Comments on Amazon's Kindle for iPhone and DRM

Amazon Kindle for iPhone Icon There is an informative article on CNET Comparing the Kindle 2 to the New Kindle for iPhone application, so I will not go into detail about the pros and cons of either, but I want to comment on Digital Rights Management (DRM) and how this may apply to the future of e-books and music.

The same way I think reading on a phone will never replace reading a larger format e-book or regular books, I think listening to recorded music will never completely replace the experience of a live performance. As an aside, I think we have a long way to go to repair the disconnect between ensembles and classical audiences, but I think we are all moving in the right direction, as exemplified in the new Alice Tully Hall and with venues like Le Poisson Rouge. For me, it is all about the experience. I like reading a book comfortably, which means larger, nicely formatted pages. I also like listening to music in social settings with others. However, there no discounting the ease of convenience of only carrying one device that does it all, and I am willing to trade large page size and attending a concert with friends for convenience. I would rather listen to music this way than not at all, and since my evenings are often spent with my son Dylan, convenience trumps experience.

Back to DRM, those of you who have read my past posts know that I am not a fan of proprietary formats. My prediction is that Amazon's Kindle format will eventually be opened up, the same way MP3s are now available DRM free on both Amazon and iTunes.

Many people dislike DRM because it is inconvenient, and it gets in the way of the experience. I do believe that we should have the freedom to use different devices to play music or read e-books that we purchase. I also think we should be able to share music and e-books, but in a limited way.

By limited, I mean that I think you should be able to trade music with friends and family, but I do not think you should be able to distribute content over the Internet in a way that would undermine content sales.  There is a great site called that goes into detail about this. 

Here is a simply way to think about it: you should be able to trade content with those in your immediate social or familial circles—people you know. It is just common sense. Do you like what you are reading or listening to? If you do, you need to make sure the people who created what you enjoy can continue to do so. Sure, authors can get speaking fees, and musicians can get fees for ticket sales from concerts, but you should want to support your favorite authors or artists, and every bit counts, especially for Indie writers and musicians.

Just because you can build a bomb, doesn't mean you should deploy it. Just because you could get away from stealing something from a grocery store or the company you work for, doesn't mean you should. Just because you can get away with speeding at 85 MPH when the speed limit is 65, doesn't mean you should. The ease of trading information does not give us the right to dismiss having to pay for something of value. The burden should be on the consumer, not the provider.

Many proponents of the "information must be free" ideology are not content creators. Creating great content requires time and resources. It is simply not possible to hold down a regular non-creative day job and have enough time to regularly create great content. You will not learn about what is happening in Afghanistan unless the New York Times or some other media company can send someone there to see what is happening. It is that simple. If we lived in a world where everyone was completely honest, people would automatically compensate each other when they acquired great content, a great experience, or bought something of value. Although many people are honest, others are not. For every person that sees the value in paying for a ticket for a classical new music concert, or sees the value in paying for an MP3 of a piece of music by an Indie artist, others that can afford tickets will still try to get comps. This also applies to content.

Ultimately, the problem is that the cart came before the horse. Technology moved too fast, and now there is no going back. There needs to be a more effective Digital Content Bill of Rights tied to Copyright and Trademark laws. Perhaps is setting the tone on this issue. If writers, musicians and other artists cannot justify creating content because they cannot afford to pay their bills, they won't create, and that will be sad. Personally, I would rather not have to rely on part-time writers who are not that good—or interesting—for crucial information, or musical hobbyists who excel at Garage Band. I have no problem paying a reasonable fee for something of high quality.