Today in The Bookseller - the UK's trade magazine for the bookselling industry - I published "Inaudible," in which I unpack my reason for foregoing hundreds of thousands of dollars by refusing to allow Audible to put DRM on my audiobooks.


DRM isn't hard to break (just google "break audible drm" if you don't believe me!) but it IS a felony to traffick in tools that break DRM. That means that the DRM that Amazon forces on creators and publishers in the name of "protecting" them does nothing of the sort.

But it DOES lock their works to Amazon's platform...forever.

Labor economists talk about "chickenization" in markets where there is a "monopsony" - that is, where a single seller controls access to the market.


Show thread

The phrase comes from the US poultry industry, where three monopolistic companies have divided up the country so that (nominally independent) chicken farmers have only one processor who'll buy their birds.

Big Chicken uses this advantage to squeeze suppliers: chicken farmers are told what kind of coop to build, which chicks to buy, what feed to use, which medicines to dose, even when the lights go on and off.


Show thread

Some farmers are unwitting subjects in experiments - Purdue might decide to test the effect of a different feeding regime and order a farmer to apply it.

When this is done, the farmer sells their birds to the monopolist, who unilaterally names a price: the monopolists use their extensive data-gathering to titrate the money-drip so farmers have just enough to continue for another year, but not enough to get ahead.


Show thread

Farmers who complain - especially to regulators and lawmakers - are shut out of the market...permanently. One farmer went into the coop-maintenance business and the meat packers told suppliers that if they hired him, they'd be blackballed, too.

It's no wonder that farmers are one of the worst-off groups in the US for "deaths of despair" (suicide and overdose).

Amazon's use of DRM is a key component in its campaign to chickenize publishing, of course.


Show thread

But it's not just publishers and writers who suffer here - readers get a raw deal from DRM, too.

Recall that in 2009, Amazon remotely deleted purchased copies of 1984 from readers' Kindles, due to a complaint from the Orwell estate (you can't make this up!)

In 2019, Microsoft decided to get out of the ebook business and "deactivated" every book they'd ever sold, rendering them unreadable.

Both companies offered refunds, but come on.


Show thread

From my editorial: "I was a bookseller for years and once I sold you a book, it was yours. Nothing - not a claim from the useless professional descendants of a long-dead writer nor the callous indifference of tech execs in a Redmond boardroom - could compel me to come over to your house and take the books back. And if I did, it would not be okay, not even (and I can't stress this enough) if I gave you your money back."


Show thread

Bookselling and books are older than DRM (hell, they're older than copyright!). Publishers, booksellers and readers have a (literally) ancient compact. The idea that tech monopolists get to wave a lawyer's pen and declare it null and void is, frankly, bullshit.

It's unacceptable. So I don't accept it. And that's why I produced my own audiobook and am selling it direct, first through the Kickstarter campaign for presales, and then through all the retailers EXCEPT Audible.


Show thread

Today, "Audible exclusive" means "a book you can only get on Audible." I want to sell so many audiobooks that publishers see a viable path to boycotting Audible, too, so that "Audible exclusive" means "for sale everywhere EXCEPT Audible."

I'm well on the way! My Kickstarter is about to hit the $100K mark after 48 hours. You can help me demonstrate the viability of an anti-monopoly way of doing audiobooks by backing it (and if you already have, THANK YOU!)


Show thread

@pluralistic Try that with a house: Sell someone a house. After 10 years when it’s worth 3x as much, reclaim it and give them their money back.

After I read and enjoyed a book, its value increases for me. The best books I want to pass on to my kids. Some I already passed on.

@ArneBab I don't always understand techie rants but as far as books go isn't this about books in electronic form with DRM. They don't try to repossess books aside from police raids in India and that's mainly because the pigs and judges don't read so good here. @pluralistic

@DesCoutinho @pluralistic Did you read the thread. Amazon literally remote-deleted 1984 from Kindles, the book which describes an institution that removes and rewrites history in everything people can access.

Microsoft dispossessed every customer of their store from all the books they bought from there.

We’re talking about technology that enables remote-book-burning.

