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With sales of e-books and e-readers exploding, there's a troublesome issue brewing that has thus far flown under the e-radar. It's the same one that has bedeviled the music industry for years: Should e-books be copy protected?
Why is this an issue? Let's say you're an Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle user, and after two or three years, you've accumulated dozens of e-books. But suppose you drop and break the Kindle, and you'd like to try a different e-reader, from Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) , Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , or whomever. As things stand now, you'd have no way of accessing your books with your new e-reader. You're banned from reading your own books.
David Pogue of The New York Times has a unique take on this. He's been an advocate for non-copy-protected music, something we've only recently started seeing after years of contentious debate. Now, finally, users are much less tethered to an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPod or other music device; in most cases, they can buy a different music player and still listen to their tunes.
But Pogue is an author himself, and while he believes copy protection hurts consumers, he's also "terrified" over the piracy potential of unprotected e-books. "I can't stand seeing my books," he writes, "which are the primary source of my income, posted on all these piracy websites, available for anyone to download free."
So there's the dilemma. Copy protection clearly harms law-abiding e-citizens, but unprotected works could decimate an author's earning potential. The book industry, already sparring with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) over copyright issues, has another whopper on its hands.
Any thoughts on this issue ... or better yet, solutions? If so, post them below in all their non-copy-protected glory.