A Guide to DRM for Ebooks

If you are new to the whole eBook scene then some of the jargon you may come across could potentially be confusing, one of the most common cases of this is DRM encrypted eBooks. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management; the DRM encryption on an eBook limits what a user can do with the file in order to try and keep within copyright laws and to avoid mass distribution of the eBook.

There are various levels of encryption on eBooks and some retailers may have more restrictions on the files they retail than others. The encryption can affect the file in many ways, the most common restriction that DRM causes is the amount of devices that the book can be stored and viewed on, this is due to the fact that the book should not be shared between other users and therefore is limited to several devices to try and prevent this. The DRM encryption can also affect the printing of the book, lending the book and also modifying the file. Ultimately the level of the encryption is decided by the distributors and editors of the book.

There are eight different forms of DRM encryption currently affecting eBooks on the market. The main problem that users tend to encounter as a result of DRM encryption is how they can use their eBooks and if they can use the specific eBook on their device. Different eBook retailers will opt for different formats of DRM encryption; this can cause big problems with the compatibility of the eBooks with an eReader. It is something that needs to be researched by the user for their specific device as there are formats which may only work on a certain model of eReader.

As briefly mentioned before there are many different forms of DRM encryption, although the Adobe DRM is one of the most commonly known DRM formats, major eReader retailers have opted for their own DRM formats and therefore there are a fair few DRM formats around. There are four main DRM formats however that are more commonly seen to the others and I will go through this shortly. It is more than likely that the DRM format that you will be using is one of these four and therefore it is important to understand them in order to get the maximum usage of your reading device.

Adobe DRM for Ebooks

File Formats Associated with Adobe DRM:

  • PDF
  • EPUB

The Adobe DRM is the most commonly seen form of DRM and is used by many different e-reading devices on the market. Adobe DRM is used on both PDF files and also EPUB files, this is what make it the most commonly seen form of DRM as the EPUB format is the most widely used format for eBooks, with the PDF format also being popular as a book format.

Any good e-reading device will support Adobe DRM and therefore if you have a Kindle, Nook or any similar devices, solely dedicated to the purpose of e-reading then you will not need to worry about this format being supported. Adobe DRM eBooks are readily available as most retailers will sell books in this format and therefore you should not worry about their availability.

Amazon DRM for Ebooks

File Formats Associated with Amazon DRM:

  • Kindle (AZW)

Another one of the more common DRM formats is the Amazon DRM. Amazon is well known on the e-reading market with their e-reading device the Kindle being the brand leader in terms of the devices. Amazon has developed their own proprietary DRM format for specific use with the Kindle reading device. Most of the books that Amazon sell are in AZW format, which is the format developed by Amazon specifically for the Kindle. There are also a few books on the site in TPZ format however it is unlikely that you will come across this format, if you do, the format handles the same as the AZW format.

The DRM encryption on the Amazon eBooks is used to limit the user’s library to Kindle devices only or any device using the Kindle platform. This makes the Amazon DRM format fairly versatile as Amazon have developed the Kindle Software which works on some of the more popular platforms such as Blackberry and Apple, this means that devices such as the iPad and the Playbook are compatible with the Amazon format.

Apple DRM for Ebooks

Another popular DRM format is the Apple DRM. Just like Amazon, Apple have developed their own version of the DRM format. This is used for the books that are sold on the iBookstore. The major downside to the Apple DRM means that the eBook in question can only be used on the iBook app on devices such as the iPad and iPod. If you are solely using an Apple device then this format will be fine as there is a fairly large range of books available on the iTunes store, not only this but the Apple devices also have the ability to support the Kindle and Barnes and Noble format and therefore the user should be able to find any book they desire for an Apple device. The problem occurs for users who may find a book they desire on the iBookstore however they have an alternate reading device such as a Kindle or a Nook, as the eBooks sold on the iBookstore will not be compatible.

Barns & Noble DRM for Ebooks

Barnes and Noble also have their own DRM format. This differs slightly to the others previously discussed as the Barnes and Noble DRM is actually the Adobe DRM, however they have added their own DRM on top of this in order to limit the eBooks sold on their store to Barnes and Noble devices and devices that are compatible with Adobe DRM. The Barnes and Noble DRM make the eBooks compatible with a fair variety of devices including the Nook, iPad, Android, Mac, iPhone and Blackberry.

The Barnes and Noble format is fairly popular and has only been expanding since the release, the Barnes and Noble format is great therefore if you are using the Nook (reading device range by Barnes and Noble) or a tablet such as the iPad as the Barnes and Noble platform can be downloaded to the device allowing the user to purchase and view books from the Barnes and Noble store.

Mobipocket DRM for Ebooks

File Formats Associated with Mobipocket DRM

  • .mobi

Mobipocket DRM is another form of DRM format and tends to be mentioned a lot when concerning e-reading devices. It is one of the oldest forms of DRM format, however, just like the eReader format; Mobipocket is starting to die out. There are only a few up to date devices on the market that offer support for Mobipocket and this will be a lesser number when the upgraded models of current devices are released, therefore it is important to be wary of buying eBooks in the Mobipocket format as they may not be usable in the near future.

The reason that the Mobipocket DRM has started to die out is due to the fact that an e-reading device cannot support Adobe DRM if there is Mobipocket support on the device and therefore a choice must be made between the two. Unfortunately for the Mobipocket DRM, the Adobe DRM format is more popular and therefore the devices tend to opt to support Adobe as oppose to Mobipocket. The Mobipocket format is owned by Amazon and as a result the whole of the Kindle range support this format. With Amazon also owning another format, they seem to have allowed the Mobipocket format to fade from the market.

Microsoft DRM for Ebooks

File Formats Associated with Microsoft DRM

  • .lit

Microsoft has also developed their own DRM format, although it is very rarely seen or used. The format is known as LIT and the overall format will only work on computers, tablets or mobile devices (only if they have Microsoft Reader software installed). This format therefore isn’t used much as eBooks are mainly used on specific reading devices such as the Kindle and the Nook. Not only this but with major bookstore companies such as Barnes and Noble creating platforms for computers and mobile devices, the LIT format seems to be made redundant.

Other Ebook DRM Formats

There are also other DRM formats around that may not be as popular as the formats listed above however it is still good to be aware of them. 

eReader DRM

Ebook Readers Supporting eReader DRM

  • Nook
  • Smartphones

One format is the eReader DRM which used to be one of the most popular DRM formats however as technology has developed the eReader DRM has become decreasingly common. This is the DRM format used by the eBook stores Fictionwise(fictionwise.com) and eReader. The two sites are actually under the ownership of Barnes and Noble and therefore this DRM format is supported on the Nook reading device range.

There has been a platform developed for various devices that allows the user to view eReader DRM files on a range of smartphones. The format is also compatible with Linux, Mac and PC. The support for this document format is average however the format does seem to be dying out, and therefore new devices released to the market may not include support for this format.

Blio DRM

One of the newest additions to the collection of DRM formats is the Blio format. This is mainly based around the Microsoft XP format. The Blio format is not very popular and probably won’t increase in popularity in the future as the format is only compatible with Blio software, eliminating the files from a wide variety of devices.

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