Remember when everyone you knew was downloading MP3 files and every day the TV news banged on about Napster and how sad it was for super-rich rock stars that no one was paying for music anymore? Well, how about if the same was happening with ebooks? And authors – who are anything but super-rich – weren’t getting paid for their years of hard labour? And no one could do anything much about it? When Time Out Books editor Chris Moss bumped into a British lawyer working in St Petersburg while on a travel assignment, he was gifted no less than 1000 free books – ‘sideloaded’ from the (not very legally-minded) lawyer’s Kindle into Moss’s own machine. On returning to London, he called Amazon as well as a load of publishers – and no one wanted to talk about it. ‘No surprise’, said Nic Gibson, an expert on digital rights management who has advised Random House, Penguin and Hachette, among others. ‘It’s an elephant-in-the room thing. Everyone knows digital rights have no future because any format is going to be broken. It’s been an open secret that the Kindle has been broken for at least two years. It would not take you terribly long with a web browser and Google to find out exactly how to do it. But where music has always been copied, people didn’t copy books – so people still have the habit of buying books. I don’t think people are aware yet of all the BitTorrent sites and other sites where they can get them for nothing.’ So, in the hope that ordinary people – you – won’t change that nice, honest, moral habit of buying books, no one is talking about the broken Kindle code – except us.
Read the full version of this story in this week’s magazine.