »

mfwiniberg

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2011, 05:39:48 AM »
Hmm,

Having been bitten twice by retrospective removal of reading permission on ebooks (MS Reader and Fictionwise), I now strip the DRM from all ebooks I purchase regardless - as Stallman says, if I buy a book, then I own it and can do more or less what I like with it...

The other, even more pernicious problem though, is the arbitrary (to the customer anyway) restriction of the availability of ebooks. I have an extensive collection of certain authors in paper form (Eg Terry Brooks) - I have been to all the major ebook publishers and attempted to purchase the ebook versions to replace the paper ones. In the last two or three years this has become almost impossible, because - living as I do in that hot-bed of communist, right-wing, islamist reactionary terrorism, the UK, I am not allowed to buy electronic copies of books that are freely available in printed form in my local bookshop (I note however, that Iran, Iraq and Korea are all allowed to purchase copies!)

So, despite my having offered to pay a second time for these books, and hence support both the publisher and author, I am unable to, so I have had to find other ways to replace copies of printed books I already own. How can this possibly benefit either the publishers or the authors? I have debated this with Barnes and Noble / Fictionwise / Mobi in the past, but they seem powerless to influence the publishers that impose these restrictions, which are in fact more onerous than those placed on DVDs and Blu-Ray!

elvisbrown

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2011, 05:59:03 AM »
I've had a kindle for a long while now and I have bought maybe 2 books from Amazon. I use Calibre to convert from other formats like pdf. epub, rtf, text etc etc to mobi then load them on the Kindle when I want them. If you haven't seen Calibre then you must! It is first class software and free, but welcomes contributions. It also has Plug-ins that make managing the Kindle a breeze.

I agree with everything said about DRM but it is important to distinguish between the device and the format.

I am a reader so anything that makes that easier is really welcome. I live in NZ so the range of books here is restricted and limited. Amazon removed all those limitations. Furthermore, in our recent series of earthquakes (2 major ones today!) we lost most of our good bookshops and most of our public libraries on Feb 22. The Kindle didn't stop though. I can read newspapers from pretty much anywhere in the world when I cannot even buy a newspaper from another country here.

I imagine all of that was not covered in the original article as just about all of such articles are very US-centric where as the device is global. I often imagine what Kindles are doing for other parts of the world. I've seen them being read in Mandarin.

Anyone can publish on the Kindle and there are heaps of sites that promote just that. The Kindle is doing for books what the ipod did for music.

In case anyone wonders I am not in the employ of Amazon ;D but when I come across things that can and are changing the way the world works then I applaud it.

One last thing about books. I agree with most things said previously about real, books but consider this. I can buy a book then pass it on and it gets passed on etc etc with as many as let's say 100 readers. What does the author get for that? She/he certainly doesn't get 100 payments. If there is an upside to DRM it is that authors will get better paid for their work. As a reader I say that's bloody good, it means that good authors will get rewarded more.

From the place that shakes and shakes with endless quakes...peace from Christchurch NZ
I started out with nothing and still have most of it left

Renegade

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2011, 06:09:17 AM »
I remember reading some stats for magazines -- they typically have 3 or 4 people read them before they are thrown out. Some magazines have as many as 8 or more people read them. (Individual copies that is.)
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40hz

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2011, 06:58:17 AM »
I think it comes down to an attempt by the publishing industry to reposition their product and change the definition of what a book is.

Under the old paper system, books are 'objects,' or 'artifacts' or 'products.' In most societies, once an object is purchased, ownership passes to the purchaser.

Under the new electronic format, books are now considered just another form of intellectual property, and are therefor licensed for use rather than sold.

It's a subtle distinction but a very real one. And since the desire to redefine a book is primarily driven by profit motives, it's a debate that's unlikely to get resolved amicably.

In some respects the e-book publishers are smart in tying their product to an access device. The thing that is killing the recording industry is their inability to restrict the use of their product because the playback devices and technologies are widely distributed and non-proprietary. The large publishers that are selling digital editions seem determined not to let that happen to them.

Unfortunately, attempting to restrict access by requiring a proprietary device has been tried in the past. And it failed miserably. Early record players all used their own format. A Victorola 78 record would not work on a different brand player. And this was done mostly in an attempt to lock in the customer's downstream purchases to a specific brand of player.

