On Friday, an association of e-book publishers—including major companies such as Harper Collins, Random House, and Barnes & Noble—issued a statement suggesting an outline for a new “Lightweight DRM.” This proposed Digital Rights Management standard could increase interoperability of books on hardware like e-readers.
Before the excitement starts, this is a suggestion for an outline for a DRM system that would allow books to be moved from different devices (for example, Nook to Kindle) without hindrance. In reducing the amount of hardware and software needed for people to unlock books on their devices, the idea is to make moving eBooks a bit more customer friendly. It certainly reads like a step to get out from underneath Amazon’s Kindle thumb so that it is less locked into the Amazon matrix, but to me it seems (for lack of a better term) half-assed.
It’s a short article so take the time to give it a gander. Clearly, publishers want something in place to protect their content but also be a bit more flexible than previous incarnations. That’s a balancing act and one that they even admit to losing before the game has already begun.
That’s not to say the IDPF imagines that any new specifications would be enough to deter piracy: “To be very clear on this point: we expect that a lightweight DRM (in reality, any DRM) will be cracked, and we are relying on anticircumvention law for some level of crack protection,” the statement read.
This has to be the “lemon slice with your glass of water” of DRM: little effect on the desired product (water) with all the annoyance of removing the offending addition (no one gets that lemon slice out without getting a little wet). To me, it also signals that the road to a DRM publishing world is getting pushed back until they exhaust all of their possibilities. We as purchasers and consumers will just have to endure it.
[I would like to note that this ability to move between platforms was one of the points covered in the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights that Sarah and I put together last year. One down, a few dozen to go? –A]