Earlier today a friend shared a link with me . David Pogue of the NYTimes was pontificating again about ereaders (he’s supposed to be a tech columnist) only he kept getting things wrong. My friend wanted to privately grouse about the misinformation he was spreading, but if you know me then you know I tend not to be quiet when irritated.
And in this case, I also want to correct the misinformation, and that requires a post.
The column in question came out a couple days ago. It was the second in a series and this one contained David’s responses to the numerous reader complaints about the errors in the previous column. David defends his previous statements that you cannot remove DRM nor transfer ebooks from one platform to another (Kindle to Nook, for example).
What I wrote: “When you buy an ereader, you’re committing to that one company’s catalog of books forever, because their book formats are mutually incompatible.”
Sample reader pushback: “Why do you write about things you don’t know anything about? Apparently, you haven’t heard of the free app called Calibre. It converts any e-book format into any other format. If I want to switch from a Kindle to a Nook, I just let Calibre convert my current Kindle library. It’s that simple.”
My reply: It’s actually not, for one towering reason: Calibre can’t convert copy-protected books. It doesn’t even try. And that rules out most of the books people want to read these days: best sellers. Current, commercial fiction and nonfiction. Books by people who are still alive.
Any regular reader of this blog knows what utter BS he’s spewing, and so do a lot of his readers. But unlike most moderately well informed techies David missed that detail.
Update: There’s debate in the comments about whether calibre can convert DRMed ebooks. Some commenters are saying that he is technically correct, given that calibre cannot strip DRM until after you install a plugin.
I can understand David making this mistake the first time around, but the second column requires willful ignorance on his part. It’s not just that he didn’t know something; he had to have actively avoided finding it out. Hell, simply googling “remove DRM ebook” would have been enough to catch his mistake.
What’s more, this second column was published mere days after the International Day Against DRM. That was only 8 days ago, so it is more than a little surprising that David never noticed the many discussions on how you could remove DRM from many things (including ebooks).
I wonder if David is a follower of the Dan Rather school of journalism? It would explain his recent columns.
Edit: My friend suggested that I should have been more explicit as to why I remove DRM. Here you go:
I have long taken the position that one should always remove DRM in order to make sure you don’t lose your purchases, whether it’s due to switching computers, changing to a new ereader, closure of an ebookstore, or if a publisher simply decides to cut off access to the ebook.