Sony, B&N better on DRM than Amazon—but still a long way from perfection

Sony, B&N promise to rekindle rights for book owners is the headline on a Boing Boing posting from Rob Beschizza.

Without doubt, Sony’s Steve Haber and Adobe’s Bill McCoy have been more sensible on DRM than Amazon, with more flexible approaches. I applaud their efforts. But we’re a long way from nirvana. Gang, what do you think of this snippet from Boing Boing?

image I recently talked to Sony's Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader. Named the "Daily Edition," it hits stores next month. Notwithstanding differences between each manufacturer's respective libraries, it offers all the best features of its main rival, the Kindle. But Sony says it offers one thing that Amazon won't: actual ownership of your books.

"Our commitment is that you bought it, you own it," Haber said. "Our hope is to see this as ubiquitous. Buy on any device, read on any device. ... We're obligated to have DRM but we don't pull content back."

Um, as long as there’s DRM, Sony isn’t offering  genuine ownership of your “protected” books, a category that unfortunately includes most bestsellers. And remember, “Buy on any device, read on any device” is just a hope---and can really be achieved only without DRM or with social DRM (which could embed your name into an ePub file without destroying the ability for it to be read any ePub-capable machine). Operating systems and apps come and go. It is inherently impossible for the e-book industry to come up instantly with up-to-date, DRM-capable apps for every gizmo.

What’s more, genuine ownership means you can sell your books. Is Sony planning this?

The good news is that Adobe, Sony and B&N are hoping to provide compatible DRM approaches. That’s progress but still no substitute for lack of traditional DRM. It would also be nice to see Sony aggressively encourage publishers either to drop DRM or use social DRM, not just less restrictive forms of traditional DRM. Last I knew—this may be changing—Sony insisted that books in its store use DRM. I wonder what the more current policies of Sony and B&N will be.

With B&N, I’d call attention to the fact you can lend a book to a friend—with a 14-day period—only once as far as I know. Again, this is far from genuine ownership.

Meanwhile, in fairness to Amazon and its Kindle, let me note that you can use the K machine’s Web browser to download nonDRMed public domain books and even commercial books without “protection.”

Detail: I’m curious about Boing Boing’s mention of the Daily Edition as having a nine-inch display. Last I heard, Sony was saying the screen would be seven inches. Is Beschizza accurate here?

Related: How the New York Times was fooled? Sony’s misleading ePub-related news release, in TeleRead, and Seattle’s Bill McCoy, E-Books and Digital Distribution Expert, Leaving Adobe, in Xconomy.

About David Rothman (6820 Articles)
David Rothman is the founder and publisher of the TeleRead e-book site and cofounder of He is also author of The Solomon Scandals novel and six tech-related books on topics ranging from the Internet to laptops. Passionate on digital divide issues, he is now pushing for the creation of a national digital library endowment.

2 Comments on Sony, B&N better on DRM than Amazon—but still a long way from perfection

  1. True ownership means right of resale.
    It means the right to gift or to loan…

    No commercial ebook allows this (even the drm-free ones); all they sell are reading rights. Some more restrictive than others but nobody sells fully transferable licenses.

    This is perfectly fine as long as they don’t insult our intelligence pretending otherwise. And as long as the publisher and/or retailer are upfront about their terms.

    I don’t mind limited rights but don’t pretend you’re peddling true ownership. At best you look desperate, at worst sleazy. Either way you look silly.

  2. Dear all,
    I’m a student of Management Engineering at Politecnico di Torino. One of the objectives of my master thesis, applied to a real case study, is the protection of confidential or valuable content using Digital Rights Management (DRM) techniques. I would like to start my research by doing a survey among expert and professionals in the IT sector.
    As part of this work, I have developed a questionnaire whose purpose is collecting feedback in order to come up with an objective assessment of the market where such software for protecting digital assets could be deployed.
    If you would be so kind to help me in doing my thesis, I will be happy to share with you the results of the survey by sending you the final report (which will be anonymous and respectful of your privacy). You can find the questionnaire online at the following link:
    Thank you very much in advance for your kind help and your time.
    Best regards,

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail

wordpress analytics