Smoothwall Firewall project

Thursday 8 April 2010

ebook reader DRM hell - and why I hate DRM

There have been many articles on the web over the years about DRM - digital rights management - putting forward both the pros and the cons of the technology. The basic premis is the copyright holders ability to make sure they get paid for their work, which is perfectly sensible and correct. DRM failed in spectacular fashion with the music industry, so that now every music download site you use does not have DRM enabled. The music industry is doing extremely well and selling billions of tracks, so the need for DRM has been completely disproved.

However, the books and video industries are going to have to go through the same learning curve and get rid of this stupid technology as it is a real barrier to people legally purchasing material.

Here is my little tale of woe , and bear in mind when I tell you this tale I have 25 years experience in the IT industry, goodness know's what some people would do if hit by the same problems.

I borrowed a friends Sony PRS-505 ebook reader to play with and see if I liked the idea, and I have to say that I do so far, apart from buying books for it. I visited the Waterstones ebook web site and bought an ebook, and this is when my problems started. I needed to install a piece of Windows software from Adobe - their DRM application - which does not work on Linux. So I brought up my Windows virtual machine and installed it there, no luck it couldn't see the ereader. Now , I had previously installed another ebook piece of software called Calibre which worked perfectly with ereader, so it was not obvious what the problem was, so off to the Adobe help pages.

The issue was that I had to not only install the Sony ereader software, but I also had to upgrade the firemware ( the program that makes the ereader work) before I could progress. I would think for a large percentage of the population this would be game over, and they would give up. Don't forget here that Calibre has been working perfectly from day one, and if I had been able to just download the file I had bought, I could have spent this wasted hour reading my book I had paid for.

You also need to bear in mind , that with any firmware upgrade, if you get it wrong, you can completely mess up your device, to the point it has to go back to the shop to be fixed.

I eventually got this all sorted and the file onto the ereader - Iain M Banks "Matter" by the way - and hopefully I should have no further issues, but what a mess and a complete waste of my time and effort. I spend hundreds, if not thousands of pounds a year on books, and this is just very annoying.

This is a real barrier to using this device , and I started to understand, but not agree with, why people just buy into Steve Jobs locked down proprietary hell with the Apple iPod,iPhone and iPad using iTunes as it all just works. This is not the way technology was meant to be, and it is a disgrace that our Governments have allowed the companies to visit this nonsense on us.

O'Reilly , the technology book sellers, have solved this problem with a far more elegant solution, they just put your name and details watermarked into everybook you download. At a stroke 99.99% of people are never going to allow their bought material onto the web, would you want your name splashed over every P2P network? I know I don't. You also wouldn't have to be a particularly clever lawyer to find out where it had come from either.

If anyone from Adobe or Waterstones ever reads this post, for goodness sakes re-think this stupid policy and just make it easy for your customers to buy your books. Go visit the O'Reilly site and look how they do it with their Safari library and you will be doing your customers a big favour.

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