Just As I Thought

Paper or plastic?

Last week I complained about the inadequate and annoying technology at the San Jose Public Library. Yesterday, I discovered that library patrons can “check out” e-books via the library website, and I thought this was rather cool, especially for books that were out of print. So, I downloaded a history of San Jose.
And then I once again ran into a common problem: in the name of “security,” companies — in this case, Adobe — have made the experience so mind-numbingly complicated and unworkable that the whole concept is ruined.
When I tried to open the e-book, I was told that my software needed to be activated. This necessitated a trip to an Adobe website where I had to establish an account. (Um, I already have a library card, why do I need another account somewhere else?) Then, no matter how many times I clicked “Activate,” it just generated messages that it couldn’t download some needed file. I quit Acrobat, then tried again — this time it activated. (There was no useful help on Adobe’s site for this problem.)
Feeling like I’d finally cracked it, I tried to open the e-book again. No dice. This time, it tells me that I hadn’t established ownership of the book and my choices were: a) I own this book and copied it from another computer or a backup, or b) someone else gave it to me and I would like to own it. Choosing option A just transports me to a “help” page that says I must reactivate my software using the computer I originally downloaded the e-book on. (I am using that computer.) Choosing option B gives me an error.
Finally, I tried to get rid of the book altogether by choosing “return to lender.” Again, that just gives me an error.
This is especially frustrating because it all smacks of a Windows-centric way of doing business — unhelpful error messages and a totally unintuitive way of working… or not working, as the case may be.
The San Jose Public Library has found yet another high-tech way of making it as difficult as possible for me to get information. As for e-books? I’m not surprised they haven’t caught on if the publishers treat their readers as criminals and making them jump through such hoops just to read the material. They deserve to have this format crash and burn along with any other DRM-laden formats that won’t work for ordinary consumers. I don’t have to create an account or authorize my DVD player to play a movie, and even the restricted iTunes music plays without me having to leap technological hurdles.
So, until I can find a paper copy of the out-of-print History of San Jose, I won’t be reading it.

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