Exceeding Limits


So, last night, while sitting on the couch, I decided to curl up with a good book. I pulled out my trusty iPad, loaded the Kindle app, tapped The 90-Day Novel

… and got an error message: “You have exceeded the maximum number of devices authorized to read this book.”

If you know me, you know I love Kindles and iPads. It’s already clear that the future of the book is, for the most part, ebooks, and I’m more on board than anyone I know. After all, I read ebooks:

– on my Mac at home

– on my Mac at work

– on my home iPad

– on my work iPad

– on my iPhone

– on my Kindle

And to be clear: I haven’t started getting this message from *all* my ebooks … just this one.

But I shouldn’t get it from even one.

Here’s why: I am a ebook seller’s dream. I don’t download illegal copies of ebooks from or share them on torrent sites. I don’t use widely-available software to strip copy protection out of my ebooks. I buy the ebooks I read with my own money, and when I like ’em, instead of copying them willy-nilly and handing out like candy, I tell everyone who will listen how fantastic the book is.

What makes the situation with The 90-Day Novel especially annoying is this: when you purchase the book, there’s no clear indication that someone has gummed it up with rights management software that will limit the number of devices on which a legitimate buyer can read the book. No warning label. No opportunity to say, “Hmm. I don’t like books that place limits on fair use, so I think I’ll skip this book.”

And that’s not right.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Al Watt, the author of The 90-Day Novel, who is a great guy — the sort of author who’s still answering email and interested in talking to his readers. I still highly recommend the book, which teaches a delightful process that can keep writers writing on their books.

But gumming up that book with arbitrary limits that:

1) prevent legitimate buyers from fair use

2) aren’t disclosed at the time of sale, and

3) ignore the reality that people now have many devices, and want to get to all their stuff on all of them

… is wrong-headed.

Here’s hoping Al (and all authors, and book-buyers, too) will vocally oppose this kind of practice.

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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Leave a Reply to Brian Cancel reply

  • Ever see this comic? It sums up your situation here.


    DRM exists not to curb piracy but to restrict your rights as a consumer. Pirates aren't impacted by DRM. Content creators don't want you to "own" anything. They want to sell you the same thing again and again. That's why they'll get behind The Cloud; as your content will be under their control. You'll lease it and they'll have a steady revenue stream.

    I strongly believe in DRM-stripping. I don't share content (Aside from the fact that it's morally and ethically wrong, if I had to pay for it then why shouldn't everyone else?) but I refuse for a vendor to treat me as a criminal when I'm the one giving them money. Imagine if they could sell you a CD and tell you that you could only listen to it in your car? It should be your right as a consumer to have unencumbered access to YOUR media.

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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