George V. Reilly

Removing DRM from Ebooks

When I buy a book, I want to be able to read it how and where I like, not where the bookseller dictates. With printed books, the very idea of the bookseller having any say is ridiculous. The book is now my property, to read where and how I like, to give away or to lend or even to sell. I’ve bought thousands of new books and thousands more secondhand books from bookstores.

Most electronic books are crippled with DRM. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, although Defective By Design prefers to expand DRM as Digital Re­stric­tions Management. DRM is technology that controls digital content after it has been sold. In particular, DRM’d ebooks sold at Amazon are encrypted and can only be read on Kindle devices and apps. Similarly, DRM’d ebooks from Barnes & Noble are restricted to Nook devices and apps.

Some publishers sell DRM-free ebooks at Amazon and B&N, but they’re in a small minority. When I buy technical books, I try to buy directly from the publishers, who will often bundle both the ebook and the pbook editions together for a fraction of their separate costs.

Having paid for an ebook, I want to read it on whatever computer or device is at hand, regardless of where I bought it. I can do that if I remove the DRM encryption. Tools exist to help with that, such as Apprentice Alf’s DRM Removal Tools for eBooks. The plugin for Calibre works very well. I convert ebooks to unlocked EPUBs, which I can then read on my eInk reader, or with the Readium browser extension in Chrome, or the EPUBReader browser extension for Firefox, or the Clearview app on my Mac—or in the original seller’s app. It’s my choice.

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