DRM e-books and printed books are all bad, what should we do?

My biggest problem with e-books is DRM. Except for shops that give you the document with full ownership, no other e-book is in accordance with the rights of users and violates the ownership of individuals on their own property. I explained about DRM before so I’m not going to talk about it again.

My problem with printed books is holy mother nature. To estimate, an average tree provides approximately 8333 sheets of copy-type paper. Using this formula, one tree can provide 16.6 copies of a 1000-page book. It is estimated that to publish all the printed books sold in the US annually requires 30 million trees.

30 million trees are cut down every year to print books with them and this is only in United States. Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2016 State of the Forests report revealed that 7 million hectares of forest are lost annually while agricultural land expands by 6 million.

The biggest threat to forests today is industrial agriculture production of commodities like Conflict Palm Oil, fabric, “paper” and logging. Only 4 billion hectares of forest remain worldwide according to Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015. This is an environmental disaster.

Since few years ago, I haven’t bought even a single printed book. Whenever I need a book, I try to find a DRM-free version of its e-book and if I don’t succeed, I borrow a hard-copy (printed book) from my local library. I believe it’s one of the best practices for reading books without your rights being violated.

However, it still has some problems. No matter you borrow a book from a library or buy it, you are still promoting and demanding books being printed. So borrowing a book may be much better than buying it but it still can be very much harmful to the nature. I believe the best option is to have online libraries that lend books to people. Projects like Open Library by Internet Archive are wonderful for both protecting our rights from DRM and protecting mother nature.

Open Library’s goal is to provide a page on the web for every book ever published. At its heart, Open Library is a catalog. The project began in November 2007 and has been inhaling catalog records from some of the biggest libraries in the world ever since. Open Library has well over 20 million edition records online, provide access to 1.7 million scanned versions of books, and link to external sources like WorldCat and Amazon when they can.

The secondary goal is to get us as close to the actual document we’re looking for, whether that is a scanned version courtesy of the Internet Archive, or a link to Powell’s where we can purchase our own copy.

There are also another options. OpenBooks is a pay-what-you-want digital bookstore with a growing list of titles. The site is a bit niche in that it focuses exclusively on publications meant to bring about change. If you’re wondering what, exactly, that means, here’s how OpenBooks describes its goals:

Our goal is to create a community that shares knowledge, experience and important values that can lead to effective activism. We want to support authors that write about change, our social or environmental impact and share personal stories that can inspire and help us to reach important goals.

You can use the site’s search functionality to track down specific titles and authors, sort books by genre, or view a list of best-selling titles.

There aren’t thousands upon thousands of titles on the OpenBooks platform, but the bookstore’s unique pay-what-you-want methodology made it worth mentioning.

Leanpub is slightly different from many of the sites in our list because of its focus on instructional books. Put another way, Leanpub is a great place to go when you want to learn the ins and outs of building APIs, for example.

And while that makes this choice a bit unique, Leanpub is a lot like the other sites on our list in that it’s also a digital book publisher and distributor. Authors who want to write instructional books can head to Leanpub to publish their content.

Lulu says its mission is “making content creation and consumption a simpler and more rewarding experience for people around the world.” The site is dedicated to both self publishing and content distribution — nearly two million publications have been created with the help of Lulu. And the best part about that is many of the publications are available for purchase right on Lulu’s site.

Please note that services and websites I mentioned may use proprietary software and I don’t endorse them in any way.

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Ali Reza Hayati

Entrepreneur, hacker, cypherpunk.