It’s Time To Dump Adobe eBook DRM

Do any of you understand the contortions two of the major eBook players undergo in order to avoid Adobe DRM?

Kobo’s eReader does not download an ePub file to the device. It downloads a file into an SQLite database.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook devices hide the eBook partition from the user. It cannot be seen by plugging into a PC.

Why do these two companies do this?

After all, with a Sony Reader you get an ePub file that you can see on your PC when you plug in the Reader. It’s all simple and straightforward.

Both Kobo and Barnes & Noble aren’t up to something nefarious.

They’re trying to cut Adobe out of the loop.

Kobo’s SQLite scheme does that.

Barnes & Noble’s scheme does that too.

Every time someone buys an ePub drenched in Adobe DRM, Adobe gets a fee.

This makes Adobe a partner in any eBook business the way a Mafia protection racket makes itself a partner in any other business.

Would you want to run a business where you can control almost any cost you need to — except the vig to Adobe?

Both Kobo and Barnes & Noble don’t want such a permanent partner.

That’s why they do what they do. The books are in a Kobo database file or in a Nook invisible partition so they don’t have to use Adobe DRM and give Adobe a fee.

And I think they’re in the right to do this, even if customers find it confusing. Because it’s ultimately in the best interest of customers.

But I want to go further with this.

I think it’s in everyone’s best interest for the smart programmers at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony to get together and devise a DRM scheme they can share royalty-free.

There have been precedents for such cooperation.

In fact, the best precedent was one that also screwed Adobe.

Apple and Microsoft got tired of Adobe being their partner through font licensing fees. So they got together and devised TrueType.

John Warnock of Adobe openly and publicly wept at that announcement.

It’s time to make Adobe shed some tears again.

Get together and create a better DRM scheme for eBooks.

Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony all have their own desktop programs.

No one in their right mind needs Adobe Digital Editions now.

ADE horns in due to the DRM scheme.

Cut it out of the eBook market like the cancerous tumor that it is.

Do it!

J.K. Rowling won’t be using Adobe DRM on her Harry Potter books.

Apple doesn’t use Adobe DRM. It uses its own FairPlay.

So why should anyone else?

It’s time to end this.

Previously at Mike Cane 2008:

The Zero-Gravity Toilet Of Adobe DRMed ePub

Previously at The eBook Test:

ePub eBooks From Apple Will Use FairPlay DRM

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20 Comments

Filed under Apple: The Company, Barnes & Noble Nook, Digital Overthrow, Friction, Kobo Reader, Sony Reader

20 responses to “It’s Time To Dump Adobe eBook DRM

  1. I don’t much care for Kobo’s little reading platform/app/whatever. It’s intrusive and has too many in-your-face bells and whistles I really don’t need or want. It’s very needy. Like a stalker ex-boyfriend.

    But.

    For DRMd ebooks (if I’m THAT desperate), I’ll use Kobo because I can download them, activate them, then put the files wherever I want them to be. With Bluefire reader that reads DRMd epubs, I can drop the Kobo epub into Dropbox, pull it out with Bluefire, and read it anywhere I want.

    For whatever reason (which I’m too lazy to investigate), Kobo makes this easier to do than any other DRM epub system.

  2. This is a nice idea, but you won’t find anybody lining up for it. A vendor-neutral DRM system has been in demand for the last 14 years, and the tech vendors kill it, every single time.

  3. Timothy Wilhoit

    I think that’s one reason (I can think of another) Bezos took so long in adopting library lending for the Kindle. He wanted to make the deal with Overdrive and cut Adobe out of their “vig.” It doesn’t hurt that the DRM is attached by Amazon and the user doesn’t have to fight with the infernal ADE.

    • mikecane

      Amazon has its own DRM, from when it bought MobiPocket. Amazon’s library loans will come from Amazon, with OverDrive acting as a gateway, so Amazon doesn’t need Adobe at all.

  4. When you buy an ebook from Kobo through its website on your PC, it opens in ADE, and it contains Adobe DRM.

  5. john

    so does Adobe receive a fee if i download an epub file from kobo and load it up on a sony ereader via adobe digital editions? or if i side load a kobo epub onto a nook, does Adobe receive a fee? how does that fee get tabulated? through Adobe Digital Editions?

    seems like B&N have been lambasted here previously for using their own DRM’d versions. if B&N uses its DRM to keep out use on other ereaders, does this benefit Adobe? or is the point that it encourages not using Adobe because we have to use a B&N ereader?

    confusing.

    and from the consumer standpoint, i wouldn’t care if i used adobe’s digital editions if i could just buy an epub from b&n and use it on a sony reader. argh.

    • mikecane

      Whenever you download an ePub that is an ACSM file first, that’s the fee to Adobe. When you download an ePub from Kobo’s site, you get an ACSM file and Adobe gets its cut. If you put that file on a Nook or Sony makes no difference. B&N’s mutant DRM also gives Adobe a cut.

    • “if B&N uses its DRM to keep out use on other ereaders”.
      That is not the case. Nook books in epub format can be read on other ereaders if they have the latest version of the Adobe firmware on board, like the Onyx Boox/Bebook Neo.

      • mikecane

        >>>That is not the case. Nook books in epub format can be read on other ereaders if they have the latest version of the Adobe firmware on board, like the Onyx Boox/Bebook Neo.

        Give it up. Only devices no one has ever heard of in the mainstream will bother to license the B&N mutant DRM. What’s in it for any of the big names? Aldiko licensed it, but that’s software and makes sense for that program.

  6. If you want to argue for DRM-free eBooks, then that’s a valid argument with much merit.

    However, to say that Adobe DRM is bad while Amazon and Apple DRM is acceptable makes you appear anti-Adobe and not anti-DRM. Why is one DRM better/worse than any other?

    One advantage of Adobe DRM, today, is that it is adopted by everyone (device, software, etc.) EXCEPT Amazon. This means you can move your DRM’d books between computers, devices, the cloud, etc. and read there whereever you’d like.

    • mikecane

      >>>One advantage of Adobe DRM, today, is that it is adopted by everyone (device, software, etc.) EXCEPT Amazon

      No, not by Apple either, as you pointed out in your first paragraph.

      Adobe DRM is a nightmare that everyone eventually has trouble with. It’s a pothole in the eBook experience that we must be rid of. That J.K. Rowling will trust her life’s work to just a digital watermark should wake up everyone else. Including Apple and Amazon.

      EDIT to add:

      >>>This means you can move your DRM’d books between computers, devices, the cloud, etc. and read there whereever you’d like.

      Adobe DRM has *nothing* to do with books in the cloud.

  7. Timothy Wilhoit

    Question: Do you have any idea of the cost of the vig for Adobe’s DRM?

    • mikecane

      No. But it’s not insignificant. And what I didn’t cover: Adobe also provides the shitty ePub rendering engine most devices use. That’s also expensive.

      • Timothy Wilhoit

        This is from the ALA’s EQUACC blog, ref. paragraph 7:
        http://www.equacc.ala.org/2011/04/25/adobe-content-server/

      • mikecane

        >>>So we bought the software. It cost $10,000 (one time fee), and a $1,500 annual maintenance fee. In addition, Adobe charges an eight cent fee per transaction — where “transaction” equals a checkout. Public library records are considered “temporary.” “Permanent” records have a higher fee of twenty-three cents. Interestingly, that transaction fee works out to about a third of the Overdrive storage fee.

        Yeah, those are the figures I’ve read elsewhere but couldn’t recall. Thanks!

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