A question of the DRM vs open source and the cost of curriculum.

070409_uncivilized_drm_ufoAs a raving Distributist I love the idea of an alternative economy. I love how many bloggers and websites offer free resources and information and we can all share it and give back our own, also for free. Our family have benefited hugely from freebies available around the net and from things fellow home edders and others have given us. And in our turn we (hopefully) have benefited others in what we can offer as freebies (such as my lessons on ThatResourceSite and all the freebies Kalei provides there) and lend and hand down to friends.

I still spend a lot of money on copyrighted material though. A lot of the curriculum I buy comes as copyrighted whether in hardcopy or ebook (mobi or pdf). I don’t have an objection to copyright, but there is a growing concern about the nature of DRM coded ebooks.

Even though I prefer, when possible to buy my ebooks direct from the seller ( Ignatius Press, Bethlehem, Sophia Press etc) there are times when it’s either easier or I don’t know the alternative so I buy from Amazon.

All ebooks from Amazon are DRM encoded. This, essentially means I don’t own the books I have paid for. I only lease them. A lot of people are questioning the ethics of this and more and more people are trying to source ebooks from DRM free providers.  Others have found ways to hack the DRM and remove it. While this is not legal (as far as I can tell) it’s considered ethical on the grounds that the DRM itself is the unethical item.

As my children’s Kindle’s are registered to me and I can share books on up to five kindles on my account, it hasn’t been a big issue so far. But while I can lend out hardcopy books to fellow home edders – I can’t lend out ebooks unless they are either a) free or b) DRM free.

Having had to pay shocking amounts of tax on imported curriculum recently (which again in grossly unethical for educational material, which used to be tax exempt) I have emailed some providers asking if they could make more material available as Pdf or other ebook format to bypass the tax man.

I am already able to source ebooks from Critical Thinking Company and have bought ebooks from EvanMoor

One provider is up for this, no problem, (Classical Academic Press are working towards this and already on the way)but another one was more skeptical being concerned that pdf downloads would lead to less sales and less money for the writers, (even though, thankfully they have a couple of items for download)Personally I think this is a mistake. I am sure more homeschooling and home educating families would be willing to buy curriculum if it was more cost effective and this would lead to a rise in sales, not a loss of income. I have pointed out the dearth of quality curriculum over this side of the pond, so that many of us face having to import from America. I really think American homeschool providers could do a great trade in pdf and DRM free ebooks.

Open Source Economics is moving on quickly and showing great results already. I can’t help thinking it is a little like a modern, internet savvy approach to the old cooperatives.

I think a return to guilds wouldn’t go amiss either. In some ways the smaller business can undercut the shark-like giants by offering something the rest of us want and can’t get either at all or at least ethically.

By the end of August I will be spending a scary amount of money on curriculum and resources. I can justify a lot of the expense in that it will be well used by all three children and I can pass it on to fellow home ed families or even sell some stuff on.

But if I go down the road of DRM ebooks and etexts I am faced with not even owning what I’ve paid for, let alone being able to use it for years and then pass it on or sell it on. So, while the initial price might look better, I’m still loosing a lot of cash.

It seems a shame that so much homeschool stuff is stuck in DRM- particularly the Christian stuff. How many Christians are pirates really?

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