Saturday, February 28, 2009

Kindle 102 -- DRM and Sharing Books

If you already know about Digital Rights Management (DRM) skip this post.

DRM is code that is put into an electronic file so that you can't copy it and share it with the world. If you are able to borrow audio books from Netlibrary you are familiar with it. The DRM that comes with the book allows you to listen to the book for a couple of weeks. After that it just doesn't work any more, unless you go to the web site and renew it. You also know, if you are a patron of Netlibrary that iPods and Zunes don't work with Netlibrary's DRM code.

The Amazon DRM for books is tight. When you buy the book, you are really only buying the right to read the book as long as you have a Kindle and Amazon continues to exist. The Kindle 2 does not accept external memory. You can back up as much as you want at Amazon, which is convenient, but it also means that Amazon has all your reading material. You cannot sell your ebook or even loan it without loaning out the Kindle. If Amazon thinks you have been trying to hack the books, they can wipe out your library at any time. If you sell your Kindle you have to deregister it and whoever buys it will not have any of the books you bought.

You can share books but only if you share an account.

So if you and your partner/spouse/child each have Kindles on one account you will have the same library of books. You will also have the same method of payment. As far as I know, if your kid grows up, moved out and gets a Kindle on their own account, they can't take the books you bought them without taking the entire account. Now maybe Amazon customer service will have a way of dividing a library of books, but so far as I know that is not currently possible.

This is, I think, the biggest downside of buying ebooks from Amazon.

As I professor who loans books to students this is one of those downsides that leaves me with an "aw shucks" sort of feeling.


  1. I never thought about DRM for ebooks, although I suppose I should have. One of my favorite things to do is share books I love with friends, family, etc... This is a huge argument against Kindle for me.

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