Three years ago, I predicted that publishers will inevitably declare war on book-lending:
“Let’s pretend that a Nook book (or any similar DRM’d ebook) could be lent in exactly the same manner as a physical book: to whomever you like, whenever you like, for as long as you like – with the added benefit of instantaneous, guaranteed, and toll-free shipping in both directions. This suggests that one could set up a library – a perfectly legal thing to do with physical books. The library (let’s call it Cranny) would consist of an online service which automates the process of requesting a Nook book from anyone who owns a copy but isn’t reading it at the moment. It would also allow you to send a request to recover any of the books you have lent out, with the same speed and ease. Consider: how many of the physical books on your shelves are you currently reading? In the course of any given hour? day? week? month? There is no reason to suppose that this situation would be any different for electronic books. The result: once a Nook book has been purchased by some critical number of Cranny users, just about all future readers would be able to enjoy it for free, with the aid of a vast global library. In fact, the entire process of pretending that a limited number of copies of a work exist (with the resulting need to ration access) becomes a farce. The Cranny scenario is clearly unacceptable to B&N, and (unsurprisingly) they have crippled the Nook’s lending mechanism to prevent it – just as I predicted upon first hearing of the device…. …publishers understand that the freedoms traditionally enjoyed by book owners (such as the freedom to lend without restriction) will ultimately lead to the collapse of their business model.”
“The Nook, the Cranny, and the Lend Me Not.” (yours truly, October 21 2009.)
And now, my prediction has come true in the most literal sense imaginable:
“LendInk, an innovative site dedicated to helping readers share their legally purchased ebooks with one another, has chosen to shut down in the face of legal intimidation. Despite the fact that the site was apparently operating within the terms of service of the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook, its hosting company was targeted with “hundreds of threats,” including cease-and-desist letters. LendInk didn’t even host any ebooks itself: it simply connected users seeking a particular title with other users who had a legally-purchased ebook to lend. The site planned to eventually make money by providing links to purchase books through the Amazon affiliate program, but for the past year it had been operating without income.”
The scarcity industry eagerly pushes to destroy the physical property rights of ordinary people (the freedom to tinker, the right to borrow and lend goods, freedom from outright sabotage of your personal computer, and so forth) in order to preserve their intellectual property regime.
I can see one of two futures: one where everyone is issued copyright-protection goggles, not to be removed on pain of death; and one where the “content industry” as we know it has gone the way of the slave trade. This is not a moral judgement, merely a statement of fact.
To those who would retain their right to personal property: your only true allies are the pirates. Not “lending libraries”, not “reasonably priced” and “humane” iTunes-like services. The pirates are the only people presently defending the no-compromise, My-Computer-is-Mine point of view.
The ‘you don’t own your computer’ paradigm is not merely wrong. It is violently, disastrously wrong, and the consequences of this error are likely to be felt for generations to come, unless steps are taken to prevent it.