Adobe Releases New DRM For eBooks, Plans To Screw Over Anyone Using Old DRM

from the futile-thrashing-about dept

In the grand lexicon of digital economies, DRM is quickly becoming, ironically, a four-letter word. Each attempt at locking down products in this manner is one more lesson in the futility of the entire effort, with legitimate customers becoming annoyed, while cracks are provided in a matter of days. One wonders why anyone in charge of any company would continue sinking money into an enterprise that has such dismal results, but c’est la vie. Adobe is a company that’s perhaps not the most storied in this arena of DRM attempts, but it has its history of failures as well.

But give Adobe credit, I guess, as it hasn’t let the failures of the past keep it from taking another turn at the DRM plate. Late last month came word that Adobe was releasing a new flavor of its eBook DRM for the EPUB format, leading to applause from nobody and a general questioning of why the company was attempting to force its customers to leap into the waiting arms of the competition.

Yes, there’s a new type of DRM out there, and yes we will eventually see ebook readers and apps that support it. But for the near future the devices and apps that do not support the new DRM (and frankly, never will support the new DRM) will far out number the newer gadgetry that does. And that means that the vast body of existing ereaders and apps is going to drive the market. eBookstores will want to sell to the largest number of potential customers, so they will continue to offer the older DRM. They already know that they’re losing customers to Amazon, Apple, and B&N, all of which have a proprietary DRM schema, so they’ll do their best to avoid losing what few customers they can get.

In other words, this DRM is likely to have an adoption rate that would make Little Orphan Annie cry. That this is coming so late in the game, with the previous DRM version having been cracked long ago, and the eBook marketplace booming, makes this author wonder what the hell anyone at Adobe is thinking. With futility proven and necessity rebuked, this appears to be little more than an effort to put roadblocks in front of potential customers. Way to go.

Meanwhile, of course, the DRM scheme is already annoying legitimate customers.

There are several reports on Twitter this morning that a bug in the latest version of Adobe DE is wreaking havoc, with several users reporting that they have ebooks which could be downloaded to Adobe DE but not transferred over to an ebook reader (like the Nook, Aura, or PRS-T3). This has also been confirmed by a couple other users. According to Micah Bowers, CEO of Bluefire Reader, the bug is only affecting a small fraction of newly downloaded ebooks and it is blocking users from transferring their purchased ebooks to their ebook readers. That’s not what one user reported on Twitter:

“I had a bunch of books on my laptop & yesterday ADE wouldn’t let me access them. I purchased them 7 years ago. So NOT happy.” — Rebecca (@RebeLovesBooks) January 27, 2014

So, just to put a nice little bow on all of this, Adobe is releasing a new version of its DRM which was previously cracked, with the new DRM sure to be cracked, and which has little practical value beyond annoying eBook customers and driving sales for the competition. If one were writing a script of why DRM is a silly idea, one couldn’t write it up better than Adobe has.

As if that weren’t enough, Adobe has managed to ensure this new DRM attempt will remind customers that, when it comes to DRM, the curse always gets worse.

The tl;dr version is that Adobe is going to start pushing for ebook vendors to provide support for the new DRM in March, and when July rolls Adobe is going to force the ebook vendors to stop supporting the older DRM. (Hadrien Gardeur, Paul Durrant, and Martyn Daniels concur on this interpretation.). This means that any app or device which still uses the older Adobe DRM will be cut off. Luckily for many users, that penalty probably will not affect readers who use Kobo or Google reading apps or devices; to the best of my knowledge neither uses the Adobe DRM internally. And of course Kindle and Apple customers won’t even notice, thanks to those companies’ wise decision to use their own DRM.

But everyone else just got screwed.

So, needlessly annoy new customers while doing zero to battle “pirates” while simultaneously spitting in the faces of the legitimate customers who have spent the past few years buying eBooks? Nicely done, team!

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Companies: adobe

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Comments on “Adobe Releases New DRM For eBooks, Plans To Screw Over Anyone Using Old DRM”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

To 'fight piracy', right... /s

They’re not even bothering to pretend anymore it seems, yet again the only people getting screwed over are the legitimate customers, while pirates remain untouched, all over something supposedly aimed at decreasing piracy…

DRM is not, and never has been, about ‘combating piracy’, it’s always been about control and locking things down so customers never actually own them, the fact that companies still implement costly DRM, which has zero effect on pirates while having plenty of downsides for legitimate customers just makes this all the more clear.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t hate windows 8. I just don’t see any reason at all to upgrade my gear from windows 7…

I will wait and see about Windows 9 and how they are going about it. Maybe I will even contemplate switching to a another distribution. At that point I will need a new computer, but can make a much more educated choice.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I will wait and see about Windows 9 and how they are going about it.

