Publishing and Politics

Adobe’s New DRM: So Tight, Your eBook is Locked

Earlier this year, Adobe made a shocking announcement: with the July ’14 release of Adobe Digital Editions 3.0, and the attendant upgrade to its Digital Rights Management (DRM) encryption system, the majority of e-reader applications will no longer be able to read purchased eBooks. In layman’s terms, this means that the digital bookshelf you have built on your e-reader device will be essentially locked due to incompatibilities among your firmware, hardware, and the file format(s) of your ebooks.

As scary as it sounds, this is a relatively foreseeable continuation of the war of the file formats that has raged since the dawn of the eBook. Every new iteration of the ePub file format, for example (we’re up to three now – but just you wait!), has been accompanied by an outpouring of concerned readers and a frantic scramble by e-reader and app developers to ensure their customers can access content when, where, and how they want it. Everyone wants the latest and greatest, and it’s been an ongoing struggle to keep pace with this rapidly evolving industry for publishers, readers, and developers alike.

Adobe’s upgrade was received with such a high level of ire within the e-reading and e-publishing community that within a few days of its original announcement, the media giant backpedaled, stating it would in fact continue to support the older DRM encryption formats for PDF and EPUB eBooks. While eBooks published in brand new file formats may not be legible on out-of-date e-reader applications, at the very least, existing eBooks will continue to function normally in their legacy e-readers. So that digital bookshelf you’ve been so carefully constructing since you bought your first Nook won’t be rendered obsolete… at least for now. That said, as long as the corporate desire for monopoly does not wane, the war of the file formats will continue.

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