A Brief Whine About E-Books, Digital Publishing, and International Nonsense


There’s nothing much going on today, and I have something to whine about. So you’re stuck with my whining today.

Or maybe, considering the subject, this is more like whinging. Anyway. Earlier this year, Charlie Stross published a a thoroughly revised version of his 6-part Merchant Princes series. It’s now three books and began shipping in April. I want to read it.

But I can’t, because it was only published in Great Britain. At the time, Stross explained that we Americans were SOL: “The Merchant Princes re-issue won’t be sold in the USA until Tor US decide to publish it. This will not happen in 2013 (because their 2013 schedule is full).”

Hmmph. I could buy the books from England, of course, but (a) it’s expensive, and (b) I don’t want three more dead-tree books in my library. I want to read them on my tablet. But I can’t do that either, because publishers these days are all hellbent on using digital technology to maintain more control over their products than they ever had in the physical world. I can buy the physical books and have them shipped to Irvine, but I can’t buy the Kindle version and download it to my American tablet. For contractual reasons, Tor UK does not permit that, and the region coding embedded in the Kindle app enforces their desire. So I’m screwed. As Stross points out, this is something the rest of the world has had to deal with for a long time:

If you’re based in the USA and want these books, well … welcome to what it’s like for those of us in the UK or rest of world who want new American titles! And (ahem) you might want to investigate the usual work-arounds. As these books are DRM-free, all you’ll need to do is set up a sock-puppet AMZN account that is tied to an address in some other country and fed by a supply of amazon.co.uk gift coupons bought via ebay, or something like that. (Note that amazon.com gift coupons will get you precisely nowhere on amazon.co.uk, and vice versa.)

I dunno. I suppose I could do this. Maybe. If I set up an Amazon.co.uk account and try to buy a Kindle book, will it work? Or will it know that my tablet is located in the United States and make threatening noises at me? Do I need a separate Kindle app for my surreptitious overseas purchases? Or what? Has anyone done this? Are detailed instructions available on some handy website somewhere?

I know this is trivial. First world problems and all that. But I’d like to read these books, and the various contractual restrictions on e-books are maddening.

End of whine. Or whinge. Thanks for listening.

UPDATE: As several people have pointed out, DRM has nothing to do with this particular case because Tor books are DRM-free. It’s mostly contractual restrictions that are at issue here. I’ve changed the headline to reflect this.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate