Thursday, June 18, 2009

eBoks, the great promisse

What a fantastic technology full of promises and advantages. It has the potential to offer unlimited access to books, allow annotations and reorganizations that would help the students, lighten the backpack load, save trees. What a future!

Unfortunately DRM has shown that there are risks, huge risks.

When I was a kid, students in higher grades would regularly sell their books to students in lower grades. Win-win, One student recouped a portion of the cost for new books, the other student saved on books. It was before widespread recycling so less paper to the landfill. You could also borrow a book for a few days if yours was lost or only needed it as supporting reference for a paper.

If we are not careful, eBooks may do more harm than good if DRM is imposed on them. If we cannot share books, borrow them, even deface them in creative ways.

Privacy may suffer If we leave tracks of who read which book. Censorship can easily get to Orwell's 1984 levels where something may disappear from books at the whim of the publisher or government. Look no further to Amazon's Kill switches

The dystopia presented by Richard Stallman in his "The right to read" short story illustrates very well one of these risks.

Yes, eBooks are full of promises that I would like to see realized. But maybe for that to happen we will have to fight an uphill battle.


Anonymous said...

It's 1984 not 1998. As in George Orwell's 1984.

Perhaps you should do some eclectic reading too.

Raul Suarez said...

What an embarrassing dyslexic error. Thanks for pointing it out.