Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Colonial Ebook Bazaar

Nilanjana Roy writes about the DRM effect on ebooks ...

Via Business Standard

The market for Kindles and dedicated ebook readers is tiny in India — but the market for tablets such as the iPad and the Galaxy Tab, which double as excellent reading devices, is both sizeable and growing. The problem for the Indian reader is different: buying ebooks is an exercise in frustration, a return to the bad old days of socialism when everything you really wanted was tantalisingly displayed in the window of a shop to which you had no entry.

Most Indian publishers haven’t yet digitised their books – or haven’t digitised a significant percentage of their books, or don’t have an Amazon account – so most of the lost classics, drama, poetry, rare histories and biographies that you might want in ebook form are not available. Indian books in translation – which would make up the bulk of great Indian literature – are only sparsely available in ebook form from online retailers.

The global publishing industry’s insistence on DRM – digital rights management systems, which allow readers to access ebooks only in specific territory – has little impact on readers in the US or the UK. With large ebookstores and an ample selection, most US or UK readers have access to a far wider variety of books than do their counterparts in other territories, creating a kind of unofficial but deep-rooted system of digital inequality.

One might also argue that DRM functions as an unfair reminder of the colonial era. For readers and writers in many countries outside the US, UK and Canada, the promise of ebooks was the promise of equal access — our writers could travel elsewhere, theirs could be read across borders. Instead, DRM sets up bristling electronic fences, dividing the world into territories of more and less privileged readers. Until these fences come down, the ebook market in India will remain a shrivelled, bonsai version of what it could be.

Read the entire article here.

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