@ArneBab I tend to steal stuff when downloading but not according to Indian or Chinese law. It was more the sentimental chord that your children would be deprived of something. I've never held the same sentimental attraction to a beautiful leather bound book or their smell in an old library. The feel the weight of it. For which I have paid a lot. Those can be lost too. Thing is I can download a copy of 1984 in minutes. I just don't use kindle. @pluralistic

@DesCoutinho @pluralistic You can download a copy of 1984, because it’s wildly popular.

Many of the things I cherish are no longer available anywhere. If my copies stop working, they are lost. Since p2p filesharing mostly died, culture is disappearing again.

If I cannot copy stuff, it gets lost in the next format-change. If I don’t save bookmarked links, they disappear within years. If they aren’t on, they are lost.

But as long as there is no DRM, I can and may copy for my own use

@ArneBab Things have changed a lot since I was a student. What are you interests. Seem to be able to get copies of most stuff if you don't actually want to hold the book in your hand. Otherwise there used to be specialists who'd track down books for you but that was really expensive @pluralistic

@DesCoutinho @pluralistic I still have most of my books. Not leather-bound but readable. And my kids read some of them.

But the problem is that aside from music I cannot legally buy digital media that I can preserve legally the next time a format change comes (like, as you mentioned, VHS disappearing).

But what about a great youtube-video? Did you read the youtube terms of service; the part about downloading? (those are likely invalid in Germany) Imagine what would happen if youtube had DRM.

@DesCoutinho @pluralistic Do you know the speech by Ursula K Le Guin about writers who remember Freedom? What you currently see is that huge platforms try to deprive writers of the option to publish in a way that does not allow the platform to wipe their creation from most of the world at any time.

@DesCoutinho @pluralistic The sentimental chord about my children being deprived of something is pretty much spot-on. I have to invest quite some time to prevent that — and some things I simply ignore because I wouldn’t be able to pass them on — and this is not how the system should work.

Besides: You were not stealing. You were copying without authorization: The creator was not deprived of his or her copy.

@ArneBab That's very kind of you you people did steal from us by the by but doesn't appear to be anything we can do about that. All the same very kind of you to extend. I have twins no idea mate. They are at the babbling meaningfully state. I want to teach them classics and maths because its I know enough to teach babies this stuff. But I want them to learn to think more about what is truly important. What matters. But I'm gonna start with Latin and Greek. There has never been an @pluralistic

@ArneBab Not entirely sure how the licence works either. Presumably if you have paid for a licence to read 1984 and you didn't agree to a refund then you can download it and read it in another format I would have thought legally in those countries where it is copyrighted. You buy a licence for the product not the code or software. Or maybe we just very backward here. People want to burn books they gather burn the book video it and post it online @pluralistic

@ArneBab Sometimes whole libraries over the oddest reasons. But if it upsets you that much please accept my condolences. @pluralistic

@ArneBab Oh yeah was going to add not going to download 1984 again. It felt a little jaded a little simplistic last I read it. it has aged well. Unless of course you're incredibly naive. Don't we just call Newspeak alternative facts and we all live in the post truth age? @pluralistic

@ArneBab And maybe I should reread 1084 then not this thread which tend to be nose tissue. But it wasn't so much an institution. The world was envisaged in a continuous war between two superpowers. With a massive surveillance culture maintained by the Gov backed up by torture. Newspeak was part of it whatever Big Brother said from day to day. But perhaps you're confusing the novel with something similar Farenheit 451 perhaps @pluralistic

@ArneBab PART I
IT was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With
the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon
the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing
conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters
and charcoal ruins of history. @pluralistic

@pluralistic It seems to have become easier to control farmers but it's really how farmers have been treated in India over centuries usually by foreign rulers which still goes on if you accept Delhi is foreign to them. But in India old school regulations and paper licences. India has not gone digital yet but nice to see the future I guess.

@pluralistic Imagine my kids surprise when I told them that we’re not allowed to play the DVD they bought in the store on the laptop, because it runs GNU/Linux. "sure, it can play it, but that’s forbidden" "really? How can that be?"

Sign in to participate in the conversation
La Quadrature du Net - Mastodon - Media Fédéré

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!