Skimming news reports, some optimists may think they’ll soon be able to send their existing Kobo, Apple, or Nook books to Kindles since those other brands use ePub.
But DRM in many cases will still get in the way—even with Amazon’s Send to Kindle feature being able as of late 2022 to convert ePub to a Kindle format.
So here’s a question. Could the anti-DRM movement take advantage of this customer confusion? Let’s remind ebookers that DRM, not format, may now be the sole obstacle to enjoyment of their previous purchases on many different devices.
The longer ebooks are around, the more people have invested in DRM-tainted ebooks (thousands of dollars in some cases). So that bodes well for the anti-DRM movement when users find they can’t suddenly transfer the books to Kindles or other devices without fuss.
Meanwhile people can check book listings in the Amazon and Kobo stores and elsewhere to see—before buying—if they have DRM. On Amazon, look for “Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited.”
Enlarged, here’s the file-related information in the Kobo listing for a recent thriller of mine:
As for existing books you own, you can try calling them up in Calibre or another multi-format app to see if DRM would get in the way. Or you can just try Send to Kindle once ePub conversion is in place.
Needless to say, it will be helpful to convey your own anti-DRM sentiments to authors, publishers, and literary agents. Either no DRM or watermarking would be better. Imagine being able to buy most any books in the Kindle store or others without worrying about DRM! To Amazon’s credit, it’s like Kobo and doesn’t make DRM compulsory. But most large publishers stubbornly use DRM even though it is a threat to our property rights or what should be our property rights (DRMed ebooks cannot be truly owned in the traditional sense).
Detail #1: Remember, Kindles still won’t be able to read ePub directly–at least not based on what we know so far. Please, Amazon, give us native ePub, at least on apps and newer devices, without need for conversion.
Details #2: DRM, alas, does make sense for libraries using the one-checkout-at-a-time model which treats ebooks like paper books.
Detail #3: Outrageously, it is technically illegal to circumvent DRM even for personal purposes—yes, nonpiracy use (where you’re not sharing a book). This needs to change!
Featured image credit: Karen Rustad, Claremont, California. CC licensed. This is a 2007 photo. The fight goes on!
I might have to invoke Betteridge’s Law here.
As long as one player remains dominant, DRM is likely to stick around.
We finally made progress on music when Amazon used it as a feature to compete with Apple.
We see some progress for audiobooks with the (presumptive ) #2 also being a large player (in that space) using DRM-free as a selling point.
Amazon’s share of the eBook market is so dominant and anti-competitive that I often find titles published _only_ in the one market.
Thank you for publishing tips to help recognize this garbage. Other than standouts like Martha Wells, most are happy to hide the lock-in aspect of our purchases from us.
Thanks, Logan, for your take on DRM and monopoly. I really wish anti-trusters would ban Amazon from giving writers strong incentives to publish exclusively with that company. I’m distributing my new thriller all over the place. The result is that I’m missing out on certain promotional opportunities on Amazon. David
PS Despite my concerns over Amazon’s monopoly position, I do think its latest ePub approach may unwittingly hurt DRM.
I can assure you I did not buy your books from Amazon, and I appreciate your supporting a more healthy market.
You wouldn’t have to worry as much about anti-trust if we eliminated all of this “vertical integration” nonsense. Separating the sellers and producers benefited everyone for hundreds of years, and there’s no reason it couldn’t work in the digital space.
“Be the better company”, not “they can’t leave”.
But I hope you are right and that this helps lead to a world where buying a book means reading it however and whenever you want.
Yes, Logan, more separation of sellers and producers would help, at least for companies above a certain size. But for that to happen, you’d still very possibly be getting into anti-trust territory in a big way.
For more separation to take place, we also need standards and the right connections so small publishers and independent authors can still have their offerings distributed widely with minimal effort.
It’s already happening to a great extent today in ways beyond the ePub format standard. I’m grateful to Draft to Digital, PublishDrive and others for facilitating my nonAmazon digital distribution. I wish libraries counted more in marketing and could go out of their way to run buying links to local bookstores, not just national chains, for paper and even electronic purchases. Maybe it’s time for libraries, D2D and similar outfits to get together. D2D’s production interface for publishers is amazing, and PublishDrive has made good progress. Same for Findaway’s site for audiobook originators.
Meanwhile I’m having Ingram also print and distribute my thriller in paperback (and also hardback) even though the interface and production speed could be much better. The novel is available one way or another through OverDrive (digital library versions), B&N, Apple, Kobo, Google, Walmart, Scribd (digital rental) and other places inside and outside the U.S.
I guess you get the idea. I couldn’t agree with you more about the need for Amazon alternatives, and I’m trying to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. You didn’t mention the issue of content costs for libraries, but for what it’s worth, I’m personally charging them no more than consumers for copies of the book in any format. I can’t control OverDrive and others I sell to through distributors. But I’d hope my book would still be much much cheaper than otherwise.
Finally–yes, thanks for buying the book! Enjoy!