Here’s my horror story with DRM (Digital Rights Management):

I have a Sony Reader for ebooks. One of the things I like about it is that it uses the ePub format, which is emerging as the common open standard.  I wouldn’t buy a Kindle (from Amazon) or a Nook (from Barnes & Noble) because their propriety formats require you to buy books just from their stores. I wanted a reader that could read books from many sources.

So the other day, I bought a book from Barnes and Nobel in ePub format, assuming that it would work on my Sony Reader. It was the right format, but the Barnes and Noble ePub file also comes with DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection. No problem, I thought. DRM is intended to ensure that only the purchaser can use it–so you don’t make 10 copies and sell or give them to your friends.

But, guess what? The DRM also ensures that you won’t read the book on any e-reader except Barnes and Noble’s Nook. It took me about 2 hours to figure this out, since neither Sony nor Barnes and Noble readily admit this anywhere. I spent hours trying to ensure that I had the Adobe® Digital Editions software installed correctly and that my Sony Reader was properly authorized. After all that, and calling customer support, I finally figured out that the Barnes and Noble ePub books cannot be read on anything but their Nook or their proprietary readers for the PC, Mac, BlackBerry, and iPhone/iPad. So, I’ll have to read this book I bought on my PC.

Lesson learned: DRM does more than just protect the digital rights of the book–it can also be used by the publishers to ensure you have to buy their hardware to read their products.

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