DRM Screws Users Again: eBooks About To Disappear Due To DRM Provider Shut Down

from the don't-buy-anything-with-DRM dept

Around here, it's basically preaching to the choir, so most of you probably recognize this already, but buying anything with DRM on it is basically asking for trouble down the road. The latest example? An eBook seller named Fictionwise has realized that one of the companies that provides DRM for some of its books has announced that its shutting down at the end of the month. Because that DRM has to check in with an authentication server that's no longer going to be there, everyone who "bought" (really: incorrectly thought they bought) eBooks that used this DRM will discover that the books they paid for no longer work (Update: as noted in the comments, this DRM doesn't authenticate every time -- just any time you try to move the content to a new device. Also, Fictionwise is working to get replacements and has done so for many of the eBooks impacted already). It's as if a publisher could retroactively erase the text from within a physical book that you bought. Since Fictionwise is just passing on the eBooks from third party aggregators, it has no means of replacing the "disappeared" eBooks. Has anyone found any thing that DRM is actually good for yet?

Filed Under: drm, ebooks
Companies: fictionwise


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  1. identicon
    Steve Pendergrast, 10 Jan 2009 @ 5:24am

    eReader Format Does Not Require Re-download for device change

    Hi,

    I am Steve Pendergrast, one of the owners of Fictionwise.

    While I appreciate the clarifications you added to this posting, it is still not entirely accurate. In particular the title of this article is highly misleading given that the files do in fact continue to work and we are actively providing replacements.

    The replacement files we are providing are in eReader format, which is a format we acquired in early 2008. The eReader format never has to be re-downloaded by the customer at all. The same file you download on day 1 will operate on your future devices.

    Therefore, with this format it doesn't matter even if the retailer or DRM provider "goes dark", you can still transfer your file to a new device and continue reading it. No server need be involved after initial purchase. We have customers who have reported that the very same file they downloaded ten years ago in 1998 in ereader format successfully transfers and unlocks on the new iPhone version of ereader in 2008. We care very much about our customer's investment in content. That's why we're expending massive amounts of time and effort to provide replacement files for those customers affected by this issue.

    For these reasons, we are strongly recommending eReader format to our customers over other formats. Also, because we own the format, we are obviously less vulnerable to this kind of DRM supplier problem and we can ensure that for the customer's convenience the file can be re-downloaded in the future indefinitely (for example if the customer did not back up their files and lost them.)

    This is actually something that is superior to physical books: If you buy a paperback book and then you misplace it or spill coffee all over it, I seriously doubt the store that sold it to you will replace it for free.

    Most of you posting to this thread seem to be unware that Fictionwise has been a champion of unencrypted content since we were founded. We are the only major ebook seller that features unencrypted books on half of our front page and half of every newsletter. For that reason, many independent publishers who do not require encryption tell us that we are the bulk of the total sales. We wish we could sell every book without DRM. The reality is the larger publishers require it and our customers want access to those publisher's ebooks.

    I can tell you that I have had discussions, including sometimes heated arguments, with executives at major publishers for the last eight years trying to convince them to at least experiment with unencrypted content. I have given presentations to industry groups about the evils of DRM, I was a keynote address to an indy publisher conference and the bulk of my talk was about how the indy publishers were smart to avoid DRM, and I've sung the virtues of unencrypted ebook content for the better part of a decade to anyone who would listen.

    So while those of you in this forum rightly criticize DRM for its shortcomings and inconveniences, I do think it is a little unfair for you to be highly critical of Fictionwise given our history of being on the front line battlefield of the DRM issue.

    -Steve P.

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