Barnes & Noble’s Incompatible Non-Universal ePub

December 21, 2009

I don’t know why this should shock anybody.

Still, it makes the PDF press release [PDF link] title all the more ironic:

Adobe and Barnes & Noble Join Forces to Standardize eBook Technology

By standardizing on EPUB and collaborating with Adobe on a content protection standard based on Adobe technology, Barnes & Noble is delivering the richest range of content available, across a broader array of devices than anybody else,” said William J. Lynch, president of Barnes & Noble.com. “Consumers can feel confident that when they buy their digital content from BN.com, they can read it on more devices than any other bookstore.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Let me parse this.

By standardizing on EPUB — ah, good! Everyone except Kindle is on the same page now. ePub for everybody! You can buy ePub here, there, and even everywhere — at Barnes & Noble and all other ePub-pusher storefronts — and it will run on anything that uses ePub.

Um, no.

Because of this:

they can read it on more devices than any other bookstore — the key words are devices and bookstore. Meaning, those devices must run the software of the bookstore, meaning Barnes & Noble.

Which then makes the next sentence in that press release an outright lie:

This collaboration with Adobe further delivers on our commitment to provide the digital content our customers want, anytime, anywhere and on whatever device they choose.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

What if I choose a Sony Reader? Or a Cooler? Or Astak?

Out of luck.

Because of this:

Adobe is integrating Barnes & Noble’s eReader social content protection technology into Adobe Content Server, Adobe Reader Mobile SDK and, eventually, into Adobe Digital Editions.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Barnes & Noble’s eReader social content protection technology — this is the eReader DRM feature, which places the eBook buyer’s name and credit card number in the eBook file. So, if you pass that file on, there’s your name and credit card number for everyone to see.

No other device aside from the Nook and those running the Barnes & Noble eReader software can deal with this form of DRM.

ePubs purchased at Barnes & Noble will “stay in Barnes & Noble.”

The only hope is that as other manufacturers — Sony, et al — update their device firmware, they will add this method of DRM to it.

It’s not just device firmware, either: Adobe Digital Editions and Sony Library will both require updating too to handle this.

In summary: The Nook can read ePub with the special (for now) Barnes & Noble “social DRM” as well as all other Adobe DRM ePub files (from public libraries or bought even from Sony’s Reader Store). The reverse is not true: No device other than the Nook right now can process the new “social DRM” scheme the Nook uses.

When will ePub again be “universal?” Adobe says by the end of 2010.

How’s that for a hell of a wait?

Additional:

Customer FAQ: Adobe and Barnes & Noble

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Sony Reader 101: Borrowing Public Library eBooks

August 29, 2009

This is a companion post to Sony Reader 101: If You Insist On Buying One…

Most public libraries use a system from OverDrive. This presents a semi-standardized user interface across public libraries offering eBooks, so the steps below detailing borrowing an ePub eBook from the New York Public Library will be similar at other public libraries. Here I am using Firefox 2.x as my browser.

Sign into the system:

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As stated above, it requires the library card number and PIN you’ve supplied.

This is the entry screen shown at the NYPL site:

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Here I will be going straight to my Wish List. This is a list of books I want to borrow, based on my browsing all 450+ ePubs at the NYPL site. You will love your Wish List because the OverDrive system is frustrating!

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Above you can see the status of two eBooks I’ve highlighted. Request Item means that eBook is currently borrowed. Add to eList means that eBook is available for borrowing. I click on Add to eList and see this:

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Once an eBook is in the eList, it’s off-limits to others at the NYPL for 30 minutes. If I don’t borrow it within that time period, it’s erased from the eList for others to borrow. I can go back to browsing, but this is a primer, so I click Proceed to Checkout and see this:

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The NYPL offers three lending periods: 7, 14, or 21 days.

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Once I’ve set it for 21 days, I click Confirm Checkout to get this:

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If I’ve decided to borrow more than one eBook, this will be a list. NYPL offers a maximum of 12 eBooks at one time. Note: Each book will have its own Download button. That can mean clicking twelve Download buttons. There is no Download All option (yet?).

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The download dialog box will appear. Note the file is URLlink.acsm — every eBook will have that name. This is not the eBook! It’s a link to Adobe’s content server. The eBook resides there, not at the local library. And this is very important: Have your options set to open with Sony’s eBook Library software. If you Save to Disk, you’ll be all bollixed. If that happens, just hit the Download button again and select Open with eBook Library.

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The file — a small link — downloads in seconds and launches Sony’s eLibrary software:

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Above look at the left panel. Status is highlighted in yellow. As the eBook is being downloaded from Adobe’s server directly to the Sony software, those arrows will spin. Once complete …

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It will appear at the top of the list of eBooks. (Strangely, Sony’s software lists borrowed eBooks under a Purchased category, not Borrowed.) Double-clicking on it will open the eBook:

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Yes, some eBooks actually lack covers. It’s a scandal!

Once the eBook is in the Sony eLibrary software, sync the Sony Reader to copy it over.