Category Archives: mere observations

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?

A question of pain and it’s treatment.

Pain is a major symptom of all sorts of medical conditions. It’s the body’s number one alarm system to tell you something is wrong. Those who have the very rare disorder of congenital anesthesia live dangerous lives as they have no warning system. So, in some ways pain can be good.

But for a lot of people pain can be bad. It can be so bad it kills. That’s how people get tortured to death. The pain is so bad, it kills them. Research shows that people who have chronic pain are not only at a higher risk of suicide, but a much higher risk of heart failure leading to death.

So, you would think that something as common and often very serious as pain would have proper medical procedures associated with it, wouldn’t you?

But for so many people pain is the last thing a doctor knows anything about, how to treat, and often refuses to believe the patient’s description of the pain. This in turn leads to the, frankly stupid, opening paragraphs of studies into pain showing fMRI and blood chemistry changes of “Imagine that! The patients weren’t lying! Shock and amazement as science discovers that patients really are in a lot of pain!”

Recently a woman was left to die when a qualified nurse decided that despite the terrible pain she was in, she didn’t require an ambulance. This is one of a deluge of stories of patients left in severe pain, sometimes to die of it, because medical and nursing staff don’t think pain meds are important enough to bother with. Or they are wrapped in the myth that patients requesting pain meds are junkies. (And that’s before you consider that a person with an addiction needs more than dismissal as well!)

There have been some tragic deaths when people, having no proper pain management from their doctor will end up accidentally overdosing on over the counter drugs as they desperately try to get some relief.

Are doctors really so dim, so incapable of listening and making observations that they need to see very expensive (not available on the NHS as far as I’ve seen) High Spec fMRIs and SPECT scans before they will help a person get on top of their pain?

It was the great Dr. Osler who pointed out that as medics relied too much on machines that the standards of medicine would decline. I don’t think, even in his nightmares he envisaged a computer deciding whether a woman in so much pain it was going to kill her, should be refused an ambulance.

A return to basic compassion and a genuine recognition of the devastation that pain can cause is urgently required. Whatever happened to common sense and common human decency?