Based on past “upgrades” to Windows, I predict higher system requirements, plenty of needless changes that only serve to confuse users of previous Windows versions and poor backwards compatibility, especially with games.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Honestly, I adapted to Windows 8’s start screen pretty quickly. Don’t really mind that they got rid of the start button either [kinda annoyed they decided to bring it back in 8.1, to be honest].

That being said, it’s obvious if you’re like me and have a regular laptop that most of Windows 8’s UI was designed with the Surface in mind [or a device with touch screen capability anyway].

Windows 8= As far as OSes go, pretty good.


Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Under the hood W8 seems to be better from what I read and seen (it starts much faster and seems lighter on many aspects). But really, the UI is a deal breaker. I see it may have potential on touch screens but on a regular desktop it’s sheer stupidity. Hence the uber low adoption rates.

With patience you’ll get used to it. It doesn’t mean the UI gets anything near being efficient for a desktop though. I won’t be upgrading to W8 for sure.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

This is 8.1. I much prefer it to 8. At least now I can turn PC off with mouse and boot to desktop, access control panel, update…shit, with 8, there isn’t even an “x” to close a program. Apparently there will be a close button for apps on 8.1 in April.

There is no need to upgrade from 7.

Full disclosure: I have 7, had 8 but updated to 8.1, won’t go back to 8, prefer PCLinuxOS64 as OS of choice.

PS. So far, I have had no problem reading td with 7 or 8.1, so that is one thing ms can do.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“It’s not so much Windows 8 as everyone still hates Microsoft for Vista”

No, most people who are complaining about 8 already use Windows 7 so the shoddy state of Vista isn’t what’s putting them off. It’s the fact that they can’t choose not to use a touchscreen interface on their non-touchscreen devices. Had Metro been made optional or just not the default on a standard mouse/keyboard machine, I doubt most people would have been complaining (unless I missed something, the underlying OS functionality has been fine).

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Vista was a disaster under the hood, 8 is a UI disaster. It was a resource hog and very unstable unless you kept it isolated from any other interference after installation. Ie: kept your pc turned off.

After years pirating M$ stuff I decided I should at least buy a copy since I use it so much (and honestly a well maintained Windows system is as good as any) and unfortunately I decided to go for Vista before testing it (and one copy of Office while I was at it). I would have regretted my decision if it wasn’t the fact I pirate the fuck out of Windows up to date.

out_of_the_blue says:

Didja even notice this: "those companies? wise decision to use their own DRM."

It’s just problem with Adobe — and that starts with “A” and stands for ANOMALY right here in River City!

2nd point to notice is that everyone seems to revile Adobe yet it goes right on… Should tell you that public pressure is almost useless: we need jack-booted gov’t thugs to routinely kick the hell out of corporate officers, or they just do whatever they please…

Innovation and change are considered vital to modern “technology”. Ease of use or even function are distant concerns. (86 of 195)


PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There’s a different dictionary among the morons here:

“anomaly” – anything that makes corporations look bad and/or gives a concrete example of what’s wrong with an industry and its approach to copyright or patents.

“pirate” – someone who criticises DRM or the glorious benevolent corporations

“corporation” – the only entity that can legitimately fund something

“artist” – an employee of a corporation

“art” – a product to be monetised

The true anomaly would be a DRM that achieves its supposed goal without either being easily circumvented by pirates (thus making its existence a useless expense) and negatively affecting legal customers of a product (thus making them less likely to buy – the opposite of the supposed aim).

Perhaps if these fools spent more time giving us examples of those anomalies that make DRM worthwhile rather than trying to deflect attention away from the huge number of failures, this conversation might go somewhere. I fear they can’t do that, since no such anomaly exists.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Adobe is scum. In other news, water is wet.

This the same company that keeps releasing Adobe Flash Player and has refused to even publicly address, let alone admit, the fact that Flash player is the Mother of All Resource Hogs and a major cause of overheating laptops among all brands for at least SEVEN YEARS, and apparently have no plans to reduce its shitiness in future releases, and is forcing the latest Photoshop on people as a “monthly subscription” type-deal.

A new DRM for ebooks which screws everyone over in the process sounds right in their wheelhouse.

…makes this author wonder what the hell anyone at Adobe is thinking.

Tim, you clearly have more faith in Adobe than I do.

Phil says:

I don’t own any content with DRM and don’t ever plan to. If I can’t buy it without DRM, I pirate it. I feel no guilt about this whatsoever, and I am generally an empathic kind of guy. I can’t even explain why this is the case. I am a content creator (music recordings) so maybe there’s a “if you can’t beat them, join them” kind of feeling happening. Really though I don’t even feel the need to explain it, since if I did so anti-piracy bores would accuse me of “rationalizing” it. Hah, I can’t even be bothered to rationalize it.

Anonymous Coward says:

and could Adobe be sued for forcing buyers of books that came with the old drm on to then upgrade to the new version, or even better, forcing customers to re-buy their books all over again?

apart from the obvious failure of drm and the probable loss of new customers, if not old ones as well, it could prove rather expensive for Adobe to pursue this avenue!

out_of_the_blue says:

Techdirt kids (or just Mike hisself, we can't tell) censoring again.

