Robbie Sapunarich

why I will always prefer print (but still begrudgingly use a kindle on occasion)


For a while now, I’ve tried to avoid the Bezos machine as much as I can in my consumer habits. I don’t need to enumerate the reasons I loathe Amazon — at this point, I think many people are familiar with them. But, much as I hate to admit it, the Kindle is a remarkable piece of calm technology, which is why I purchased one about six years ago.

Of course, they are not the only e-reading option available, which is why sometime last year I purchased a refurbished Kobo. Most of my e-reading is done via library borrows from overdrive anyway. Nonetheless, I still wanted to have my Kindle library available to read on the Kobo. Obviously, this would necessitate stripping the DRM off my collection, but sticking it to the corporate overlords sounded like a fun challenge anyway.

The plan was to download the titles to my laptop with the Kindle app, import the files to Calibre, convert them to epub, and then transfer them to the Kobo. While Calibre does not support DRM removal, there’s a well established open-source plugin for doing exactly that. The catch is that the plugin doesn’t handle AZW files, which is the format downloaded by the most recent version of Kindle for Mac. In this thread, the project maintainer links to an older version of DeDRM forked from the original project, where you will now find a DMCA takedown notice, which has apparently occurred as recently as this past week.

One of the users in this thread on mobileread put it well:

I’m surprised that software of this sort was hosted on Microsoft-owned (and presumably US-based) servers. I wonder if we’ll we’ll see a Pirate Bay style game of whack-a-mole now?

I didn’t bother delving into the details of the DMCA takedown — I had come off a workday, and wanted to do something other than sit at my computer for another hour. The fact of the project’s takedown is unsurprising though. Removing DRM is difficult by design. But it’s nonetheless infuriating that purchasing a digital artifact does not confer ownership — it confers a license, which come with various stipulations. And I doubt these stipulations have done much, if anything, to protect the incomes of writers, artists, and musicians.

Print books don’t come with DRM. You own them. You can share them, borrow them, throw them in a bag. Their technological ecosystem is not one of surveillance.

E-reading, especially on one with an e-ink display, has its advantages. But the demise of print that many predicted over decade ago never materialized. I’m thankful for that.