Format Shifting & the future of your bookshelf

Most people don’t know but in the UK it is currently illegal to put a CD into your computer and copy the music to the hard drive, it’s just as illegal to copy it from that PC onto your iPod but everyone does it all the time.

The government have realised that this is a bit of an oddity and have indicated that “format shifting” (the act of changing the media the music/video etc is on) is going to be allowed when the new copyright laws are framed.

This is great news for all those law abiding citizens, especially the ones who until they read the first paragraph above didn’t realise they were breaking the law.

The thing that really interests me however; isn’t that I can now legally put my S-Club 7 CD on to my PC [should that ever be legal?] I am more interested in what this means for all those books on my bookshelves.

My Empty eBook Reader

One reason some people are reluctant to move to ebooks (once they’ve gotten over the ‘I don’t like the smell, issue) is the fact that your shiny new eDevice doesn’t have all the books you’ve already bought, it does feel a lot like starting all over again.

For your music collection, this isn’t as much of an issue because you just pop all your CDs into your PC and (illegally) copy them, so you can get them on your musicPod.

Changing the law means that copying CDs won’t be illegal and neither will be typing word for word the book on your bookshelf into word, but you’re probably not going to do that unless it’s an amazingly good book and your best friend has developed an allergy to paper.

The ACME book Copier

A book copier, maybe still a bit big for your spare room

It’s the effort of physically copying your books that currently makes all this a moot point, but we live in a world of astounding innovation and what happens when the ACME all American book coping robot goes on sale? For an ever decreasing amount of money you will be able to buy something that takes a book from your shelf and turns it into an ebook in under 20 minutes.

All of a sudden the book industry will have millions of home tapers and I’m not sure it’s prepared for that.

It may sound fanciful, but really stop for about 20 seconds and tell me that couldn’t be invented in the next 10 years.

Book Match

Another potentially more interesting (and maybe likely) development would be a way for me to verify that I owned a book and then get a copy of the ebook from the cloud. Sounds incredibly hard to prove you own a book?

Well the same is true of CDs and this is exactly what apple are planning to do with iTunes Match

iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to your iCloud library”

So why can’t I match my books – You could do it a number of ways how about ,” type the fifth word on page 56, seventh word on page 109 and the second word on page 32?” you would need the physical copy to do that?

So all your books as ebooks – Sounds quite cool, what’s the bet the publishing industry doesn’t want any of the above to happen?