ePub eBooks From Apple Will Use FairPlay DRM

This has never been a question in my mind so I’m really shocked to see posts around wondering if the ePub eBooks sold through the iBookstore will have DRM.

Of course they will!

And even though this Wikipedia entry describing Apple’s DRM system — called FairPlay — is all about media, the method for DRMing ePub files is likely to be similar: invisible to the end user, just as it is with iPhone apps.

The current widespread method of ePub DRM is from Adobe. It uses Adobe’s Content Servers.

Hello, Apple has it own damn content servers. Why would they want Adobe’s?

Will this mean a further fracturing of “universal” ePub, coming right after Barnes & Noble doing it with the Nook?


Does this mean you won’t be able to transfer your current Sony Reader ePubs to the iPad?


Apple’s iBooks application was done in-house. It doesn’t use Adobe’s ePub rendering engine. This right off the bat means it also lacks the bits to handle Adobe’s ePub DRM. If any part of Adobe was inside the iBooks app, you can be certain Adobe would be braying about it just as intensely as they’ve been whining about Flash not being in the iPad!

So … DRM bites eBook buyers once again.

This isn’t Apple’s fault.

Most of the book publishers have wanted DRM.

Your choices are:

1) taking what I think is a perfectly acceptable though illegal step: stripping off the Adobe DRM on your legally-purchased copies, or

2) lobbying for a change in the laws to allow DRM transfer.

You bought the words. You already paid Hachette or Random House for those words. You should be able to tell them, Yo, I’m switching to the iPad, now give me those books again without me having to pay for them a second time.

Chances of that happening are zero, unless you raise a very big stink with our lawmakers. I’d start at the FTC.

Steve Jobs has come out against DRM. I don’t know how true his stance was because Amazon was the first to offer DRM-free audio files. Whether record labels allowed Amazon to do that as a move against Apple (the labels wanted “variable pricing” at the time) or Jobs’ anti-DRM stance was a ploy, I don’t know. But if Steve Jobs’ anti-DRM stance is what he believes, at some point he’ll have to confront book publishers about it. However, don’t expect that to happen any time soon. They’re all afraid of going out of business as it is.

Look, eBooks via the iBookstore are going to have ridiculous prices. The publishers will set them and Apple will have to obey. That’s the agreement that’s been cut.

I won’t be buying any eCrap ePub priced above US$5.00. None of them are worth more than that to me. Especially with DRM on them.

And right now I already have a ton of free (legally so) ePubs from Smashwords to read. I’ll finally be able to do that when I have an iPad. I look forward to discovering some really good new writers too.

Don’t buy. That’s the solution to all this. Refuse the DRM, refuse the exorbitant prices. Give some back to the publishers.

And there’s another choice you have: Use the Kindle app or the Kobo app and buy from them instead of the iBookstore. That’s if Apple allows those apps on the iPad. With the iPhone, Apple disallowed apps that “duplicated functionality.” Wouldn’t those apps duplicate the functionality of iBooks?

If Apple disallows them, then you can go after Apple and the book publishers.

11 Responses to ePub eBooks From Apple Will Use FairPlay DRM

  1. James Katt says:

    Courseware will be selling DRM’d textbooks on the iPad. It already sells them for the iPhone.

    Kindle already allows Apple’s users to purchase Kindle Books and use them on the iPhone – which means they will work on the iPad.

    Stanza and other apps already exist and allow users to purchase eBooks on the iPhone and iPad.

    There are eBooks sold as apps on the iTunes App store.

    There are a lot of options for users of the iPad, not just the iBook Store.

    This is a fantastic opportunity for iPad users. They will have FAR GREATER choice than is possible on the Kindle or any other eBook Reader.

    • mikecane says:

      That’s only if Apple permits those competing eBook readers on the iPad. There was no eBook functionality built-into the iPhone. It’s also an open question as to whether or not iBooks will find its way into iPhone OS 4.0. I think iBooks will remain on the iPad alone.

