Earlier this week I reported that the POD and ebook distributor service Lulu had dropped DRM from their ebookstore, and it seems they're not the only ones. Some time next week Centraal Boekhuis, the leading distributor of books and ebooks in the Netherlands, will start distributing more ebook titles unencumbered by Adobe DRM.
They're not giving up on DRM entirely, but they have indicated that another 8,426 ebooks will be available protected only by digital watermarks. Counting the DRM-free titles (both Epub and PDF) this means that nearly three-quarters of the 20,000 ebook distributed by CB will either have no DRM or have so little DRM that the average user likely won't notice.
CB is describing these 74% of ebooks as being DRM-free, but that's not quite the case. First, there's no guarantee that these ebooks will be DRM-free when sold through the major ebookstores (Kindle, Nook, iBooks), but of course we knew that. Also, the 16% of titles carried by CB as truly DRM-free are more likely to stay that was when sold via the major ebookstores.
The more important detail here is that there is a difference between having no security and having some security. Digital watermarks still provide a measure of control. While they don't get in the way of a paying customer, they can still be used to identify who originally bought a piece of content. That can be useful data should an ebook, mp3, or other content show up on a pirate site.
This deal mainly affects the smaller ebookstores which work directly with CB to stock Dutch titles (because digital watermarks need to be applied at the time of download).