Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today DRM Tomorrow?

Amazon’s TV kindle advert is both a powerful and compelling one which ticks most of the consumer buttons. It says to the consumer that they may buy any ebook and play it on any platform, Bookmark on one platform and pick up where you left it on another. It is a simple and clean message that resonates with many consumers who fear being locked into a limited life device.

Google , Kobo and the rest have not made the UK TV screens yet and Apple adverts are more about promoting the Apple brand than any reading message. UK retail is apparently bereft of a ebook message and are totally reliant on others to sell the digital dream.

The core of Google’s eBookstore is a claim that its e-book platform was not tied to any device and that its books can be read on many smart phones, e-ink readers, tablets and PCs. Now, Amazon has also announced that they too will have a Web-based application "in the coming months." We are clearly moving towards a cloud based approach that is able to be read ebooks anywhere and on any device.

So what is the difference between these two giants and where do others sit?

The file formats may be different but inherently they are very similar and are based on epub. Some would say that Google, Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble have all opted for epub whilst Amazon has opted for its own proprietary standard. We would suggest that that this doesn’t really matter as the files submitted by the publisher can be epub in all cases and Amazon merely modifies these behind closed doors. There is not one interpretation of epub but a number which are all valid but may effect the rendition on some devices.

The clear differentiator is still that thorny DRM. We have three distinct DRM camps; Adobe ACS4 which supports Google, Sony, Kobo, B&N and many if not all eInk devices capable of DRM, Amazon who has its own DRM and Apple who again do their own thing. Forget the rest as they are mere also ran’s.

So as we move closer to the cloud approach and towards on demand streaming will DRM still matter or will all files be readable via a browser on any device and the security be effectively dealt with by the centre? This brings us back to the question of ownership of digital titles and whether ownership means perpetual access or physical local storage. The questions of; library versus retail, ownership versus on-demand and outright purchase versus rental remain, but is DRM now at its peak of influence and about to decline as things go cloudy?

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