Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New BeBook Firmware - Beta

BeBook released a new Beta firmware on August 7th which allows the user to read DRM ePub eBooks. This seems like a great thing, except it also means the user can no longer read their DRM Mobipocket eBooks. If you are interested in reading ePub eBooks on your BeBook please read these warnings carefully so that you aren't surprised by the results.
Changes to last update:

WARNING: Removes the ability to read Mobipocket DRM protected files. (non DRM Mobipocket files can still be read)
CHANGE: This updates your BeBook adding support for DRM protected PDF and EPUB files using Adobe (r) DRM.
CHANGE: adds compatibility with Adobe Digital Editions book management software.
CHANGE: auto recognition in Adobe Digital Editions identifying the device as 'BeBook'
CHANGE: adds reflowable PDF and Epub file support.

NOTE: If you got a library of mobipocket protected files, you can always revert to the latest mobipocket version of the software. This can be downloaded HERE. It is possible to switch back and forth between firmware version containing different DRM protection systems.

// DRM rant starts here.

I find this whole situation puzzling and frustrating. Amazon owns Mobipocket and also owns the Kindle. I'm not quite sure why, but they really don't want any dedicated eBook reader to have Mobipocket on it and any other DRM format. I find this a little silly because I can read eReader, PDF, and Mobipocket eBooks on my PC and my PDA just by downloading the software. But for the dedicated reading devices there isn't the option to add on a new piece of software, we are at the mercy of firmware updates and those that create the firmware are at the mercy of the agreements the various software companies will allow. Cybook has decided to release 2 firmware versions, 1 for Mobipocket and 1 for ePub, but never the twain shall meet. While non-DRM ePub eBooks do exist, you have to have the Cybook isn't allowed to load the software that lets you read them without having the DRM portion active. More knowledgeable people than I have figured this out, I'm going to trust their explanation. Thankfully BeBook has been able to allow for non-DRM Mobipocket to be read while their ePub firmware is installed, I have to assume they are using a different software package to display the Mobipocket eBooks.

Many publishers in Europe are starting to release more ePub eBook than Mobipocket and Europe is a large market for eBook readers. This has resulted in more and more eBook readers coming out with the ability to read DRM ePub and not DRM Mobipocket. To me this means that Mobipocket, as an entity separate from Amazon, is going to be lose eBook sales to ePub. This isn't good business sense, it almost seems like Amazon is forgetting that there is a whole big world of end users out there that aren't located in the US and can't purchase the Kindle, myself included.

Wow that is a lot of cryptic letters, my least favourite set is "DRM." We all know what this means when related to music; iTunes & Windows Media Player formats can only be played with certain devices and software while MP3 format can be played by pretty much anything. Well it's the same with eBook readers. We have many many 'restricted' formats such as Microsoft Lit, eReader, Mobipocket, and Sony Reader, however we have very few unrestricted formats, HTML and TXT, which are able to be read on almost any eBook reader.

Currently I prefer the Mobipocket format, but this format could go away if Amazon keeps limiting access on the dedicated eBook reading devices. There is always a way around this, DRM can be removed and formats can be converted to be read on any device. Of course you need to take into account both legal and moral issues before you make this decision. It comes down to "if you buy an eBook, are you really just renting it?" more and more it seems like the answer is "Yes" to that question, unless you want to join the growing number of format shifters who cling to "Personal Use" as validation for keeping use of their eBooks while moving from device to device. DRM removal and format shifting is a grey area, it's legal in some countries and not in others, as far as I know it's not been tested in the courts as it pertains to personal use. Use your own best judgement before jumping into the deep end this grey pool.

The dream of many of us when ePub was announced as an open standard for eBooks was that it would solidify the eBook world into a single open unrestricted format similar to what MP3 is to the music world. This isn't happening. When the standard was created the DRM option was created but no DRM standard was set. This means that most publishers who lean towards protected formats will push for DRM versions of their ePub books. It also means that each 'creator' of a ePub DRM format can pick their own solution, we already have Adobe's version of ePub with DRM and there is talk of others setting up their own versions. There are rumours that Fictionwise will release their own version ePub eBooks along with their well known eReader format. We don't know if they will adopt the same DRM criteria as Adobe or create their own version which mimics the end user friendly DRM found in eReader eBooks. All I know is that if a variety of ePub DRM formats show up on the scene, it won't be fun for anyone, especially the End User who just wants to buy ePub eBooks to read on their ePub ready eBook reader. I feel the dream of ePub uniting the eBook world crumbling as I type.

DRM Rant ends. //

No comments:

Post a Comment