Princeton University is experimenting with textbooks that have Digital Rights Management embedded in them. They have a lot of nerve calling a textbook that expires in five months “universal”. The press release states that students “save money” though it does seem to be comparing apples and oranges. Sure, textbooks are expensive and can be of limited use once classes are over but at least you own the darned things and can resell them or do whatever you want with them. And if you don’t have your own computer just make sure you can use the same one in the lab every time you visit because you can only load your textbook on to one computer, period. No returns. Not accessible via dial-up. How dare they say “the information is the same as the print version” although I guess as a profession we haven’t had to deal with information that expires now have we? Perhaps it’s time we start.
update: it’s not the school it’s the bookstore that is running this DRMed ebook experiment according to an update on the post. Different thing, different import. Ed Felten, who works at Princeton posted some comments “I don’t object to other people wasting their money developing products that consumers won’t want. …The problem with DRM is not that bad products can be offered, but that public policy sometimes protects bad products by thwarting the free market and the free flow of ideas. The market will kill DRM, if the market is allowed to operate.”