VideoScan has released sales figures comparing the performances of the two competing high definition disc formats, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, and it seems despite some hiccups, sales of both formats are soaring! One of the main reasons for their success is the brand new DRM (Digital Rights Management - a playback control mechanism that ensures consumers do not get for free what could later be charged for) content protection system used, which ensures the availability of innovative new content, crisp sharp image quality, and sound you can feel, while also taking a hard stance against those that expect something for nothing. Due to an advanced central management system, if any player is compromised, then all players across the world will cease to function. Likewise if any disc is compromised, then all discs in that format will erase themselves securely by overwriting every bit with zeros 32 times (48 times as of March 7th). Security of content is primary in an age of rampant piracy, and consumers feel uncomfortable when given free reign over paid for intellectual property, and allowed such frivolous capabilities as interoperability and basic fair use™ privileges, so it's in everybody's interests that content be locked up and locked down securely.
However, book publishers and readers alike have gotten the raw end of the stick here, as such content protection methods are only currently available on high definition discs. Written content is equally worthy of protection, and consumers cannot enjoy reading if they know it only takes a few minutes with a photocopier for their hard earned purchase to be stolen.
Historically, books have been said to house the ultimate content protection system - they're difficult to read in digital form, and clumsy and inconvenient to copy. In the 21st Century though, with pirates lurking on every street corner peddling their warez, and trapping helpless young consumers in alleys and stealing their content, a more advanced protection system is needed so everybody can enjoy their legally purchased works in safety and comfort.
Previous attempts at putting DRM on printed books were unfortunately less than successful. The most recent method of selling books filled with blank pages (if it can be read, it can be stolen, not to mention sold on, lent, read out loud, reviewed and even talked about) resulted in plummeting sales, and statistics showed beyond doubt that this was due to piracy, and the mindset it had created whereby average consumers turn into thieves that constantly expect to get something for nothing. The industry rightly believes that reading a written work that you have purchased is a privilege they should be able to charge you extra for, but limitations of the technology and the laws of physics has meant yielding this most basic commodity.
Until now that is. The shift towards purchasing books online, which can take advantage of cutting edge "on demand" digital printing (i.e. printing a single copy of a book at the time of purchase) means the next level of written content protection is finally within the industry's grasp.
The system works as such. Traditionally books have relied on a system of light absorbing inks being applied to light reflective paper, the contrast between which results in the text being easily read by the naked eye under normal lighting conditions. This weakness known internally as "the analogue hole" (or "a-hole"), is widely understood to be an open invitation to piracy, and the bane of the entire industry. You may not be aware of this, but to-date, every book ever published could theoretically be read by anybody on the planet, without restriction. It's a publisher's nightmare. A patented light reflecting ink laced with a derivative of phosphor however means that printed works no longer need be readable under normal light conditions, and instead require the use of a black light to activate the ink. Activated ink reflects light slightly brighter than the page for a mere fraction of a second, way too fast for any recording media to pick up, but due to the image retention function of the human eye, it remains visible just long enough when strobed at the correct frequency for the text to be readable. If the frequency is too slow, it borders on invisible. Too fast (or too bright) and the active elements of the ink will combust, effectively destroying the content.
The management issues are more complex, but ultimately simple to use and unobtrusive to the consumer. Strobing black lights (marketed as "book readers") are to become a licensed technology, and as mentioned above, it only takes one small error to destroy the written content. Taking full advantage of this, each book reader will contain a barcode scanner, and a barcode containing details of the book, purchaser, page number, estimated time it takes an adult to read the page, and ink properties (to adjust strobe frequency) will be unobtrusively placed across the lower half of each page, which of course is possible with "on demand" printing. The book reader scans this, checks via internet with the publisher database that it's OK to decode, and then activates the ink for the specified page length. Attempt to read the pages out of sequence, or read the same page twice in a row, and your next month's reader licence fee will be increased on a pay-per-view basis. These are premium services and publishers have a right to profit from them. If the book is found to be owned by somebody other than the registered owner of the book reader, then the page will be "flashed" rendering it useless.
Of course, traditional bookstores cannot yet take advantage of "on demand" digital printing, so content protection here relies on the "consumer honesty" method, which is a well known industry joke, rather like the one about the actress that was so dumb she slept with the writer. In the not too distant future though, bookshops will become secure digital print centres where entire libraries of content protected materials can be personally created on demand in the time it takes to enjoy a delicious caffé latte (sold separately) at the nearest Starbucks.
And with these new content protection measures, consumers can sleep easy knowing a golden age of enjoyment, of vibrant new content to delight the senses and things, is just around the corner, just like their favourite Starbucks.