Sony's New German Ebookstore Features Thousands Of DRM-Free Books

from the in-other-news,-Sony-sells-e-readers dept

DRM is becoming less and less prevalent these days as more companies are realizing that the backlash from crippling the purchases of paying customers far outweighs any perceived prevention of infringement. It's not a wholesale conversion, but new DRM-free converts are appearing more frequently, including some surprising holdouts.

The Digital Reader brings us the news that Sony, of all companies, is opening its own ebookstore in Germany, bringing with it a large selection of DRM-free books

The press release mentions that not all of the Epub ebooks sold by Sony come with the onerous Adobe DE DRM. Some of the ebooks, numbering in the “thousands”, use digital watermarks instead.

Apparently several German publishers have decided to go with this low-hassle security, including Bastei Luebbe Verlag, which publishes novels by Ken Follett, Andreas Eschbach, and Dan Brown (it is not clear that any of these authors’ novels are DRM free).

Rather than inject malignant coding that often fails to distinguish between paying customers and file sharers, these German publishers are opting for digital watermarking, which generally works as well as nastier forms of DRM but without the negative side effects. Booxtream is handling the watermarking for Sony, having proved its worth to publishers by providing this service to one of the biggest ebook storefronts of all time, Pottermore.

So, what convinced Sony to go DRM-free on thousands of titles? Perhaps it was observing Booxtream's success in deterring piracy without having to resort to draconian measures.

According to Huub van der Pol, the founder of Booxtream’s parent company iContact, the official release of the Harry Potter ebooks saw a decrease in piracy of the series.

Once the titles were available legally, and were easy to use, pirates saw little reason to post copies of the ebooks online.

As Hoffelder points out, you can't make that same claim about DRM-loaded ebooks. In nearly every case, the DRM is discarded easily by enterprising file sharers, or just as often by consumers, who strip their purchases of this handicap in order to move them to other devices — or simply to make sure the publisher, bookstore or the DRM itself doesn't suddenly decide to render their purchases unavailable or useless. Some customers may download the pirated version even if they've purchased it, just to have an easily portable version unhampered by DRM. Why punish your paying customers in order to temporarily annoy/entertain infringers?

The other key to Booxtream and Pottermore's success is the simplest one to solve: make the book(s) available for sale at reasonable prices and with as few limitations as possible. Do this, and your “piracy problem” will very possibly solve itself

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Comments on “Sony's New German Ebookstore Features Thousands Of DRM-Free Books”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Well, strictly speaking watermarks are a form of DRM, albeit one of the least odious because it doesn’t interfere directly with the usage of the content. I do however questions its usefulness, and its usage by the copyright holders – i.e. when (not if) copies find their way on to file sharing networks, will they simply sue the originator or will they take into account the many ways in which a person’s content can be “stolen” and put there without their knowledge? Will the watermarks merely be used to detect infringing copies, or will they be used to violate their customers’ privacy?

It’s a step in the right direction, but I still consider it a waste of time and effort.

“Once the titles were available legally, and were easy to use, pirates saw little reason to post copies of the ebooks online.”

Offering legal copies in the way customers want them reduces their need to go elsewhere? Who’d have thought?

ethorad (profile) says:

Re: watermarking as DRM?

Are watermarks really DRM?

To my mind, the key quality of DRM is restrictions on what I can do with the file once I have bought (licensed?) it. A watermark does none of this, all it does is allow the copyright holder to trace which file was leaked onto bittorrent.

A watermark is akin to being given a personalised item. As an example, would you say that personalised songs which are otherwise DRM free, are encumbered by DRM? I don’t think so.

However I agree with you that I’m not sure about how useful watermarking is in practice. As you say, files could be stolen. More likely to my mind is someone will figure out how to edit the watermark part of the file, and either replace it with a null string, an Anonymous slogan, or someone else’s watermark.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: watermarking as DRM?

“Are watermarks really DRM?”

I’d certainly still consider them DRM. True, the restrictions aren’t directly enforced by the watermark itself, but the same idea still applies. Their entire purpose is to attempt to control what you do with them, only this way through letting people know it’s possible to identify which copy was leaked. It’s more of a social engineering construct than pure DRM, but the same basic idea applies.

To my mind, it’s weak enough to be useless in its intended form (it’s usually easily removed and it doesn’t actually stop people doing what they want with a file), and the risk of wrongful identification of the culprit responsible for a leaked copy outweighs any benefits.

Personalised songs aren’t DRM in any way, as each song is a different product, and thus no more DRM than a custom etching or the differences between handmade products would be.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

I’ll have you know that outside the US, the Kindle isn’t really selling all that well. Mostly because of the poor selection of books in other languages (other than English).

In most European countries, the Sony e-reader is the most-sold reader device.

I don’t own an e-reader anymore, (I have an Android phone and tablet with fbreader, kindle and kobo apps) and I still don’t trust anything that Sony makes, but I’m a minority in this. Most of my friends who own an e-reader own a Sony one. Mostly because it’s affordable, and most bookstores in Europe offer books that can be read on Sony e-readers without any hassles, because of the epub default (with adobe DRM).

Gregg says:

Add advertisements instead

Why don’t they just sell the ebooks with embedded advertisements instead of DRM or Watermarks. Paying customers wouldn’t see the add’s, but if they moved the book to a device that wasn’t registered, then the user would see an add at the top of the screen on every page.

It would be a win win for both sides.

Same idea as what TV USED to be… free for everyone but you get hit with the commercials.

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