MAA Focus April/May 2012 : Page 2

MATHEMATICAL ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA Letter to the Editor Mathematical Association of America in February/March, April/May, June/July, August/September, October/November, and December/January. Editor: Ivars Peterson, MAA ipeterson@maa.org MAA FOCUS is published by the Make eBooks More Accessible Dear Editor: The MAA now offers some of its titles as ebooks ( maa.org/ebooks ). This is an exciting development, but these ebooks are encumbered with digital rights management (DRM) technology that severely limits their usefulness and value. The MAA should offer its ebooks free of any DRM. Here’s why. First, the DRM doesn’t meet the needs of those most likely to buy MAA ebooks. The ebooks work only on Windows or OS X, which leaves everyone else out in the cold. In 1951, mathematician Douglas Hartree guessed that three digital computers would suffice for all of Britain. We now laugh at such a remark, living as we do in a time when three digital devices don’t even suffice for a single person. Even on a single computer, the ebooks are not as useful as they could be. Many people use citation man-agement software such as Zotero, EndNote, or Papers. DRM encryption on those ebooks makes automated full-text searching impossible and restricts the user to viewing the book with Adobe’s Acrobat Reader. Many other major players have eliminated the use of DRM, including Amazon and iTunes. O’Reilly, a ma-jor publisher of technical books, offers ebooks in four unencumbered formats and users can redownload them as often as they like. And, closest to home, SpringerLink offers access to thousands of articles and complete mathematics books as ordinary PDFs. All these successful commercial enterprises have eschewed DRM in favor of flexible, accessible, and usable products. Finally, the MAA should trust the mathematics community. I would not distribute unauthorized copies of ebooks or obtain the books via il-licit copying. I believe the mathematical community similarly values and respects authors and the MAA’s publishing efforts. Much about MAA’s ebook service is commendable. However, the scholarly community has decided: Its “lingua formata” for digital docu-ments is the ordinary PDF. I encourage the MAA to serve the mathematics community by releasing its electronic books in such a DRM-free format. Dan Drake <ddrake@member.ams.org> Response: We appreciate your concerns and continue to look for ways to improve the delivery of MAA ebooks. Adding support for tablet computers and other devices is on our agenda, and we are considering alternatives to the current DRM approach and technology. Ivars Peterson MAA Director of Publications and Communications Letters to the editor should be addressed to Ivars Peterson, MAA Director of Publications and Communications, at ipeterson@maa.org (or at MAA, 1529 18th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036). Managing Editor: Lois M. Baron, MAA lbaron@maa.org Please address advertising inquiries to: advertising@maa.org President: Paul Zorn First Vice President: Lloyd Douglas Second Vice President: Jennifer Quinn Secretary: Barbara T. Faires Treasurer: Jim Daniel Executive Director: Michael Pearson Director of Publications and Communications: Ivars Peterson MAA FOCUS Editorial Board: Donald J. Albers, Janet L. Beery, David M. Bressoud, Susan J. Colley, Brie Finegold, Joseph A. Gal-lian, Jacqueline B. Giles, Fernando Q. Gouvêa, Jacqueline A. Jensen, Colm Mulcahy, Adriana J. Salerno, Amy Shell-Gellasch, Francis E. Su, Laura Taalman, Gerard A. Venema Letters to the editor should be addressed to Ivars Peterson, Mathematical Association of America, 1529 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, or by email to ipeterson@maa.org. Subscription and membership questions should be directed to the MAA Customer Service Center, 800-331-1622; email: maaservice@maa.org; 301-617-7800 (outside U.S. and Canada); fax: 301-206-9789. MAA Headquarters: 202-387-5200. Copyright ©2012 by the Mathematical Association of America (Incorporated). Educational institutions may reproduce articles for their own use, but not for sale, provided the following citation is used: “Re-printed with permission of MAA FOCUS , the newsmagazine of the Mathematical Associa-tion of America.” Periodicals postage paid at Washington, D.C., and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to MAA FOCUS, Math-ematical Association of America, P.O. Box 90973, Washington, DC 20090-0973. ISSN: 0731-2040 (print). ISSN 2161-704X (online). Printed in the United States of America.

Letter to the Editor

Ivars Peterson

<br /> Make eBooks More Accessible<br /> <br /> Dear Editor:<br /> The MAA now offers some of its titles as ebooks (maa.org/ebooks). This is an exciting development, but these ebooks are encumbered with digital rights management (DRM) technology that severely limits their usefulness and value. The MAA should offer its ebooks free of any DRM. Here’s why.<br /> <br /> First, the DRM doesn’t meet the needs of those most likely to buy MAA ebooks. The ebooks work only on Windows or OS X, which leaves everyone else out in the cold. In 1951, mathematician Douglas Hartree guessed that three digital computers would suffice for all of Britain. We now laugh at such a remark, living as we do in a time when three digital devices don’t even suffice for a single person.<br /> <br /> Even on a single computer, the ebooks are not as useful as they could be. Many people use citation management software such as Zotero, EndNote, or Papers. DRM encryption on those ebooks makes automated full-text searching impossible and restricts the user to viewing the book with Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.<br /> <br /> Many other major players have eliminated the use of DRM, including Amazon and iTunes. O’Reilly, a major publisher of technical books, offers ebooks in four unencumbered formats and users can redownload them as often as they like. And, closest to home, SpringerLink offers access to thousands of articles and complete mathematics books as ordinary PDFs. All these successful commercial enterprises have eschewed DRM in favor of flexible, accessible, and usable products.<br /> <br /> Finally, the MAA should trust the mathematics community. I would not distribute unauthorized copies of ebooks or obtain the books via illicit copying. I believe the mathematical community similarly values and respects authors and the MAA’s publishing efforts.<br /> <br /> Much about MAA’s ebook service is commendable. However, the scholarly community has decided: Its “lingua formata” for digital documents is the ordinary PDF. I encourage the MAA to serve the mathematics community by releasing its electronic books in such a DRM-free format. Dan Drake <ddrake@member.ams.org><br /> <br /> Response: We appreciate your concerns and continue to look for ways to improve the delivery of MAA ebooks. Adding support for tablet computers and other devices is on our agenda, and we are considering alternatives to the current DRM approach and technology.<br /> <br /> MAA Director of Publications and Communications

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