But while this did provide certain short-term benefits to the companies making the players, it also hurt the industry as a whole since it made people reluctant to buy an expensive record player without some assurance it would be able to play any recording they wanted to purchase. It also hurt the artists since they were locked into a specific manufacturer's device. And those same manufacturers took advantage of the situation by offering lower payments to artists if theirs was the most popular player.

It wasn't until "open" formats like the standard 33 and 45 vinyl records came out that the entire industry really took off and everybody came out ahead. It was a win for the artists, the recording companies, the equipment manufacturers - and the customers. And all because they dropped their proprietary and restrictive formats.


Stoic Joker

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2011, 11:58:32 AM »
The only thing "killing" the recording industry is their insistence on pouring billions of dollars into trying to figure out how best to stick people with a crippled product.

If they really want to constantly waste that much of their profits they should go back to snorting them off of coffee tables.

Like in the 80s ... Sure the music sucked...but it was fun...

40hz

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2011, 12:44:58 PM »
I think the recording industry has realized they've lost the battle, hence the new emphasis on network filtering, voluntary censorship, and policing the internet we're hearing so much about these days.

What makes this interesting is that along with all the justifications for expanded powers and "cooperation" (in order to prevent terrorist activity, cyberattacks, and that perennial favorite demon - child pornography) is what's found hidden in the fine print and subtext. Most notably protection for "intellectual properties" which on further reading seems to be largely confined to pop music recordings and big-budget motion pictures.

Also interesting is how individual privacy, consumer protection and compensation for corporate negligence when it involves breaches of their own IT security, and restrictions on the gathering and sharing of personal information between companies is never mentioned - or is given token mention. If it even gets that much.

Brave new world indeed.  :tellme:



« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 12:47:17 PM by 40hz »

zridling

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2011, 03:45:38 PM »
I've had a kindle for a long while now and I have bought maybe 2 books from Amazon. I use Calibre to convert from other formats like pdf. epub, rtf, text etc etc to mobi then load them on the Kindle when I want them. If you haven't seen Calibre then you must! It is first class software and free, but welcomes contributions. It also has Plug-ins that make managing the Kindle a breeze.
Calibre is great -- multi-platform open source software. I also agree the Kindle is remarkable and I'm glad Jeff Bezos stuck with it. Unlike the iPod, however, soon Kindles will likely be given away for "free" if you agree to buy 10 books with it or something. The big fat problem with Kindle is a word I dislike most when it comes to formats: proprietary. As 40hz writes above:
It wasn't until "open" formats like the standard 33 and 45 vinyl records came out that the entire industry really took off and everybody came out ahead. It was a win for the artists, the recording companies, the equipment manufacturers - and the customers. And all because they dropped their proprietary and restrictive formats.

One last thing about books. I agree with most things said previously about real, books but consider this. I can buy a book then pass it on and it gets passed on etc etc with as many as let's say 100 readers. What does the author get for that? She/he certainly doesn't get 100 payments. If there is an upside to DRM it is that authors will get better paid for their work. As a reader I say that's bloody good, it means that good authors will get rewarded more.
I understand the sentiment, but if more people reading your book made you broke, then romance writers would have died off decades ago. Those paperbacks get traded and passed back and forth for a generation or more! Also, if you're in the book-writing business to make money, being an author is the wrong end of it. Prolific and popular tech writers are by no means millionaires. Maybe a few, but most aren't. Like records anymore, if you sell a half million copies, you're wildly successful. But after taxes, the profit from those copies are extremely disappointing.

From the place that shakes and shakes with endless quakes...peace from Christchurch NZ
Sat through my first baby earthquake last week (3.4) after living through tornado hell, and it was very weird. Unlike a sonic boom, the ground rumbled from deep and upward, as if the Earth was cutting a long, rumbling fart. Cannot imagine what ChristChurch felt like. Here are a few photos from that week:
http://www.boston.co...urch_earthquake.html

johnk

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2011, 05:59:39 PM »
The big fat problem with Kindle is a word I dislike most when it comes to formats: proprietary.

I don't understand the debate about the "proprietary" nature of the Kindle. The Kindle is an e-reader, and a top-class one at that. You can load it with thousands of books and documents without ever buying an ebook in a proprietary format. That's how I use it anyway, and many others do likewise.

