Publishers and e-books

I like the way Manning sells e-books. They sell PDF versions of their books for significantly less than paper versions and they give a discount when you buy both.  Also, their early access program lets you read books as their being written. Readers get the content sooner and writers get valuable feedback as they go. O’Reilly and Pragmatic Bookshelf have similar programs.

I don’t care for the way Wiley sells e-books. For example, they sell The R Book for $110 in paper and $105 in PDF. That’s absurd. The book has 960 pages weighs 3.7 pounds. The difference in what it costs to produce the paper and electronic versions must be far more than $5. And I don’t believe Wiley gives any discount for buying both paper and PDF versions.

I also find Wiley’s license terms unreasonably restrictive. For example, “you … May not move the file to a different computer.” You may download the file directly to up to four computers within 14 days of buying the book. But if you buy a new computer, say six months after you buy the book, you’re not supposed to move the book to your new machine. That means you’re effectively renting the book for the lifetime of the computer you download it to.

5 thoughts on “Publishers and e-books

  1. Wow. That Wiley license is ridiculous and insulting. A trip to a competitor sounds much less stressful if they enforce those restrictions through software.

    I can’t imagine how irritated I would be if I had just bought a $105 e-book, loaded it on my desktop, copied it to my laptop, left on a trip expecting to read on the plane, and discover that it fails to load because I activated the e-book on my desktop.

    If they’re that worried about DRM, then a subscription model sounds much more effective and less insulting.

  2. What’s the policy on external hard drives? Is that considered a different computer? If you just download it there in the first place, you can just open it from whatever computer you happen to own at the time, theoretically, right? And if it doesn’t count as a computer, just move it to a different external when your old one gets outdated.

  3. I can’t speak for Adobe or other vendors; however, I just finished rewriting a product activation and licensing scheme for my employer. (I don’t agree with the idea, but my ideology doesn’t pay the bills.) I chose to base part of the license code on a hash of the Windows serial number, not just the hardware.

  4. I love the Manning method. I have been buying most of my books lately from them as ebooks. They offer an excellent deal where they will apply the amount you spent on the ebook towards the purchase of a print book as long as they’re purchased from the website.

  5. Simply activate the book inside a virtual machine. That way you can migrate from one piece of physical hardware to another.

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