Cueball and Megan encounter a USB Dead Drop in a tree, placed in such a way as to simulate the tree itself has a USB port.
The Giving Tree is a book in which a tree gives everything it has to a little boy out of love and a desire for the boy's company: apples to sell, wood to build a house, even letting the boy cut it down to make a boat. At the end of the book, the boy comes back as a grown man and the tree tells him sadly that it has nothing else to give. The man tells the tree that he only wants a tree stump to sit on, and the tree gladly gives him that. Notably, the tree's moments of greatest distress come when it fears that it can give the boy no more and that the boy will leave it.
.azw is an e-book file format used and created by the online company Amazon.com, which makes and sells the popular Amazon Kindle e-reader. Complaints against the format have been made concerning its closed nature: some people claim that all information should be free and imposing restrictions on its usage is limiting growth in the modern world. This comic was published two days before the release of the fifth generation of Kindles, alongside complaints that Amazon would continue to use DRM "encumbered" e-book formats.
The comic is a criticism of the usage of DRM in digital commerce. The tree's willingness to offer up its file is parallel to the generous nature of the tree in The Giving Tree. The tree is prevented from sharing its file however, by DRM in the file. With nothing to gain from the tree, Cueball and Megan leave the tree alone, in a manner similar to the fears of the tree in The Giving Tree. The final frame is a reference to the iconic silhouette of a tree that is used in the loading screens of Amazon's Kindles, a link between the abandoned tree in the comic and an abandoned Kindle.
The title text is an elaboration on the idea of a more modern Giving Tree. While in the original book, the tree gives the boy various gifts, in the new, modern version, the tree shows "its friend" (presumably the boy) all the places the friend can buy things, using social media to do so. This, like the DRM on the book from earlier, is a criticism of some aspect of the modern world, in this case, the increased commercialism due to social media.
- [Megan and Cueball hang out in front of a tree.]
- Megan: Whoa. What's this?
- Cueball: What's what?
- Megan: This tree has a USB port.
- Cueball: Try connecting to it, I guess.
- [Megan brings out a laptop and connects to it.]
- Megan: It's offering up a drive with one file on it.
- Cueball: What's the file?
- Megan: An eBook. "Shel_Silverstein_-_The_Giving_Tree.azw"
- Cueball: Never heard of it. Let's take a look!
- Laptop: DRM Error: You have not purchased rights to view this title. Lending is not enabled.
- Cueball: Huh. Oh well.
- Megan: Let's go see what Mike is up to.
- [The tree is alone.]
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- What can we learn from this? -
I've learned that DRM does not work (Thank you Mr. XKCD for reminding us). As with Creative Commons used by Mr. XKCD each idea should be shared as freely as possible, if it is thought out well and proves helpful to others, we will reward the author of such a great idea with riches beyond their wildest dreams (such as through Movie and Marketing rights owned by madam J.K. Rowling to got our children to read again). - E-inspired (talk) 13:55, 28 February 2013 (UTC)
What is it about the digital medium that makes people feel that the hard work of others should be available to them for free? We all agree that it is wrong to steal a (physical) book from a bookstore. However, now that the tablet has been invented, authors should give away their hard work for free and write on a volunteer basis as a public service? Certainly there are problems to be resolved when Apple and Amazon are profiting disproportionately from digital sales (as compared to authors and artists), however exploitation of artists by publishers is not a new phenomenon and was never an issue for the hacker set until entertainment went digital and they had access to free stuff. There are those on-line who think that the internet should offer-up everything for free but this attitude forgets that there is a cost to creating art and if that price is not paid, far fewer art will be created.. JB. 22.214.171.124 12:21, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
To JB.: I think the real problem here is not the question weather or not you have to pay something in the first place, but the fact that even if you bought an e-book you are forced to read it with the Kindle. It's not like stealing a book, it's like wanting to put it on another bookshelf, read it in another room or with a new set of glasses. If you own a printed copy you can carry it around, take it on vacation, copy your favorite page and hang it on the wall, resell it at a garage sale or yes, lend it to a friend. Here the tree is prevented from doing so by DRM, even though it owns the book. (note that it says "lending is not enabled" not "copying")
Like in comic #488 which is about the disadvantages of legally buying digital music, it shows that often with these kind of digital media you have not the same possibilities and rights you are used to from "real" books and CDs, but actually less.
126.96.36.199 13:27, 6 April 2013 (UTC)
A question: Who is Randall referring to by naming "Mike" in the fifth panel? I thought it alluded to Mike the sentient super computer from Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but I'm curious as to other interpretations. 188.8.131.52 09:26, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
- I'm assuming it is some kid they know called 'Mike', but perhaps my powers of deduction aren't as fearsome as I think. 184.108.40.206 23:17, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
A tree with a USB port? Maybe we should mention dead drops somewhere? Wow, and I just found this: Dead Tree Drop, I don't know if it's inspired by xkcd, but it's an awesome idea :D Klamann (talk) 12:42, 9 February 2014 (UTC)
I can see what the strip is trying to do, but the comparison to the original book really kind of misses the point. The tree in Silverstein's book gave of itself to the kid. Unless the tree is also Shel Silverstein, that book doesn't belong to it to give or lend. (And what's more, the book was not even available for Kindle until Feb 18, 2014, two and a half years after the strip was posted!) —Robotech (talk) 03:27, 4 March 2014 (UTC)
- If you'll pardon the pun, I think that by taking this strip so literally you are missing the forest for the trees. Orazor (talk) 07:22, 1 August 2014 (UTC)
It seems like this "Mike" is from Well 2. 220.127.116.11 20:09, 15 November 2014 (UTC)
the piracy tree 18.104.22.168 17:26, 22 December 2014 (UTC)