Thought I'd like to drop another issue in this thread which is often missed. 

I absolutely love electronic versions of books - in fact, they are critical to
me being able to stay up to speed within my profession and allow me access to
lots of information I wouldn't normally have. This is because I'm a blind
programmer and printed books are simply not accessible. 

However, I am somewhat frustrated and annoyed with corporate attitudes and
the way things are getting twisted and turned around in this area. Copyright
has changed from being protection for the author against their work being
'stolen' and claimed by others or even to ensure a resonable compensation for
their effort to government sanctioned protection for corporations and
protection of their market. Furthermore, it has an underlying assumption that
we are all immoral untrustworthy individuals who must be forced by legislation
into doing the "right thing". A premise which I reject. 

The unfortunate consequence of this and the growing use of DRM means that users
like me are actually losing access to material. Commercial screen reader
manufacturers are having trouble keeping up with all the DRM mechanisms. As a
result, the cost of producing such software is increasing and the need to
upgrade often (at a cost) is increasing. There are no good open source
solutions available because you can't get access to the DRM scheme internals
unless you pay and even then, you couldn't include it in the source because of
nondisclosure issues and you cannot reverse engineer it without running the
risk of being sued etc. 

Worse stil is the fact that if I want to access all this potentially wonderful
electronic information, I have to use Windows because this is really the only
platform with good quality commercial screen readers that will work well with
things like Adobe or other DRM enabled readers (there are many you cannot use
even then). Essentially, I lose my choice on what platform I wish to use and
I'm restricted to using expensive commercial software (and screen reader
software is expensive because of the limited market and high
maintenance/development costs). 

Things are getting worse. Universities are now beginning to increasingly talk
about intelectual property and the need to use DRM for the material they
produce. This will make access to educational material even more difficult for
anyone with vision impairment. This is particularly unfortunate for many who
are vision impaired because it is often in areas of intellectual pursuits that
we can compete on a level playing field, provided we can access the learning materials.

then of course there is the broader question. If I purchase material that uses
a particular DRM scheme and that scheme gets depricated over time and replaced
by newer schemes, what responsability does the retailer have to ensure I can
still access the original material I purchased X years ago? Obviously, this
issue doesn't occur with printed books. However, with electronic books, it is
an issue. 

All of this aside, the bit that irks me the most is the underlying assumption
implicit in all of this DRM that I'm essentially an immoral individual with a
flawed character and I have to be controlled by legislation and technology to
protect the revenue of a company. A company which must be using a flawed business model if
they cannot succeed without such protection. The salt is rubbed in further by
the fact its likely I still won't be able to access the material even when I do
pay for it.  

To try and get things back on topic for the group - one of the things that made
me try out ruby was the availability of accessible material, such as the
pragmatic programmers ruby book etc. I'd be quite willing to pay for electronic
books like this one as long as I can then use it how I want - often, this means
converting it into text or html so that I can access it from my preferred
platform, Linux. The other good thing about getting into ruby is that there is
a wealth of material out there from users, such as blogs, guides and tutorials
that members of the ruby community have made available to anyone who wants
them. 

Tim

-- 
tcross (at) rapttech dot com dot au