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Old 09-16-2004, 07:10 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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DRM-protected e-books: Which format is right?

Until now, I have always bought eReader e-books directly when I wanted to read copyright-protected material on my Palm using eReader.

My worry is that I don't know what to do with my purchased books if I might switch to another platform one day, for which eReader is unavailable (for instance Linux-based PDAs). Trust me, I would hate losing my previously bought e-books!

So I was thinking about alternative DRM solutions. Mobipocket Reader is available for several PDAs, including Palm, PocketPC and Smartphone. That is perhaps better than eReader, but it still misses some platforms that might become important in near future (Linux).

Worse, both DRM formats, eReader and Mobipocket, force me to stick to the original reader software. What if I bought my e-books in eReader format, but actually prefer Plucker or iSilo to read them?

My solution to this dilemma is to purchase e-books in Microsoft's .lit format from now on. Yes, you have heart me right, evil Microsoft can also be a friend! DRM-protected Microsoft Reader e-books are the only ones I know that can be reversed to non-DRM-protected HTML code by using publicly available tools such as Dan Jackson's MS .Lit Cracker.

Is it legal? That probably depends on which country you are living in. But I think as long as you do it for your own personal use with e-books that you have also personally purchased, you are on the safe side ("fair use").

Please correct me if I am wrong!
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Old 09-16-2004, 07:43 AM   #2
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Great article and good points. I am not a lawyer (IANAL), but it's my understanding that this would be a violation of Section 1201 of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), the so-called "anti-circumvention" clause, in the US.

See the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) page on the DMCA (the unintended consequences in particular) for more information. Better yet, make a donation to support the EFF and help fight to preserve your fair use rights as a consumer, which the DMCA is eroding.

This same problem exists with DRM protected music, etc. Hymn (Hear Your Music aNywhere) is a free tool along the lines of MS .Lit Cracker. It can be used to strip Apple's FairPlay DRM from music purchased from the iTunes Music store so you can preserve and exercise your "fair use" rights. Apple is also using the "anti circumvention" clause as part of its legal battle against RealNetworks, whose Helix desktop software using "Harmony" technology can strip DRM from iTunes purchased music for subscribers of Real's music download service that make the "switch" from Apple's iTunes Music Store.

These issues are only going to get worse for consumers as DRM is adopted more and more for content delivery, which is a huge untapped market that manufacturers and content providers are pursuing. Content providers wonder why consumers aren't embracing DRM, and this is a prime example. It's not that we're all pirates who want free stuff, it's that honest consumers are the ones that get stuck with higher prices and fewer rights to use the content we purchase the way we want and use it on all of our devices. IMO this is a main strategy Sony is banking on in their content delivery plans, leveraging their control of hardware and content to tie content and hardware to each other, driving sales of both, all using Sony's proprietary formats along the way in attempt to set industry standards and regain their dominance of Consumer Electronics. With their recent acquisition of MGM, they now control over 40-50% of the movies coming out of Hollywood as well as a considerable market share of music with Sony Music and their recent merger with BMG. Sony is now becoming not just a media and consumer electronics giant, they are becoming a media monopoly that could leverage their control of market share and stifle competition.

The DMCA has made it easier for the recording industry and content providers to take away our fair use rights (in the US at least). Other countries are considering similar laws using the DMCA as a model, and incorporating it in
to international trade agreements and copyright laws.

It wasn't too long ago that when you bought a movie, book or album you owned it for life. You could even legitimately pass your purchased content on to friends or family members or even sell it or trade it in. This is unfortunately becoming more and more rare in this digital age.

Last edited by ballistic; 09-16-2004 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 09-16-2004, 09:14 AM   #3
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The use of any MS LIT cracker program is forbidden, because you have accepted some "terms of trade" conditions when purchasing eBooks, which implies not to do any reverse-engineering on the files. The country laws about "personal copies" do not apply on such a case. The only copy you are allowed to do is a pure Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V on the file itself.
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Old 09-16-2004, 09:29 AM   #4
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Alexander, you are reading my mind. I was just thinking about this last night as I was reading up about Mobipocket Reader at their website. I do not know, as a Mac user, if I could bring myself to buy .lit ebooks.

