Sunday, May 11, 2008

Interoperability Would be Nice

Today we were reading an interesting article in The Sunday Times ‘Gizmo’ section by Alex Pell. It was as if we were reading the future even before the ebook take off has happened and we realised that we are in close danger of following the same idiotic route.

Last month Microsoft announced that from the end of August songs bought on its MSN Music and DRM wrapped on the unfortunately named ‘Play for Sure’ service would not be transferable to unregistered devices. So when the PC dies in September and you buy a new one your music dies with the old one – stupid.

This would be bad enough if it was a single incident but Virgin Digital Music did the same when if shut up shop last September, Sony also did the same when it closed down Connect Music in March.
Why do industries get seduced into giving away their control to third parties, aggregators, technology companies and potentially laying themselves open to bad customer service, and lost sales and customers as a result? Often their motives and drivers are not shared with the consumer, the publisher or the artist only their shareholders.

So is the ebook experience going to be any different? Will the digital books bought today and tomorrow with DRM protection turn into the eight-track and betamax files of yesterday? Some would argue that the digital debate is missing many issues and focusing on the wrong ones. DRM has the capacity to do so much good but like in the music industry also such much harm if it is allowed to be preparatory and dominate. Interoperability is a key word that is often missing as formats are tied to specific DRM services which are in turn tied to specific devices and library management tools.

Some would say that the publishing industry appears to be walking blindfold down the same path and in some cases with even the same players.