License to Read, But Not to Use

I’ve been sharply reminded that I don’t own the ebooks I buy from Amazon. I knew this all along, and have always planned to “jailbreak” the books I don’t want to take a chance of losing because Amazon decides to do something that will dispossess me of them. That involves finding and downloading some plugins for Calibre. I’ve put off doing that because it’s just one more complication to deal with. But I was warned a few days ago that I was reaching the limit of material that the publisher would allow me to copy from a book. Of course, it can’t prevent me from typing any of that material. What it prevents is copy and paste, which is a huge boon when you’re gathering research material.

Today I reached the limit. I was on page 147 of the 199 page book. So the rest is going to be a slow pain in the ass. It’s better than copying directly from a book with the problems of reading small type, and sometimes weighing the pages down so the book stays open. Still. I paid for the damned thing. Do publishers believe that they’re preventing plagiarism because readers are too lazy to type the material? I’ve copied a good bit from the book in order to have it easily at hand instead of having to keep going back and finding the highlighted pages. I doubt that I’ll even use more than 10% or so as direct quotes. Some of it I’ll paraphrase or just refer to.

So thanks, Atlas and Company. I’m now highly motivated to do that bad thing, that illegal thing — learn how to remove the DRM from your book so that I can transfer it to another app and do my research without spending long hours typing out the material I need to reference.

At least I was warned. Some publishers use a different way of protecting themselves from plagiarism, disallowing any copying at all. So far, this has only happened with PDFs. Copying and pasting to a text file results in nothing but garbage, scrambled letters and numbers.

In some ways, digital books make research easier. In some ways, they actually get in the way of anyone doing legitimate research.

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2 thoughts on “License to Read, But Not to Use

  1. Catana, a few months ago, I came across a very detailed set of instructions by some dude on the web on how to remove the DRM from Kindle. I’m not sure whether I noted the site in my notebook or not (on a scale of 1-10 it was 9.9 terrifying to me). Can’t check today as I’m running for a bus – but that might not be what you’re meaning here. (Remember, I’m a 100% digital klutz 🙂

    1. It might be the same information I have. I downloaded a set of instructions some time back but I took one look and said “Later. Much later.”

      The publisher’s copying restriction might not have anything to do with DRM, but if they’re going to go to that much trouble, then the book is undoubtedly locked in by DRM. Overall, Kindle books are the easiest to use if you need to highlight or take notes. Copying is a bit of a hassle because each bit you copy has a couple of lines of page, title, date, etc., that I have to erase. But if it’s going to put obstacles in the way of using it for research, then that removes much of my incentive to buy books in that format.

      Another twist I just discovered is that the list of copied sections doesn’t even go as far as the page where I was cut off. If I hadn’t copied everything past that page to a file, it would all be gone.

      It’s too bad the timing is off. Only two days to NaNo and that’s going to slow down book work as it is. Figuring out the DRM removal will have to wait until December.

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