Free Dmitry!

Having read Harry Harrison’s interview about Soylent Green, it entered my head this morning to get a copy of his book “Make Room, Make Room,” on which the movie was based.

Book is available in E-book format only, says the Amazon product page, so I am required to get Adobe E-Book Reader. Okay, I say, I’ll download the E-Book and export it to a text file so I can read it in my Palm. First faulty assumption.

I purchase the text and go to the library download page. No E-Book reader for Mac OS X, it informs me. Okay, I say, I’ll get the OS 9 installer, and run it in Classic mode. Second faulty assumption.

Once installed, I try to run the E-Book Reader. It starts up Classic, as expected, but then returns an error: “Will not run in OS X.” Then promptly quits. Darn, I say, this isn’t working out, and it won’t let me download the text without the Reader. Maybe I should return this and get a refund. Third faulty assumption.

No returns or refunds on e-books, says Amazon’s return policy, so I’m stuck with this thing. More determined than ever to get it working, I start up Virtual PC and download the E-Book reader for Windows. It takes a while on dialup, but it finally installs, “certifies” (that gets me leery), and downloads the book.

And that, my friends, is when I discover the true nature of the E-Book Reader environment. There is no way to save or export the document to another format, and it will not allow me to copy text to the clipboard, effectively trapping the document within itself. Nor will it allow me to print. I am forced to read the entire text on screen, in the E-Book Reader, with no alternative offered for readability or portability. My desire to export the document to another format is not intended to break copyright law in any way, and it falls well under fair use, but the Reader’s copy-protection is hostile to any such will.

So, I’m poorer by $5.99 and an afternoon of struggling with this stupid E-Book Reader, and if I’d only done some simple research before jumping into the swamp, I could have avoided this whole mess. As it is, now I have a copy of Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room! trapped in an Adobe application, waiting to be read on screen.

Congratulations, DMCA, you’ve just gained a new enemy. I am adding my voice to the cries of “Free Dmitry!” because I want to be able to legally read my E-Books in some format other than what Adobe restricts me to.

(As I read, maybe I should take screenshots of each page and save them to GIFs which I can OCR to a text file, just to be muleheaded about the whole thing. Within fair use law, of course.)