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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Sharing Digital Content

Several months ago we'd put out a post on our blog entitled "Digital Dilemma: How do you share content?" where we asked three questions with regards the frustration we have living in the UAE with access to digital content that we've currently got on our smartphones, tablets or e-readers.  While not much has changed in this region since then, it's comforting to know that some of the questions we had raised are being answered internationally.

1. How do you buy it?

To answer the first question which we asked in our original post, we're still sadly in a part of the world where most content providers haven't given us a means to legally purchase digital content.  Google's Android doesn't allow you to buy Apps.  Apple's iTunes only lets you buy Apps but not music, TV shows or music.  Amazon's Kindle is not officially supported in the Middle East.  This has then meant that if you live in the UAE and you want to legally get access to this digital content, you're using a foreign SIM card in your Google phone to access paid Apps on Google's Android Market, buying Gift Cards from the US or UK to access Apple's iTunes store or using an American billing address to buy content for your Amazon Kindle e-reader.  There is still no timeline on the horizon as to when the situation will change and sadly this question still remains unanswered.
Image: philosophyblog.com.au

2. What do you do if you only want the content for a short period of time and have no intention of buying it?

One of the other frustrations till now had been how do you borrow a book digitally as you would from a library.  Amazon and Apple both have services where you can either rent a textbook for a year or rent a movie.  This is often times at 30-40% of the cost of buying the content but at least you now an alternative if you can access the content using the means mentioned above.

3. How do you lend the content to a friend or family member?

This is something that Amazon recently helped address recently via the Kindle.  If you own a Kindle, you can now lend books to another person in several cases which in essence would be like lending a hard copy of a book to a friend.  There are certain time restrictions but it's good to know that at least an option has been worked out.  If you've got a Kindle and are interested in knowing more about this, there's more information at this link.

The bottom line is that to get access to digital content legally in the UAE, there are still several hoops you have to maneuver through until you get to where you want.  There are some people who will go through this trouble but the rest end up getting the content where they find it, which is often on an illegal peer-to-peer download services.  Content providers are yet to take this region seriously enough and until then, have to accept the fact that they've created a treasure hove of pirates in the region.  Things can change and content providers can start to get their rightful share of the pie if they gave us a solution.  Till then, they like us have come to accept the fact that the digital dilemma will remain as it is and the region will remain behind most of the developed world when it comes to digital content.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics