Sony, B&N better on DRM than Amazon—but still a long way from perfection
November 14, 2009 | 8:27 am
Sony, B&N promise to rekindle rights for book owners is the headline on a Boing Boing posting from Rob Beschizza.
Without doubt, Sony’s Steve Haber and Adobe’s Bill McCoy have been more sensible on DRM than Amazon, with more flexible approaches. I applaud their efforts. But we’re a long way from nirvana. Gang, what do you think of this snippet from Boing Boing?
I recently talked to Sony’s Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader. Named the "Daily Edition," it hits stores next month. Notwithstanding differences between each manufacturer’s respective libraries, it offers all the best features of its main rival, the Kindle. But Sony says it offers one thing that Amazon won’t: actual ownership of your books.
"Our commitment is that you bought it, you own it," Haber said. "Our hope is to see this as ubiquitous. Buy on any device, read on any device. … We’re obligated to have DRM but we don’t pull content back."
Um, as long as there’s DRM, Sony isn’t offering genuine ownership of your “protected” books, a category that unfortunately includes most bestsellers. And remember, “Buy on any device, read on any device” is just a hope—and can really be achieved only without DRM or with social DRM (which could embed your name into an ePub file without destroying the ability for it to be read any ePub-capable machine). Operating systems and apps come and go. It is inherently impossible for the e-book industry to come up instantly with up-to-date, DRM-capable apps for every gizmo.
What’s more, genuine ownership means you can sell your books. Is Sony planning this?
The good news is that Adobe, Sony and B&N are hoping to provide compatible DRM approaches. That’s progress but still no substitute for lack of traditional DRM. It would also be nice to see Sony aggressively encourage publishers either to drop DRM or use social DRM, not just less restrictive forms of traditional DRM. Last I knew—this may be changing—Sony insisted that books in its store use DRM. I wonder what the more current policies of Sony and B&N will be.
With B&N, I’d call attention to the fact you can lend a book to a friend—with a 14-day period—only once as far as I know. Again, this is far from genuine ownership.
Meanwhile, in fairness to Amazon and its Kindle, let me note that you can use the K machine’s Web browser to download nonDRMed public domain books and even commercial books without “protection.”
Detail: I’m curious about Boing Boing’s mention of the Daily Edition as having a nine-inch display. Last I heard, Sony was saying the screen would be seven inches. Is Beschizza accurate here?