It is a truth universally acknowledged that an online book retailer in possession of a good fortune in public domain fiction, must be in want of a manner to control it.
—Jane Austen (Not)
It doesn’t matter where you sit on the issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and protection of copyrights in eBook format, this post at The Consummerist, tells a tale of the truly absurd.
As part of the much hyped roll out of their new eReader app this week, Barnes & Noble offered free downloads of five novels in the public domain, among them Jane Austen’s beloved, Pride and Prejudice, the all time best book to read when you lose hope that romance exists.
There’s a catch, though. The books are wrapped in the same type of DRM that permitted Amazon to recently zap George Orwell’s 1984 from the memories of Kindle devices everywhere.
Writes The Consumerist‘s Chris Walters:
The ebook “war” is a race to the bottom, apparently, with Barnes & Noble trying to out-do Amazon on DRM stupidity. A reader emailed B&N customer service to point out that their “free books” offer consists of 5 public domain titles that are no longer protected under copyright, yet are still locked down with digital rights management (DRM). Their response? “For copyright protection purposes, these files are encrypted and cannot be converted or printed.”
As much as I love eBooks, it’s a good thing to know I have three paperback copies of Pride, plus the A&E version starring Colin Firth on both DVD and VHS, as back-ups.