This weekend we started to read blogs and commentary referring to Fictionwise, its ereader, Overdrive and DRM which referred us back to a page on Fictionwise’s site ‘OverDrive and the eReader Replacement File Program FAQ’.
Overdrive, one of the largest digital aggregators has apparently given Fictionwise, one of the largest ebook retailers notice that they would cease serving files to Fictionwise customers as of January 31, 2009. In itself that is not an issue and may be just a commercial blip. However, Fictionwise report that they have sold some 300,000 ebook units via Overdrive and customers must take action to protect their investment, which makes this not an insignificant blip.
The files are DRM-encrypted and delivered by Overdrive’s servers and not stored on Fictionwise itself, this means that customers who purchased them will no longer be able to download those files as of the end of the month.This means that anyone who sells an ebook that is automatically licensed on download by another party, has no control over that licence. Their customer is totally dependant on that third party in the future. They now need to download the eBooks to make sure they are up to date for your current devices, and make backup copies. A process that is not exactly going to give the consumer confidence.
Fictionwise has taken a whole page on their website to explain the situation and steps they have taken to ‘protect their customers investment in eBooks’. Fictionwise has now ceased selling Overdrive eBooks and they can't provide the files in the original file formats have begun to negotiate with publishers to allow eBooks previously purchased from Overdrive to be substituted, where possible, with Fictionwise's own eReader format files.
The timing of the situation is not good. It comes less than one week after Apple effectively put DRM to rest in the music sector, as the ebook market appears to be showing signs of genuine growth and DRM free files are making news on the iPhone. Some would say that this bad publicity for DRM and again questions why consumers would want to buy files that may become obsolete with time or locked into technology that is transient.
It is unbelievable how clueless these places are with the DRM. But for indie digital publishers who have been effectively locked out of the marketplace by business practices that revolve around DRM, this could bring a much-needed leveling of the playing field, as it were.
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