(un)Interoperability Between eReaders

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Emma CunninghamBy Emma Cunningham, Contributing Writer, Digital Book World

In their ruling, judges Ocariz, Gutierrez and Campillo said that “..since ancient times there has been the loan or sale of books, movies, music and more. The difference now is mainly on the medium used – previously it was paper or analog media and now everything is in a digital format which allows a much faster exchange of a higher quality and also with global reach through the Internet.”

Judges Liken P2P To The Ancient Practice of Lending Books

Everybody in the publishing industry knows that Amazon’s Kindle files can only be read on the Kindle and its various apps, and that Apple  has similarly restricted its iBooks files to the iPad (and soon, the iPhone), but many are wondering if there will ever be an industry-wide standard that lets readers keep their eBooks—no matter what device they read them on.

What can you do to avoid losing your eBooks when you change eReaders?

For now, you can only do your research before making a purchase and choose one of the many eReaders—Sony, Kobo and Nook among them—that will let you read your eBook across a multitude of platforms. Don’t lose hope, though. We will very likely see device restrictions open up within the next few years.

The reason that the Kindle and iBooks files can’t be shared with other devices is simple: they don’t use Adobe DRM like the majority of their competitors. Apple, who has declared war with Adobe by removing Flash capabilities from all Apple products, has opted for their own DRM file encryption system called FairPlay, and Kindle uses its own format as well, which they’ve simply called Kindle DRM. Kindle’s protection seems to elicit the most outrage from users, since there is currently no way of finding out how many times an eBook can be downloaded before it expires.

People are still adjusting to the idea of purchasing the rights to an eBook rather than owning the product itself.

However, most eReaders and eBook stores sell ePUB files encrypted with Adobe DRM. These files can be shared across any devices that use the same encryption system, while still being restricted to a limited number of downloads and licensed devices. And while Adobe may not be the industry standard yet, it’s well on its way. If they could just resolve their turf war with Apple and get them on board, both companies would have it made, and could probably eventually overpower Amazon to the point where the Kindle might even be forced to comply and adhere to the same system, too.

Google Editions aims to eliminate the problem of choosing a device built on proprietary formats and DRM by adding an interesting dimension: “Books in the Cloud”. By storing eBooks in cyberspace, Google will allow readers to access their eBooks anytime, anywhere, on any device—as long as their device of choice connects to the Internet.

1984...meet DRM by jbonnain

1984...meet DRM by jbonnain (CC 2.0)

Since I own a non-wireless, non-3G device (my current eReader of choice is the Sony Touch Edition), this doesn’t work for me. Frankly, I prefer a file I can download and store. Sometimes I just want to read in the middle of nowhere. And I don’t like the creepiness of Amazon being able to suck books away, or track what passages I’m highlighting; I prefer to keep my reading habits to myself, and keep the eBooks I’ve purchased, thank you very much.

And I certainly don’t need the distractions of Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader while I’m in the midst of a good story.

Eventually someone will capitulate and start a domino effect, and all eBooks will be encrypted with the same system, so that readers have more flexibility with their purchases. There’s too much pressure from bloggers, readers and publishers for that not to happen.

Remember Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD? Eventually someone had to win and someone had to lose.

Readers simply won’t stand for it when their eReaders start to break, it’s time to buy a new one, and they’re stuck purchasing from the same company every time in order to maintain their eBook library.

Of course, we could always take a lesson from the Spanish judges who ruled that P2P sharing of ebooks is equivalent to lending your book to a friend, and get rid of DRM restrictions altogether…

Emma Cunningham is an ebook geek, digital marketer and publicist, and avid reader. Currently working as the Production Coordinator for the Digital and Internet department at Harlequin’s Toronto headquarters, Emma is lucky enough to be immersed head-first in the changing industry. She is also a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor.

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