It does lead me to question what DRM format I should be buying books in. I have been assuming that it would be eReader, but I keep encountering ebooks that are not offered in eReader. I also notice thatmany ebooksellers seem to be retreating from eReader. It would seem that I am going to be almost forced to have another DRM reader in addition to eReader. Is Mobipocket the best choice for that?
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Old 09-16-2004, 09:45 AM   #5
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You can get eBooks in Mobipocket format for your handheld. The Reader itself does not run on MacOS for the moment, but when it will be (not known release date, so don't ask) you will be able to read your eBooks on your desktop computer as well.
Today, there are more than 18.000 eBooks and dictionaries in Mobipocket format, in 4 languages.
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Old 09-16-2004, 10:14 AM   #6
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Legal or not, I have to agree with Alex. I don't feel that it is our obligation to follow unfair laws in cases like this, and especially laws like the DMCA. If it is not possible for me to legally treat an ebook in the same way that I would a physical book, I will make it possible in other ways. Does this make me a bad person? I think that I am voting with my actions (since I don't have much of a say in Congressional give-aways like DMCA). DRM will be untenable until the companies come up with something that satisfies all sides. Unfortunately, the consumer has no voice in this debate anymore.

If you have never seen Stay Free magazine, I recommend that you check out this one: The Copyright Issue. Of particular interest are the interviews with Siva Vaidhyanathan (HIGHLY recommended!) and Chuck D and Hank Shocklee (of Public Enemy). And the article "So what can I do about it?"

Here's to a saner copyright policy! But in the meantime it's "by any means necessary" for me.
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Old 09-16-2004, 04:36 PM   #7
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I hate DRM. Currently I'm upset about eReader.com, who will not let me download the books I bought under a Visa that has since been cancelled until I buy something with the new card I put on file with them. I no longer have the credit card #, and I don't really want to have to buy something else to read the books I've already purchased. I don't mind inputting the CC# in order to read the books, but I shouldn't have to purchase something else just to get to past orders. That is stupid.
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Old 09-16-2004, 08:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by divajess
I hate DRM. Currently I'm upset about eReader.com, who will not let me download the books I bought under a Visa that has since been cancelled until I buy something with the new card I put on file with them. I no longer have the credit card #, and I don't really want to have to buy something else to read the books I've already purchased. I don't mind inputting the CC# in order to read the books, but I shouldn't have to purchase something else just to get to past orders. That is stupid.
It is issues like this that really turn people off DRM and sometimes ebooks in general (even though ereader is one of the less complained about DRM formats). While the publishing industry insists on restrictive DRM, people will vote with their wallets, I'm afraid.

Incidently, I can't blame people for buying .lit format books and then converting them to their favourite format (whether it's straight html for something like ubook, or isilo, or mobipocket). Most of us want to be able to read a book they buy today in 5 or 10 years time, as they would with a paper book (I am a regular book re-reader ). Current DRM doesn't provide that guarantee.

Craig.
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Old 09-16-2004, 09:01 PM   #9
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Well I'm giving Mobipocket a try. I figure between eReader and Mobipocket I should find most DRM only titles available in one or the other formats.

I do have much the same worry as the rest, if I should change credit card numbers or if my PDA should die what happens to the ebooks I bought under one of these DRM schemes?
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Old 09-17-2004, 12:58 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
Well I'm giving Mobipocket a try...

I do have much the same worry as the rest, if I should change credit card numbers or if my PDA should die what happens to the ebooks I bought under one of these DRM schemes?
The moment you buy a new PDA is the moment you lose all the eBooks you bought. Isn't it? I guess Mobipocket can clarify this.
I was about to buy a MobiPocket dictionary, until I was required to identify my PDA. So I was like "I'm NOT paying this much to buy a disposable dictionary!!!"
So far, I haven't kept the same PDA for more than one year and a half. Usually, paper dictionaries last a LOT longer than that!
If it's possible to have your ebooks installed in a new PDA (and read them, of course), then it should be clearly stated when they ask you ID numbers. Every six months (at most) you should be able to submit a new ID.

