image Repeating similar horrors from Microsoft’s MSN Music, Yahoo will shut down its Yahoo! Music and DRM servers—thus depriving customers of the right to enjoy the music on different machines in the original high-quality format.

Microsoft later backed off. But isn’t this all a perfect lesson for e-bookers who think they’re buying DRMed books rather than simply leasing them? Yes—Kindle owners included. Even if the gotchas aren’t as bad, they bound to show up. Look how Amazon’s main store squeezed out the Adobe format, herded people into its own Mobipocket and now wants them to buy Kindle-format books.

The library angle

image "Once again," LISNews comments on Yahoo mess reported by Ars Technica, "this truly provides food for thought for libraries signing up for content services who cripple their wares with DRM. When they decide to leave, they can take their toys with them. Unfortunately, they can also take your toys with them too." Or just go out of business. Ask the librarians who bought Rocket eBooks and Gemstars.

"Protection" and eBabel: The twin toxins of e-bookdom

towerofbabel DRM and proprietary formats—the twin toxins of e-bookdom! And of music, too! The scary thing is that the big recording studios have actually been more progressive than the large publishers in understanding the folly of DRM. "Portection" is a great way to punish law-abiding customers and reward downloaders of pirated books. Quite rationally Amazon brags about selling nonencrypted MP3s. Time for it and its publishing partners to unshackle e-books as well and experiment with social DRM? Or is Amazon too much in love with short-term revenue from Mobi DRM to consider the long run?


  1. Kids are most likely not to understand the need not to pirate. Kids are unlikely to be the target market for most books. Kids would rather play games than read. Listen to music than read. Any book a kid happens upon on the DarkNet is bound not to be passed along because it’s considered “junk.” Adults who put out hard cash for ebooks are not about to pass them around (that alleged statement from that alleged eejit librarian notwithstanding!). I’m not about to give someone a freebie of something I’ve paid bucks for. If someone can afford the hardware, they can afford the software too. Leakage of everything is possible. But ebooks will create more sales for some books that print book *returns*. Readers and *writers* are being punished here.

  2. I own a Kindle but, at this point, I would NOT spend a lot of money on ebooks precisely because I’m tech savvy enough to know that you do not own anything that is encumbered with DRM.

    I and my wife use the Kindle mostly to replace the stacks of cheap paperback books that we buy, read and give away. Beyond that it’s fun to scout around for free ebooks. There’s plenty to read out there in the world without paying ten bucks for a book just because its new.

    Case in point, Tor just gave away, totally free of DRM, about 12 top notch Science Fiction ebooks as a promotion to publicize their new Website.

  3. coming from a possible future e-reader owner:

    how do you know when an ebook is encrypted with DRM?


    when will there be an unfettered e-reader available? who do i look out for? i hate the idea of again being a slave to itunes or amazon….

  4. You generally won’t go wrong if, absent evidence to the contrary, you assume any given commercial e-book has DRM—because most do. Certainly almost all of the ones sold for the Kindle or Nook do.

    It’s usually the ones that don’t have DRM (such as Baen or Fictionwise Multiformat) that explicitly come right out and say so.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “unfettered,” as most e-book devices will allow you to buy unencrypted (that is, DRM-free) e-books from elsewhere and install them on the device. Even the Kindle will let you do this. It’s just the ones with DRM from elsewhere that make you run into trouble.

  5. You can easily strip the DRM off most ebooks. All you need is

    1. Calibre

    2. deDRM tools plugin for Calibre

    Download both items.
    Install Calibre.
    Run Calibre.
    Click on the Prefrences button.

    In the Preferences pop-up box, go to the bottom row of new buttons, under the header that reads “Advanced,” and click on the button that says “plugins.”

    In the Preferences/Plugins pop-up box, click on the button that says “Load plug-in from file” and then click yes, you do want to install, and then you’ll have your deDRM tools in your Calibre program.

    Now every time you drag a DRM restricted book into Calibre from a Windows window, the plug-in will eat off the DRM and put the rest of the book into the Calibre file.

    This is how you can

    1. Put a copy of your books on a device other than the one your bookseller thinks you will be putting it on, giving you more choices, or insurance in case your main eReader breaks or your can’t find it or something.

    2. Keep backup copies of your ebooks on SD cards in a form you can load onto any tablet or eReader, in case your seller goes out of business and you can’t get the book by download anymore.

    The only (morally legitimate) reason a seller might complain is if you start giving or selling unauthorized copies of ebooks to other people. That would be a plain old copyright infringement crime, which is easier to do with ebooks than with paper books, but the principle is the same. As long as your copies remain for your eyes only, it shouldn’t be any business of the seller or the publisher which device you use to read the books you bought.

    Buyers have rights, too. And buyers have a right to protect their investment in ebooks against the loss of a particular eReader or against the possibility that the seller won’t be in business forever.

  6. I should say, you might have to configure your Calibre one time after you have installed the deDRM plugin so that it contains the decryption key for one of your approved devices. That tells Calibre how to remove the DRM. But once the DRM is off the ebook, it can be loaded into any device.

  7. Also, Calibre can convert ebooks from one format to another. You can put de-DRMed copies of your ebooks in many different formats (mobi, epub, FB2, LIT, PDF, HTML, etc.) on a 32 GB microSD card for convenient storage. You can swap this microSD card between your devices when you want to, say, use a tablet as a reader instead of your Kindle or Kobo. Indeed, you can make several of these cards, either as back-up or to stick in each of your eReaders, just to save yourself the trouble of pulling a card out of one device and putting it into another.

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