This article from GoodeReader, via today’s Morning Links, highlights an important advantage to the walled garden approach: stability. The issue is that with the reliance on other products, company’s services can be eliminated or changed at the whim of product changes beyond your control. In this case, Adobe will be changing the way they handle DRM, and any device vendor who does not issue a firmware update once the change rolls out will leave their customers with crippled devices that can’t read Adobe-encrypted books. Given that Amazon is the only major vendor that doesn’t sell encrypted epub, that is potentially a problem.
So, why wouldn’t a company simply issue a firmware update, you might be asking? Well, perhaps the company is out of business and can’t do it. Readers who are meanwhile still enjoying their perfectly serviceable devices may find themselves left in the lurch. Or perhaps customers are still enjoying an older model. Kobo will almost certainly provide an update for my Glo, but my mother is still using a first-gen Kobo. The company might not care to do the work to update a device that old—or the device itself might not be powerful enough to handle the new features.
I guess that is the safety in the walled garden approach. If Amazon doesn’t want to do the work to update their devices, they don’t have to. They can continue on their merry way with the present scheme and all their customer’s devices will work just perfectly. Or they can roll out a product change when they wish to, without the time constraint of meeting somebody else’s deadline. Sure, they may find a few users of older devices who would not be able to use the new features. But they also likely have their own data on how many people that would affect, so they have the option to offer those people an upgrade deal to get them onto a newer device, or to simply wait to make the changes until fewer of these older models are in circulation. It’s all up to them. They are at nobody else’s mercy.
I myself do not often purchase DRM-hobbled books these days, but I do read library books so I am somewhat concerned at this news. I hope Kobo will make the necessary updates. If they don’t, that may be what sends me back to Kindle devices again…