WH Smith DRMCould there possibly be a modern author better known for his extremely anti-DRM stance than Cory Doctorow? Certainly not many, at any rate. But Kobo owners visiting the WH Smith e-retail store and attempting to buy Doctorow’s books would be forgiven for thinking otherwise: They’ve all been saddled with digital rights management. (Scroll down for the incriminating screen shot.)

The Bangkok-based author Simon Royle brought this truly odd turn of events to our attention this morning; if you happen to be a regular reading of the KBoards, you may have already seen the thread Royle created just after 7 a.m. this morning. “I was happy to see my books in WH Smith’s on-line website;” he wrote in the thread’s first post, “but then very unhappy to see that they had installed DRM in my files without my permission.(Emphasis ours.)

Other authors, including romance novelist Olivia Fuller and sci-fi author TJ Hudson, found that their Kobo books being sold on the WH Smith site were also all listed as DRM EPUBs. “I have just checked [the WH Smith site],” writes Hudson. “All of my books have DRM. I published them directly with Kobo and I unchecked DRM. I can’t have missed that option on every book I published, so it does look like DRM is being added against our wishes.”

Could that actually be the case? That’s tough to say, although author Amanda Brice offered this possible explanation:

ANY time you make any change at all, including price, it defaults back to DRM, so you have to manually un-check the box for no DRM. The good news is that unlike Amazon and B&N, you can change it at any time. The bad news is that it always defaults to DRM.

We’ll be reaching out to both WH Smith and Kobo within the hour; we’ll update this post if we learn anything more. (And in the meantime, we’ll be watching Boing Boing for an explosive Doctorow post!)

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Updated 21-MAR, 2:00 p.m. EST: Kobo’s Toronto-based media relations manager, René d’Entremont, reached out to TeleRead yesterday evening with a statement about the WH Smith DRM situation. And while his message wasn’t exactly the picture of clarity, it does seem to me—after reading between the lines—that the unauthorized addition of DRM to previously DRM-free Kobo e-books in WH Smith’s e-store probably was an honest mistake of some sort. Kobo’s official statement about the situation follows:

“Books are accurately reflected as DRM or DRM-free at the Kobo.com site. Consumers and authors alike can have confidence that when purchasing from the Kobo.com site – even if redirected from a partner site – that the titles are accurately represented. WHSmith is aware of this website issue which incorrectly presents DRM-free content as DRM. They are working quickly to resolve this and we recommend following up directly.”

Updated 20-MAR, 12:40 p.m. EST: We sent a link to this post to Cory Doctorow as soon as it was online; he tells us that he is, in fact, aware of the issue, and that he and his agent are currently in the process of trying to sort it out as soon as possible. Unfortunately—but not surprisingly—we still haven’t heard so much as a peep from either Kobo or WH Smith.

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WH Smith DRM


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