And for what it's worth, I agree with elvisbrown. No-one likes DRM, but at least it means authors get a few bucks for their work.

Most musicians make music because they enjoy it, and some of them hope to make some kind of living from it through live performance. Most writers write for money, plain and simple. Without DRM, the vast majority of people will not pay for books, just as very few people under 30 pay for recorded music.

I don't think DRM will survive, but I don't see how authors will be paid, and I don't see how books will be written, aside from the small number of fiction writers who do it for love.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2011, 06:36:00 PM »
I still buy paper books - that is what most writers sign up for and they get commission on the sale of those books.

Ever since books were first published the possibility of lending to others, giving away your book or pulping it - not to mention public libraries - hasn't stopped all the great authors from making a living out of their craft. In fact printed books are self protecting as they can only be in one place at a time. DRM is bound to be cracked - it is all part of the game now - and sooner or later eBook publishers will realise what the music and film industries are beginning to accept - there is no such thing as uncrackable DRM.

The only reason eBooks can't be used in the same way as paper books is that publishers don't allow it - there is nothing to stop Kindle or any other book reader from removing rights from a book while it is lent to a friend - who temporarily inherits the rights until the book is returned. It is just pure greed on the part of publishing houses - author's only get a tiny, and dwindling, proportion of the book cover price. The only motivation for publishers is greed - that is why eBooks often cost more than printed editions on Amazon even though the publisher overheads are minimal in the eBook world.

The same is happening with all 'products' - if I have a board game and get fed up with it I can give it away, take it to a charity shop or chuck it in the bin. With electronic games my 'investment' is lost when I no longer want to play a game - why can't I sell something I BOUGHT AND PAID FOR?

It is just another example of corporate society and corporate attitudes destroying the rights of individual people in their lust for maximising profit (I won't call us citizens because that implies we have some influence on our politics which we don't). Democracy in all its forms is dead - long live corpocracy!!
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 06:38:15 PM by Carol Haynes »

wraith808

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2011, 06:37:05 PM »
The big fat problem with Kindle is a word I dislike most when it comes to formats: proprietary.

I don't understand the debate about the "proprietary" nature of the Kindle. The Kindle is an e-reader, and a top-class one at that. You can load it with thousands of books and documents without ever buying an ebook in a proprietary format. That's how I use it anyway, and many others do likewise.
Agreed.  I don't think there is an e-book reader that reads *only* proprietary formats.  Heck, even iBooks allows you sideload other formats.


Most musicians make music because they enjoy it, and some of them hope to make some kind of living from it through live performance. Most writers write for money, plain and simple. Without DRM, the vast majority of people will not pay for books, just as very few people under 30 pay for recorded music.

I don't think DRM will survive, but I don't see how authors will be paid, and I don't see how books will be written, aside from the small number of fiction writers who do it for love.

I think that until you've written, you tend to undervalue the cost of words.  It's the same with music, to a large extent.  And software, to a lesser extent.  It's the nature of the beast.

But I agree that DRM will not survive.  I just wish that the publishers could see that *now* and not make the *same* sort of bad decisions the music industry has made.

wraith808

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #23 on: June 13, 2011, 06:38:06 PM »
The only reason eBooks can't be used in the same way is that publishers don't allow it - there is nothing to stop Kindle or any other book reader from removing rights from a book while it is lent to a friend - who temporarily inherits the rights until the book is returned. It is just pure greed on the part of publishing houses - author's only get a tiny, and dwindling, proportion of the book cover price. The only motivation for publishers is greed - that is why eBooks often cost more than printed editions on Amazon even though the publisher overheads are minimal in the eBook world.

Especially looking at the capabilities of the Nook to lend...  and how the publishers have marginalized that.

40hz

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Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« Reply #24 on: June 13, 2011, 07:24:54 PM »
No-one likes DRM, but at least it means authors get a few bucks for their work.

Unfortunately, that's pretty much all they get.

The lion's share of the money still goes to the publishers - who used to justify their percentage because of the mechanical reproduction costs they incurred by printing, binding, and shipping books. But now that most of that has gone away (save for the relative low overhead of maintaining licensing and distribution servers) they justify their percentage by...I'm sorry - exactly how do they justify their share?

Oh...I see...they don't feel the need to justify it.

Ok. Now I got it. :-\