July 4, 2009
Stripping DRM from EbooksI found a good post on how to remove DRM from ebooks at http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-strip-mobi-and-prc-ebooks-of-encryption/. They have a link to some python scripts that can remove DRM from some forms of ebooks as long as you know the PID for the book that you bought.
This morning I purchased Brandon Sanderson's "The Well of Ascension", the second book in the Mistborn series. I found the first book during Tor.com's launch ebook giveaway, (you can get it too!) and really enjoyed the book. I wanted to read the rest. (Apparently, I might not be the only one.) So I checked online, and I could get the second book for about $14 from Fictionwise. Sounds great. The only problem is that the books they sell there have DRM, Digital Restrictions Management. I am not able to read books that are encrypted with DRM on my preferred ebook reading platform: FBReader on my OLPC with Ubuntu installed on it. So I decided to try to remove the DRM. That would restore my rights as the owner of the book to archive it, so that I can read it in a month, six months, five years, or twenty years. As long as I ensure that I have the regular unencrypted file and software to read it, I should be fine.
If I did nothing about the DRM I would only be able to read the book on the computer that I used to download it. A 15" notebook. It isn't really all that portable.
I was able to strip the DRM as outlined in the link above, but the resulting mobipocket file came up empty when I tried to load it on FBReader. Bummer. So I tried another approach. I took the unencrypted mobipocket file, and loaded it up into the OSX Stanza ebook reading software. Then I saved it again as an ePub file, a more open format. That did open ok in FBReader, and now I can read the book that I purchased on any hardware that I like.
I am a bit disappointedthat I needed to pay $14 for the book. I would have preferred $7 or so since I do not get a physical copy, but ebooks are actually more convenient for me. On Amazon.com the book is actually $7.99 for a new, physical copy (or the Kindle copy, which I am not able to buy, but could use if I could after stripping the DRM) that includes lots of costs for printing, shipping to warehouses, distribution, whatever. Ebooks are a lot simpler when it comes to distribution: you ship them over the internet, with perhaps some up-front computation to encrypt the book using some sort of DRM scheme. Costs would be lower without the DRM. Customers would be happier because things are easier to use. People who want to buy books probably are not the people that are going to go and upload the files to the internet. People who just want to get the book for free can already do that. I can't see how DRM is really helping the industry, but that is the standard for books right now.
Thankfully, it is now possible to get non-DRM'd music files, from Amazon or Apple's iTunes store (but you need to make sure the stuff is iTunes plus still I think?) Hopefully video will go the same way.
I would really like to get a Kindle but I won't do that until I can get one that works in Japan. Until then I will make do with what I have. Even once I get a Kindle though, I would like to make sure that my books do not have DRM on them so that I have control of my files, and what I can do with them is not dictated by a third party (regardless of whether or not I think that the system is reasonable enough, and non-intrusive enough to use.)
BTW, you can use the MobiDeDRM if you get the Kindle PID (type '411' from the Setting menu, according to this blog post.)
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