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OPLIN 4Cast #205: Incompatible E-reader DRMs

Posted in 4cast

With the holiday shopping season upon us, many people will be buying e-book readers for themselves or as gifts. Some industry forecasts predict as many as 10.3 million e-readers will be in use by the end of the year, and about 10% of adults report that they plan to give an e-reader as a gift this season. Unfortunately, many people who may want to download e-books from the library onto their brand-new device are in for a big disappointment. The digital rights management (DRM) systems used by libraries and e-readers to prevent unauthorized copying of e-books are often incompatible—a situation that could make the Grinch very happy this year.

  • Adobe DRM library eBooks on your Apple iPad (Splintered Mind/Douglas Cootey)  “The problem is that the most popular library ebook lending system is Overdrive. They deliver a double-fisted DRM smack down by wrapping Adobe DRM in a server side authorization mechanism. Basically, Overdrive files point to the DRMed book on Overdrive servers which an Overdrive authorized reader must be given permission to access. Since there are no authorized Overdrive readers for the iPad, and Overdrive has stated their first mobile ebook support will be for Android devices, this means that almost 7.5 million iPad owners will have to wait. “
  • Kindle cannot support library books (Salt Lake Tribune/Vince Horiuchi)  “But if I read the fine print on the library’s website, I would have realized that the PDF books rented out by the library use DRM, or digital rights management, to protect the files from being copied. Unfortunately, the Kindle does not support that kind of DRM.”
  • The shattered ebook DRM landscape (Gear Diary/Carly Z)  “When Steve Jobs announced the iPad, he also mentioned that iBooks would be using ePUB. There was a brief ray of hope among the eBook world…maybe, just maybe, the majority of ebooksellers would rally around a single format. Unfortunately, it looks like that was a false hope. …Apple will be using their Fairplay DRM for iBooks. This will be the 3rd variant of ePUB DRM: Adobe, Fairplay, and Barnes and Noble. And of course, Amazon has their own DRM and ebook format.”
  • Second Adobe DRM ebook reader arrives on iPad (ebookmagazine/Martin Hoscik)  “Books sold via Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle apps are limited by the seller’s use of closed DRM and although rival Kobo offers Adobe protected ePub books, their app does not currently allow the ‘side loading’ of titles bought elsewhere.”

Shopping list fact:
So what should you tell patrons who think ahead and ask the library what e-reader to buy? Well, if your library uses Overdrive for e-books, there’s an online list of compatible devices. Adobe also publishes a more extensive listing of e-readers that support Adobe Digital Editions DRM.