Sunday, 7 June 2015

When the Legal Alternative Sucks

With the general availability of legal options for video, audio and reading digital material, one could almost be forgiven if one was to think the legal availability of digital media for consumer consumption in Australia is a non issue.
The reality is we are very far from that. I am not referring to the fact that, Netflix or not, most movies and TV stuff are still unreachable. I’m talking basics here: The services pretending to step up and deliver are failing us.


Check Zinio, for example, the online service through which the bulk (if not all) of my magazine reading is done nowadays. Perhaps I should have omitted the word “service” from that last sentence, because that’s the last thing Zinio provides.
Where should I start? Magazines I’ve purchased take ages to download at the speed of darkness. Often, after I have downloaded the magazines – sacrificing notable iPad battery reserves in that lengthy process – the issues disappear the next time I start the app. Or the app simply forgot where I got to in my reading.
Then there is the usual bundle of DRM related issues. I bought the magazines, they’re “mine”, but not really. If I want to share something I read, like an article or even a small excerpt, I can’t. If I want to read on a device for which there is no Zinio app, I can’t, really. PC reading, for example, requires the installation of Adobe Air; me, I refuse to introduce this vulnerability riddled platform into my life just for the sake of reading a magazine.
Thank you very much, Zinio, but once my subscriptions expire I’ll be leaving you.

Then there’s the mighty behemoth that has been there first, Amazon with its Kindle.
I used to base the bulk of my reading on Kindle material. Yet Amazon had a way of getting on my nerves and making me ask “why”. If you ever tried to buy the gift of an ebook to an international friend, or had the dubious pleasure of receiving the gift of an ebook from an international friend, you would witness the full wrath of the geo-blocking monster.
What really made me put the brakes on the Kindle was the realisation of just how far Amazon goes with tracking my reading habits. It’s there in plain sight, actually: Amazon tracks how much time I spend on a page, what I'm looking at as I read, and everything that goes with that. Call me a weirdo, but when I think of what’s included in the purchase of an ebook I do not necessarily bundle it with the inclusion of the Stasi taking inventory over my shoulder.
Thank you very much, Amazon, but when I want to buy an ebook I want just that: an ebook. Call me when you’re willing to actually sell me one.

Image by gaspar shieh, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence

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