And this is why no one reasonable comments here: no matter how mild, the kids can’t stand dissent. It’s a hoot, given how easy copy-paste makes putting it back up again:

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it

out_of_the_blue, Feb 4th, 2014 @ 10:40am

Didja even notice this: “those companies? wise decision to use their own DRM.”
It’s just problem with Adobe — and that starts with “A” and stands for ANOMALY right here in River City!

2nd point to notice is that everyone seems to revile Adobe yet it goes right on… Should tell you that public pressure is almost useless: we need jack-booted gov’t thugs to routinely kick the hell out of corporate officers, or they just do whatever they please…
Innovation and change are considered vital to modern “technology”. Ease of use or even function are distant concerns. (86 of 195)


Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Techdirt kids (or just Mike hisself, we can't tell) censoring again.

Techdirt kids (or just Mike hisself, we can’t tell) censoring again.

Awwww, isn’t that cute. ‘Ole Blue is getting all ass-hurt because no one cares what he has to say anymore.

Here’s a couple of tips for you Blue:

– Stop ignoring rebuttals to your comments. You keep posting things that have been completely debunked many times over. Why should anyone listen to you, when you refuse to listen to anyone else?

– Stop calling the intelligent professionals who read this site “kids” and/or other disparaging terms. I can’t speak for anyone else, but as soon as you start insulting people I stop reading your comment and hit the report button, regardless of the message.

If you really want to be heard, try acting like an adult for a change.

Me says:

Adobe DE

I didn’t even know what Adobe DE specifically was, so I went to Adobe’s site:

“Adobe? Digital Editions software offers an engaging way to view and manage eBooks and other digital publications. Use it to download and purchase digital content, which can be read both online and offline.”

Ok, that sounds like it’s a consumer-oriented program that might make my online reading easier and more pleasant.

Then I look at the features, and the first listed is:

“Adobe Digital Editions 3.0 includes a more secure Digital Rights Management scheme…”

Oh really? That doesn’t sound pleasant to me at all. Maybe for the retailer with some really twisted logic, but not for me as the consumer.

Why the hell would I download and use something that is going to be looking at the data on my computer and deciding for me if I can open and use it? Who in their right mind would ever use this program?

Adobe even calls it a “scheme”. That doesn’t sound above-board at all. You may as well call it the Adobe RICO Reader, or the Adobe Cartel Pro Edition, or something equally as shady.

DerekCurrie (profile) says:

Screw The Customer, Expect Retribution

From my POV, all the media Corporate Oligarchy user abuse, as exemplified by DRM (digital rights management), has accomplished is customer backlash, aka retribution.

Q: What would be the current rate of media piracy if the media Corporate Oligarchy had never abused their customers with DRM??

A: Incredibly less.

IOW: The media Corporate Oligarchy creates its own problem.

It has been consistently proven that company respect for their customers results in customer loyalty and minimal piracy. Amazingly simple.

c woods says:

Late to the party but...

Adobe’s “reader” is the worst I’ve ever encountered and their DRM has done nothing but drive me to find a crack so I can read the books I bought without wanting to pull out my hair. It is amazing how terrible it is. It’s not perfect, but give me a kindle reader any day. It’s 2014, how can a company be this incompetent? If anyone is searching the web wondering “oi, this looks new, I wonder if it is better than X thing…?” I don’t care what you are comparing it to, it’s worse. The worst DRM I’ve encountered since trying to play an Ubisoft game. Publishers, for the love of god and all that is holy, use something else.

Arie says:

Kobo's proprietary epub format also messes with the layout

Kobo offers books in their own proprietary epub format called kepubs. This is a regular epub with it’s own proprietary DRM scheme.

On top af that Kobo also adds some css/html code to these books which messes up the original layout of the book

• white line after every p-tag
• centered text or images are aligned to the left.
• font rendering: no italics or bold for system fonts (fonts embedded with the device)
• and many more

A good post about these issues (with images)

Why are device specific features handled at the software side (kepub) and not on hardware side (user agent)?
Why are other vendors able to add or enable features that don’t require a modified epub.

This whole kepub format stinks.

Richard Pillay (profile) says:

Won't affect me

Fortunately, this won’t affect me. I took a decision very early on in the game to refuse to buy anything with DRM on it.

That means my first stop when looking for an EBook is O’Reilly (no DRM, good prices, and most of what I buy is Technical), then other vendors who don’t use DRM (not a wide choice, but they’re out there). As a last resort, I’ll buy from a DRM vendor where I know I can strip the DRM. (Not sure if that’s pirating, since I’ve paid for it – my take on it may differ from the Vendor’s).

All in all, I’ve only lost one EBook so far – one that Amazon pulled the plug on, and which was the trigger for my current stance on DRM.

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