Kobo’s eBook DRM Hydra

UPDATED with a response from Kobo below.

People tell me things because they can count on me to raise shit about things that are wrong.

WHOA! Hey @kobo explain that DRM you got going with ePub for the Android app. This is ANOTHER variation of Adobe ADEPT?Thu Jun 24 00:14:43 via Echofon

Did @kobo just fracture ePub some MORE?! “Classic” Adobe DRM (Sony, others), then Adobe B&N DRM, now Adobe Kobo DRM?!Thu Jun 24 00:15:54 via Echofon

@jane_l Kobo is a bit of a mess, I think. MULTIPLE DRM — iPad, Android, and DRM on the web-based streaming version.Thu Jun 24 00:38:30 via Echofon

@jane_l And then the Kobo Reader at Borders uses ANOTHER DRM but can also do “classic” Adobe DRM.Thu Jun 24 00:39:16 via Echofon

@mikecane sorry, we can’t share anything about our DRM on various platforms.Thu Jun 24 15:05:38 via CoTweet

RT: @kobo: sorry, we can’t share anything about our DRM on various platforms. <- thanks for MORE ePub fragmentation!Thu Jun 24 15:14:06 via Echofon

@jane_l is not the source of the DRM news, by the way. We happened to discuss it on Twitter while I was ranting about it. I didn’t want to edit her name out of the tweet because clicking through would have revealed such revisionism anyway.

The bottom line:

1) If you buy an ePub for an Android device using Kobo’s software, it’s stuck in Kobo’s software. Their DRM scheme won’t allow that “universal” ePub to be read by another eBook program even if that program uses the Adobe ADEPT DRM scheme that has been prevalent (until Barnes & Noble broke it).

2) I wouldn’t buy any ePub books that do not use the prevalent Adobe ADEPT DRM scheme — including ePub books from Apple’s iBookstore.

3) What assurance do people have that they own these books and not long-term renting them? (This last bit must be expanded in a future general eBook post. The law is lacking in several areas.)


Kobo’s response was in a Comment. I’m still not moderating Comments, but they tweeted they had Commented, so I went in to pull out the text to give it prominence here:

My name is Jordan Christensen, and I work for Kobo.

You’re right that our Android app doesn’t use Adobe’s ADEPT DRM, but saying that we do not support Adobe DRM or make our books available in that format is flat out false.

Any book you buy from Kobo can be downloaded from http://kobobooks.com in it’s Adobe DRM’d format. We’ve been doing that for almost a year, and nothing has changed.

The reason our clients don’t use Adobe’s DRM directly is purely one of economics. Adobe charges a license fee for each book sold that uses their DRM, and in the highly competitive business that eBooks has become, if our customers don’t want the portal file but are just happy with our clients, we would rather avoid paying it.

As I said above, this isn’t an attempt to lock people out of their books – we always provide access to the defacto standard format Adobe format for anyone who wants it. If customers want to take their books in Adobe’s DRM format and use them with another service, that’s fine with us, and we’re happy to pay the license fee for those customers.

Sorry that wasn’t clear – we can only say so much in 140 characters.

Jordan Christensen
Kobo Inc.

So, in short: Don’t worry about incompabilities with the Kobo software clients for iPad or Android or webOS or others. You can always download the ePub with “classic” Adobe DRM from Kobo’s bookstore itself and load that into a client of your choice that uses “classic” Adobe DRM. OK, all that makes sense now and we can all not panic. Thank you for replying, Kobo.

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