  2. Actually we still don’t know what kind of DRM Apple will employ. They use Fairplay for their video and App content, but not for music. They dropped Fairplay for AAC in favor of “social DRM” where they stamp the files with your email address (and possibly other info) into files downloaded from the iTMS.

    So, Apple could actually during negotiations have demanded the social DRM solution be used in exchange for the publishers gaining the ‘agency model’. This would make some sense at it would give publishers the power of price setting, while Apple retained full power over the distribution platform. It would also allow personal use of iBook ePub files on other platforms.

    This is totally speculative and would of course require the publishing industry to have learned something from the music industry. Its not like music sales on iTMS are in decline.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Cane, Mike Cane. Mike Cane said: NEW POST: ePub eBooks From Apple Will Use FairPlay DRM http://tinyurl.com/ylkkaw9 @jafurtado @liza @Booksquare @eBookNewser […]

  4. I see no reason Apple should disallow existing e-book readers on the iPad.

    Apple is a hardware company. They make their money from selling all those expensive concoctions of metal, plastic, and glass. They’ve never made a huge profit on their media stores—sure, a few million here and there, but that’s peanuts compared to the hundreds of millions they take in from the hardware. They run these stores pretty near the break-even point to serve as value-added for their hardware.

    There’s no reason the iPad should be any different. If he’s not crazy, Steve Jobs will look at eReader, Stanza, Kindle, Kobo, etc. and say, “Hey great—more reasons for people to buy the iPad that I don’t have to pay the overhead expenses for.”

    Do you honestly think that Steve Jobs is going to look at book publishing, which is so low-margin that the publishers are worried about going out of business if they can’t force Amazon to raise prices, and want to try to turn iBooks into a cash cow?

    Apple didn’t try to restrict the iPod to playing only iTunes-bought songs. That would have been ridiculous. It doesn’t keep you from running Windows on its shiny new X86-architecture Macintosh PCs—far from it, it came out with Boot Camp to make it easier. And the iPad’s OS 3.2 is going to include a shared document sandbox that can be accessed by third-party apps via USB.

    Also, the Wall Street Journal lately said that textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill (whose CEO did that night-before leak about how the iPad was going to have his content on it) have partnered with appbook-company ScrollMotion to put textbooks on the iPad. If Apple and McGraw-Hill were buddy-buddy enough for the CEO to be able to say that with confidence on the eve of the launch, it suggests that there will be room for other books besides iBooks on the platform.

    While I was formerly paranoid about Apple rejecting other e-book apps myself, I now see no reason other than paranoia for the iPad not to allow these e-book apps to continue.

    Of course, I freely admit I could be wrong.

    • mikecane says:

      >>>I see no reason Apple should disallow existing e-book readers on the iPad.

      “Duplicates functionality” has prevented several third-party programs from being approved for sale in the App Store.

      That said, I’d really be shocked if Apple did disallow Kobo, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and others on the iPad.

      • Martin Hill says:

        Apple will continue to allow other App Bookstores on the iPad such as the Kindle app, Stanza, Ereader and the thousands of stand-alone book apps that make up such a large segment of the App Store.

        After all, Apple has always allowed competing music apps and stores like Rhapsody, Pandora, Spotify, as well as video players and stores like YouTube, Joost, UStream, TVU Player etc etc etc.

        Don’t worry Mike, you will be able to read all your eBooks on the iPad -you’ll just use different apps.


      • Martin Hill says:

        I also wanted to add, that this is another very big boost to the iPad and another blow to other dedicated eBook Readers – the Kindles, Nooks and Sonys will only read DRM-ed material from their own bookstores, while the iPad and iPhone allow all material.

        One tablet to Rule Them All.


  5. Pablo Defendini says:

    I agree with Chris Meadows: Apple will probably treat non-iBooks-bought ebooks the same way it treats non-iTunes bought MP3 files. I also don’t think that they’ll knock other eBook reading apps from the App Store.

  6. […] might be standard, the proprietary systems are not, from the nook to the Sony and now Apple who will encrypt with Fair Play. Breaking the Amazon monopoly would be easy if publishers would just abandon the ridiculous DRM […]

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