I’m hesitant to believe this story Nate’s reporting, even after clicking the links and reading the sources for myself. How could anyone in the modern e-book market be this dumb? But the writing seems to be on the wall. Barnes & Noble has removed the “Download” button from its e-book library,
[Update: Nate’s posted another piece indicating B&N cited “security” as the reason for the change.]
It’s no longer possible to download a book directly from the B&N web site to your hard drive by saving it from your B&N e-book library through your browser. And that includes any previously-purchased e-books you might have imported over from your Fictionwise or eReader library.
And Barnes & Noble has explicitly confirmed that this is intentional. A Nook Customer Care representative tweeted:
We’re sorry, but the ability to sideload NOOK purchased content has been discontinued. We apologize for any inconvenience
There’s a workaround, at least for people on Windows. If you run the Nook app for Windows, you can download e-books from your library to your “My Documents/My Barnes & Noble eBooks” directory. They’ll still have B&N’s DRM on them, but there’s an easy fix for that. Of course, B&N could always disable the ability to download to that app, too—and I’ve heard that said app isn’t necessarily officially supported anymore and can be problematic for people with large libraries. I’m just glad I’ve already backed up all my B&N e-books.
Nate doesn’t draw the link in his article, but for myself, I wonder if there’s a connection to the announcement a few days ago that HarperCollins is going to start digitally watermarking its e-books in addition to protecting them with DRM, in order to be able to tell where any piracy leaks occur. Given that the efficacy of any and every extant e-book DRM is, not to put too fine a point on it, a complete joke, if someone can download a B&N e-book, they can also easily crack it.
So maybe that’s why B&N has decided it doesn’t want people to be able to download its e-books anymore—they should read them within its own apps and nobody else’s. Of course, even if that’s the case, people will still figure out workarounds, so I’m not sure how this is going to do B&N any good.
It’s especially sad this is happening right now, right when Amazon is on everybody’s hit list and people are looking for alternative book and e-book sources. In contrast to Amazon’s proprietary format, B&N’s use of standard ADEPT DRM meant that you could read its DRMed books on any reader app that supported ADEPT, even if it wasn’t B&N’s. If you thought Aldiko was a better Android e-reader, you could go for it. Well, not anymore. (Though you can still download directly from Amazon!)
Will there be sufficient outcry to convince B&N to change their minds? Might there be a government investigation? Will most consumers even notice or care?
Barnes & Noble just seems bound and determined to slide ever further into irrelevance. What a pity.