Anyway, I believe ebook publishers need to find new schemes.
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Old 09-17-2004, 01:29 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Francesco
The moment you buy a new PDA is the moment you lose all the eBooks you bought. Isn't it? I guess Mobipocket can clarify this.
I was about to buy a MobiPocket dictionary, until I was required to identify my PDA. So I was like "I'm NOT paying this much to buy a disposable dictionary!!!"
So far, I haven't kept the same PDA for more than one year and a half. Usually, paper dictionaries last a LOT longer than that!
If it's possible to have your ebooks installed in a new PDA (and read them, of course), then it should be clearly stated when they ask you ID numbers. Every six months (at most) you should be able to submit a new ID.

Anyway, I believe ebook publishers need to find new schemes.
Different readers use different types of DRM, each with it's own issues and/or ease of use. Ereader uses the credit card number used to purchase the book, so as long as you keep track of the CC number for each purchase, you'll never have any problem with new PDA, etc (as long as there's a version of ereader available for it).

Mobipocket uses a device dependent code, but you can update that code and redownload your books if/when you update your hardware (again dependent on that hardware having a version of the software available for it). Ereader allows something similar as well, when you get a new CC.

M$ is the most insidious IMHO. It appears almost transparent initially, but as soon as you exceed the number of PC's or devices allowed for that passport, say goodbye to all your ebooks. On the other hand, the .lit format, at least, can be reverse-engineered into HTML with convertlit, for those who wish to do that.

Other types of DRM exist, but I'm not aware of the details for them.

... I don't see any of these as satisfactory, but they are what we have to live with at the moment, and as I've already posted, I'm a keen ebook reader for the sheer convenience and ease of it, so I must live with the consequences of DRM. I just wish most publishers would take the same stance as Baen Books ...

Craig.
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Old 09-17-2004, 06:38 AM   #12
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Mobipocket Support website, one of the most frequently asked questions:
http://www.mobipocket.com/en/Support...p?ArticleID=14

I have recently bought a new PDA or changed my PC. How can I read my ebooks on my new device ?

I guess this corresponds to your questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Francesco
The moment you buy a new PDA is the moment you lose all the eBooks you bought. Isn't it? I guess Mobipocket can clarify this.
I was about to buy a MobiPocket dictionary, until I was required to identify my PDA. So I was like "I'm NOT paying this much to buy a disposable dictionary!!!"
So far, I haven't kept the same PDA for more than one year and a half. Usually, paper dictionaries last a LOT longer than that!
If it's possible to have your ebooks installed in a new PDA (and read them, of course), then it should be clearly stated when they ask you ID numbers. Every six months (at most) you should be able to submit a new ID.

Anyway, I believe ebook publishers need to find new schemes.
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Old 09-20-2004, 02:49 PM   #13
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Thanks, Craig and Mobipocket.
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Old 09-20-2004, 07:20 PM   #14
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If only MS Reader did a version for Palm! The fact is that very few people would move from Palm to PPC just so that they could read MS Reader ebooks. If they did a version for both OS's, they could sell more books.

I've ended up having to have several different readers on my pda so that I can read the ebooks that I've bought. I don't really like any of them, they don't have the functionality that I've grown used to with HandStory, Plucker and especially iSilo, and there are problems with the DRM, especially with Adobe.

Adobe Reader for Palm OS is bad enough as it is (and I now use Repligo instead), but for DRM books you're stuck with it. And the problem is that ther are many specialised books that are only available in MS Reader or Adobe formats. The verification process with both the pc and the pda keeps going wrong, and I've now ended up with about £100 worth of books that I can't read. Emails to Adobe have had no response. It's an absolute disgrace . They really need to change their system. I can see that there does need to be DRM, but a system like that used by eReader is much easier to use.

Another issue, of course, is that you can lend someone a real book, but not a DRM-protected ebook. I wouldn't mind if they reduced the price correspondingly.

What we really need, of course, is a common standard for DRM-protected ebooks. Maybe mobileread should start a campaign?
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Old 09-21-2004, 05:27 PM   #15
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Wow, I'm in the middle of Cory Doctorow's DRM talk (links to multiple formats) and it's fantastic and intensely relevant to this discussion. Recommended reading/listening!
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