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!