Here’s what we could do immediately if publishers would stop locking up the ebooks and making them unusable in EPUB format by adding those notorious DRMs (of Adobe or, in a few cases, another type):
- Users could buy ebooks from any online bookstore, some here and some there, have their own digital library and manage all their ebooks as they see fit, regardless of where they bought them from. Creating management tools for these personal digital libraries would already be a business in itself. Thanks to DRMs, however, that’s not possible, yet Amazon does it with Kindle.
- Semantic search engines could index the entire contents of all the books: creating search/recommendation/analysis tools for reading/structural analysis of texts/analytical indices and a lot of other wonderful things could be done. Thanks to DRMs no, but on Kindle yes.
- Everyone would be able to read the book on many devices, having the text synchronized on all of them. Thanks to DRMs we can’t do that, but Kindle does it.
- Highlighting and underlining, just like notes and comments, could enhance the books for everyone, regardless of the platform being used, and anyone could create sites and applications for true large-scale social reading. But thanks to DRMs that’s not possible, yet on Kindle it is.
- The market of interactive and multimedia illustrated ebooks, and above all the audio-ebooks, could finally take off because their production, finally in standard (EPUB3) format, would be affordable and all devices would have appropriate software to read them. Thanks to DRMs, again, this isn’t possible.
- And obviously users could buy, download and move their ebooks to where they want to read them without the hassle DRMs create in the purchasing process. Thanks to DRMs buying an ebook is an act of heroism and confidence in the future; but that’s not how it is on Kindle, there everything works more smoothly.
The reality instead is that all the big publishers, and many of the small publishers pretending to be big in order to seem cooler, use Adobe DRMs. This, and only this, allows Amazon (and Apple and Kobo) to work on proprietary formats and platforms in order to “lock” their users inside their own purchasing and utilization environments.
Oh, and I forgot: in order to achieve this great result, those publishers actually PAY Adobe a significant amount for every single download carried out, because shooting yourself in the foot isn’t even free of charge. Brilliant, isn’t it?
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