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Kindle’s DRM Needs Serious Work

Amazon KindleI’ve done my best to stay on top of news about Amazon’s Kindle ebook reading device. I own the first generation Kindle, and love using it along with the Kindle app on my iPhone. However, this detail about the DRM scheme that controls the books slipped past me. I’m not sure if it’s common knowledge, or if it’s just stayed under the radar for this long.

Dan Cohen over at GearDiary.com posted a story [Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly] about him activating a few new devices on his Kindle account, and then being unable to load his purchased books onto the new devices. When he called up Amazon tech support to ask why his books weren’t loading, he was told that different books only let you download a copy from the server a certain number of times. The number of downloads allowed differs from book to book and publisher to publisher, and there is no way to know what the download limit is until you reach it. In order to load a maxed-out book onto more devices you have to purchase the book again. To quote Dan from his post:

In the meantime, Amazon wants us to upgrade our Kindles every year or two. Apple wants us to upgrade our iPhone or iPod touch every year or two. This means that although the books remain in your Kindle library online you may not be able to download them once you upgrade your hardware. And there is no way to know — at least according to what the customer service rep told me.

This is extremely disconcerting. I hope this gets some public attention if it hasn’t already. Amazon needs to either change this policy to something much more consumer-friendly (like how iTunes lets you have a certain number of devices activated, but does not restrict transfer of content between those devices) or it needs to make the policies EXTREMELY clear on the product purchase pages. Then the market can decide which publishers get the most purchases, those that allow 2 downloads or 200.

Via: Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly

Sony Reader Opens Up

Sony ReaderFrom Engadget:

Sony will be shooting out an update on Thursday to allow the Reader to use purchased books in the protected EPUB format from whoever is peddling them, instead of being tied to the Sony’s e-book store, or just DRM-free text and PDF documents.

This is an excellent move by Sony. One of the big downfalls to both the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle was the fact that you were tied to the devices’ respective stores for content. We’ve recently seen yet another example of why DRM is bad when applied to music purchases [Yahoo Music Goes Dark, Takes DRM Keys With It], and I think that the same will hold true for ebooks as well. Now, you can load your own DRM-free TXT and PDF files onto the Sony Reader, expanding your content options. If you still want to buy from a major seller, you can buy from anyone using the EPUB system. It’s still DRM, but at least you’re no longer stuck with Sony’s offerings.

I haven’t seen an Amazon Kindle in person yet, but from the photos I think I like the industrial design of the Sony Reader much more. We’ll see what happens if Amazon releases new Kindles in October as rumored, but right now I don’t mind the thought of picking up a Sony Reader on clearance in a year or two.

Via Engadget