A lot of publishers fear Amazon but virtually all will admit that they have to have their ebooks avaialble for the Kindle. And since Amazon was the only seller of DRM-ed Kindle ebooks, publishers either had to go commando (and give up on DRM) or sell via the Kindle Store.
This is one of the many less than pleasant changes Amazon made when building the Kindle platform out of Mobipocket, and fairly soon publishers will have a third option.
Publishing Perspectives is reporting today that the Dutch DRM specialists at BooXtream are working on a new version of their watermark type of DRM. This firm, which is chiefly known for providing the social DRM used by Pottermore, the Harry Potter ebookstore, is hoping to offer publishers a new set of tools which will enable them to add digital watermarks to Kindle ebooks.
Digital watermarks, a term which is often used interchangeably with social DRM, is a less intrusive way to lock down a file. It's already widely used in audiobooks and mp3, but it's still only rarely used in ebooks. Publishers and distributors use it by adding bits of data to an existing file. In the case of ebooks, these digital watermarks might be strings of text inserted into the text of an ebook, adding to internal file names, or placed as the title metadata for images. While this doesn't act as a deterrent to pirating an ebook, it does let a publisher track down the original buyer of an ebook should it show up on a pirate site.
This type of DRM wouldn't help any for ebooks sold via the Kindle Store, but it would open up the possibility of publishers distributing their ebooks via a new ebookstore which sold the Kindle format. “Since sideloading ebooks on a Kindle is very easy, publishers really do not have to publish their title in the Amazon shop. They can sell it from their own website instead. But these .mobi files are unprotected. Having their titles watermarked and personalized will be a big plus for them,” says Huub van de Pol, manager of BooXtream.
I've long been a fan of digital watermarks as an alternative DRM for the simple fact that DRM is far too easy to remove. As I've shown in my post which explains how to install a DRM removal plugin in calibre, the process is now dead simple. What's more, there are a bunch of other ways to remove DRM from ebooks, with some options being almost as easy.
The more strict forms of DRM have long since stopped being effective at their task, so now would be a good time to look for a new alternative which won't be quite such a hassle for legitimate users.
BooXtream is a spinoff of Icontact, a Dutch company which has been providing digital watermarking for Dutch audiobook distributors since 2006. BooXtream was launched in 2010 with deals with several Dutch ebook publishers, but it only really got noticed this spring when I revealed that BooXtream provided the DRM for Pottermore.