It's all the fault of Sony – they've turned me into a lawbreaker.
While I was America (nice place, shame about the government – although you may as well say the same thing about the UK) I spotted a demo model of the Sony Reader (PRS505). I'd been wanting to see what 'E-Ink' looked like so I had a bit of a play around with it and thought it was rather nice.
As I am a nerd and a shameful first adopter I managed to wrangle one into my grubby little hands.
It's really rather clever – the screen is easy to read, it's light and thin and it doesn't feel like you are reading things off the screen. You load the books onto it via your desktop/laptop system (and the software isn't Mac compatible, but there are workarounds).
So it came time to load some books onto it. First stop was the Sony Reader Ebook Store. It is from there you can pay for and download e-books. I quite fancied the Neal Stephenson 'Baroque Cycle'. I own them in 'dead tree' edition, but have never managed to read the whole three because the books are physically huge.
And then I hit a snag.
You see, you need a credit card that is registered in America to buy things from the store. Being a simple traveller from the UK I don't have such a thing. So my money is no good for them.
**Insert clever joke about current £/$ exchange rate here**
I want to give them my money. I give Audible my money for audio-books, I give iTunes my money for music downloads. But the rules of international marketing and the dumbness of Sony means that I'm not allowed to read their books.
What to do, what to do?
Well, I could scan the books in to my computer, perform OCR on them and put them on myself – but have you see the length of them? I could transcribe them myself, but then I may as well be reading them.
So instead I hit the bit-torrent sites and downloaded them.
I now have slightly wonky formatted copies of the books that I already own, books that I would have paid money for again for the ability to read them on my sexy new reader.
So lots of people have missed out on a sale.
Back in the day I used to illegally download music – now I have the ease of use of iTunes or eMusic, one day hopefully Amazon in the UK will offer music downloads. I'm happy to pay for these downloads because (a) Its the right thing to do and I'm no longer a skint student (b) It's just easier.
When video rentals for iTunes arrives on these shores I'll be using that, or a competitors service.
I like paying for my media.
I've downloaded books from Project Gutenberg and from Archive.org (including my own book), but I want to give real authors real money for the privilege of being able to read their books.
But Sony says I can't.
The counter argument is that I have no 'right' to format shift works that I already own – move, for instance, bought CD music into the MP3 format. Yes, if you've done this then you have broken the law and the record companies can sue you into bankrupcy. Allowing this 'format shift' is one of the key recommendations made by the Gowers report (even though the government is being slow to bring it into law).
Ethically I don't think I'm doing anything wrong, if I'm allowed to resell books that I've bought (which I am) then why can't I reformat them into another readable format for my own personal use.
But by making me jump through these hoops I'm reduced to illegality.
With no work until Thursday, and no stories in my 'big black book of interesting ambulance stuff' I'm stuck writing about other things. Oh well, normal service will be resumed soon.