Friday, January 19, 2007

Digital Rights Management and Our E-Audio Books

Wired News has an interesting blog post about Overdrive, the vendor behind our E-Audio Books service.

It touches on two aspects of this service: 1) the built-in Digital Rights Management that disables the downloaded files after a certain time period; 2) the fact that it does not work with Apple Macs/Ipods. A couple of excerpts:

  • "One of the cheapest (okay, free) ways to amass digital content is to check out CDs or DVDs from the public library and rip them onto your computer. But when it comes to digital content, DRM rears its ugly head. Library patrons have to install a Windows program called the OverDrive Media Console that allows them to play borrowed/downloaded content in a DRM-ed Windows Media format. "
  • "The point of libraries is to make content freely available for the common good, I thought, so these restrictions are a little weird. Physical library cards don't require a certain type of wallet; why should the electronic ones only work on Windows?"
However, the beauty of the blog is that it allows for comments. And while the brief post is worth reading on its own, the comments expound on the topic and present different views.

For example, you have the library supporters:
  • "So you're pretty much complaining that you can't pirate music or movies by checking them out from the Library. Cry me a river."
  • "Do you close down the whole thing because some people can't use it?"
  • "You can't fault a library for only providing the solutions that are available to them at a price they can afford."
  • "If a good iPod equivalent to Overdrive existed, most libraries that subscribe to Overdrive would probably subscribe to the iPod service instead of Overdrive. There just isn't another good (and legal) alternative for libraries to use that is compatible with iPods."
The folks who think libraries are the problem:
  • "Maybe the thinking was, well Mac users have such an easy time accessing and enjoying digital content on their computers and peripherals as it is, maybe we don't need to worry about them - let's focus on those poor Windows users who are struggling out there!"
  • "or it could be "macs are worthless to the point the majority of the population uses windows, so since there's already a solution for windows, let's forget about that worthless 4-5% of the the population." "
  • "Why should a publicly funded institution force a back door tax on it's patrons?"
No, wait. It appears that Apple is the source of the problem:
  • "Apple has locked everyone out of their system. If the Apple iPod wasn't such a closed system I would agree with you, but in truth Apple doesn't let anyone else into their DRM scheme."
No, Microsoft is the problem:
  • "The reason that the eBook won't work on anything but Windows is that the book reader uses a seriously proprietary M$ eBook format. M$ refuses to release "Microsoft Reader" for anything but Windows." [I assume M$=Microsoft]
Then, you have one clever hacker who bypassed everything:
  • "We have Overdrive at my local library. I looked into it, found software out there that strips the DRM, which then allows the user to import it into iTunes for Windows."
It's a big, complex world out there. And many times the library finds itself in the middle of the confusion when all we really want to do is give the customer what they need.

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