A very detailed article by Emma Tonki in the UK scholarly journal Ariadne investigates this. The article discuses business plans, text-to-speech and authors’ rights, DRM and distribution mechanisms, ebook content formats, hardware manufacturers and availability, and more.
Two paragraphs from the conclusion are worth reprinting:
From the users’ perspective, it seems unlikely that the sort of manoeuvrings involved in the present situation will benefit them; content is encumbered, prices are negotiated in a manner that is both unclear and involving significant grandstanding, and as the recent collapse of Borders UK has shown, buying into anything other than an open platform with open content requires a very sincere and complete risk assessment. The collapse of previous ebook infrastructure has demonstrated that devices may last longer than the supply network. This is mitigated by devices that make use of cross-vendor standards; those with unsupported proprietary devices will have to hope that a community is able to find a solution to their difficulties.
It is to be hoped that over time, the situation regarding digital rights management will be resolved. In the case of music sales, it is now commonplace to buy music in the form of unencrypted MP3 content that can be played back on any platform. Indeed, given the difficulties of retaining a large collection of files even without the additional challenge of artificially limited playback, it is to be hoped that the user be given a great deal of support. At the price of current commercial ebook content – and given that there is generally no mechanism provided for resale of licences, and thus no mechanism to transfer the ebook to another reader – an ebook collection is a very significant investment. In the meantime, it is perhaps inevitable that many ebook owners will take advantage of the existence of solutions to remove access control on their files.
Thanks to Resource Shelf for the heads up.