Undownloading: Further Proof Those eBooks You Paid For Really Aren't Yours
from the upsub dept
Over the years Techdirt has run a number of stories that make it abundantly clear that you don’t own those ebooks you paid for. But in case you were still clinging to some faint hope to the contrary, here’s a cautionary tale from Jim O’Donnell, a classics professor at Georgetown University. He is currently attending the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Singapore, and naturally wanted to bring along some serious reading material; ebooks on an iPad seemed the perfect way to do that. As O’Donnell explains:
when I got here, I noticed that several of my iPad apps had updates on offer, so I clicked and approved. One of them was Google Play. When it finished and I went to open the app, it told me that it needed to update my book files and this might take several minutes.
Pretty standard stuff. But then something unexpected happened:
all of my books had un-downloaded and needed to be downloaded again. The app is an inefficient downloader, almost as bad as the New Yorker app, so I dreaded this, but clicked on the two I needed most at once. (I checked the amount of storage used, and indeed the files really have gone off my tablet.)
And it balked. It turns out that because I am not in a country where Google Books is an approved enterprise (which encompasses most of the countries on the planet), I cannot download. Local wisdom among the wizards here speculates that the undownloading occurred when the update noted that I was outside the US borders and so intervened.
So, it seems that ebook users need to add a new word to their vocabulary: “undownloading” — what happens when you leave the authorized zone in which you may read the ebooks you paid for, and cross into the digital badlands where they are taken away like illicit items at customs. If you are lucky, you will get them back when you return to your home patch — by un-undownloading them.
What makes this tale particularly noteworthy is the way it brings together a host of really bad ideas that the publishing and distribution industries insist on deploying. There’s DRM that means you can’t make backups; there’s the country-specific usage that tries to impose physical geography on your digital ebooks; and there’s the update that spies on you and your system before deciding unilaterally to take away functionality by “undownloading” your ebooks. And copyright maximalists wonder why people turn to unauthorized downloads….