steam_logo The Wolfire Games Blog has an interesting post about online-only DRM of the sort we mentioned a few weeks ago, that keeps soldiers and others with poor net connections from playing the latest Ubisoft games.

Wolfire points out that Valve created a very similar system in the form of Steam, the on-line installer/game catalog through which Valve sells its and others’ games—but with a couple of crucial differences. For one thing, Steam allows people to play its games off-line. For another, Valve added considerable value, making Steam useful to gamers as well as content providers.

Where gamers were originally upset over having Steam forced upon them with Half-Life 2, now they absolutely love it:

This invasive layer that was originally getting in people’s way now helps gamers find out about game sales, chat with friends, download their purchased games to other computers. What was once derided as DRM is now perceived as such a value add to gamers that Gabe Newell can go out in public and denounce DRM and no one really calls him on it.

What I wonder is, could something like this be applied to other media that also use DRM? What would be the equivalent system to Steam for e-books?

In a way, a number of modern e-book stores are already there. eReader/Fictionwise (since the iPhone), Kobo, Amazon’s Kindle (and Kindle iPhone app)—all of these services allow you to buy books from your net-connected device, then download them directly into it, just as Steam lets you do with games. (Granted, it’s a bit of a stretch with eReader and Fictionwise, given that you have to purchase the books from a separate web browser, then use the iPhone app to download them, but still.)

Though, given that Baen does this without DRM, and some of Fictionwise’s books don’t have it either, it may not be exactly equivalent.