DRM’s Silver Lining, or Why We Should Appreciate Kobo More
Kobo is by no means my favorite ebook retailer, but the recent troubles with the Nook Store has given me a greater appreciation.
A few days ago I reported on the sad state of the B&N’s ebook operation now that they’ve upgraded their website. The ebook pages were inaccessible (and now I can’t even log in).
The general nonfunctional state of the Nook section of the B&N website is making us wonder whether B&N really cares about ebooks any more, and that inspired one reader to ask me for a recommendation for an alternate ebookstore.
Other than the negative recommendation that you not rely on the Nook Store, I couldn’t give one at the time. Most of the ebooks I buy are DRM-free, and the few DRMed ebooks I have bought over the past year have been limited to ones I would not mind losing (mostly).
For the longest time now I’ve had trouble stripping Kindle and Adobe DRM from ebooks, so I’ve simply been avoiding them and thus can’t recommend one bookstore over another.
Edit: Actually, I can rescue my Kindle ebooks. A reader prodded me into trying. The process is working for me again. I can’t tell you why it stopped working or started again; DRM is like that. Thanks, Mike!
Since I can’t rescue my ebooks, I think all the major ebookstores are equally bad, but it occurred to me today that I had overlooked a good reason to like Kobo.
Kobo uses Adobe DRM on the ebooks they let you download and transfer elsewhere, but they also use their own DRM internally. The ebooks inside Kobo’s apps and ereaders use Kobo’s DRM, not Adobe’s.
That DRM has been broken, and there is a calibre plugin that will automatically retrieve any ebooks in Kobo’s PC app, strip the DRM, and convert the ebooks to Epub or Kindle formats.
I just tested it this afternoon, and the plugin works, which is great news for readers.
DRM may be a grey cloud hanging over readers, but thanks to Kobo’s understandable interest in cutting cost, we have a silver lining in the form of an easy to use way to sidestep the DRM.
And for that reason, I can now recommend Kobo as my preferred ebook retailer.
Kobo’s prices have generally averaged higher for me, but that is a price I am willing to pay for to be secure in the knowledge that I can easily remove the DRM.
How much is it worth to you?
image by Kerem Tapani
Michael July 5, 2015 um 5:47 pm
Kobo’s my least favorite in terms of customer service, but I’ve started buying there more since it’s easy to tell which books have or don’t have DRM, and if I do buy something with DRM it’s easily removed so I can read on Kindle.
They also frequently have coupons for anywhere from 35% to 75% off eligible titles, and I usually luck out and my purchase is one of the eligible ones.
On the publishing side, the uploader for Kobo Writing Life is pretty nice. It used to be a bit buggy, where submitted books sometimes wouldn’t make it to the review queue for approval, but I haven’t run into that in a while now.
Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 5, 2015 um 6:07 pm
I buy at kobo frequently, almost always using a coupon. I can tell which books have DRM, but have been able to get rid of it on those that do (every now and then I see someone say the book is in a strange format and can’t be accessed, etc). I’d say I probably buy more at Kobo than any other retailer, although I download quite a few free ones from Amazon.
Kobo has some free titles as well and they have a special section for some they are highlighting that are first in a series that is free:
They also have a "next and upcoming" where they highlight books that are under 5 (I think that is the pricing). This has my affiliate link because I don’t know how to take it out without going to a lot of trouble…feel free to grab the page without the affiliate code and edit this post.
Mike Hall July 5, 2015 um 6:12 pm
Back in September 2013 you were explaining how to add Apprentice Alf’s Kindle DRM removal plugin to Calibre, and rather late in the day I was about to try this. Should I not now bother? What are your problems with stripping Kindle DRM?
Nate Hoffelder July 5, 2015 um 6:30 pm
It’s actually been so long (months) since I last tried that I can’t remember.
I’m going to go try again. If i succeed, I’ll rewrite that post.
Edit: The thing about removing DRM is that the same trick will work for some people but not others. It is sometimes impossible to pinpoint why a tool will work on one device but not another.
Nate Hoffelder July 5, 2015 um 7:13 pm
I’m going to have to revise this post. Stripping the DRM from a Kindle ebook is working for me again.
For a while there, it wasn’t. I suppose that the difference is that I started from scratch this time but before I had been using the calibre install and plugin install that I had in late 2013. I guess that setup picked up a bug somehow, one that I don’t have now.
Thanks for kicking me out of my rut and makig me try it again.
Mike Hall July 5, 2015 um 8:12 pm
And thanks to you for making the effort to re-test this.
LoganK July 5, 2015 um 7:02 pm
Thank you for the tip. Since B&N turned so anti-customer, I’ve wanted to switch … but the easy-to-break DRM and support for ePub keeps me coming back. (The magazine I subscribe to doesn’t have any DRM.)
I like Kobo’s focus on the reading experience (and I really like my Kobo Aura H2O), so I’ll have to look into their store once again.
Fbone July 5, 2015 um 10:36 pm
The tools were updated in late 2014 so Kindle’s DRM can be stripped consistently.
Darryl July 5, 2015 um 11:19 pm
Sorry to hear about your problems with drm removal. If you do run into problems I know it can be very difficult to resolve them Fortunately, my own experience is that once setup it just works. I gave up on B&N a long time ago, but understand that DRM removal is working on their Nook books, though they did cause a few problems recently with some changes. The appropriate Calibre plugins properly configured have no problems with removing either Adobe or Amazon drm. As you point out, Obok works great on Kobo kepub books downloaded to Kobo Desktop. At the moment, drm removal should not be a factor in your choice of book store, with the exception of Apple. It may still be possible to remove IBooks drm if you can get hold of a copy of Requiem and an appropriate older version of ITunes, but I wouldn’t count on it. And even if it does work, why go to all the trouble?
I like Kobo, and I want them to do well. I try to support them by making the occasional purchase, but in all honesty I must say that they are usually more expensive than Amazon, even with a discount code. For example, I was looking at purchasing a relatively newly released Indie yesterday, and had a particular reason to want to buy it from Kobo. However, Kobo was more expensive by a full $2.00, and the book was not eligible for any discount. Kobo does need to get its act together. Despite this, I encourage you to look at Kobo when you are thinking of purchasing and if you can support them without disadvantaging yourself, do so at lease occasionally.
Having said this, Amazon is far and away the best ebook store. I purchase the majority of my ebooks there, with the occasional purchase from Kobo, Baen and others.
Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 6, 2015 um 11:59 am
If it was an indie book, the author set the price–that isn’t Kobo’s issue, it’s the author’s issue. I have run into this several times as a few authors price their books higher at Kobo to take into account that sometimes a coupon is used and the author gets a lower price. HOWEVER, we as authors have to AGREE to take the coupon price, so it isn’t arbitrary AND Kobo generally does some visibility/promo if an author agrees to the discounting. The discounting generally is a short term offer too.
I have also seen it with smaller publishers. A book I had my eye on is 3.99 at Amazon and 8. 49 at Kobo. Sure, coupons can be applied, but I won’t buy it on principle, even if I could get it down to $3.99. I have no idea why the publisher chose to price it so high, but I’m not playing.
If an author or kobo (or any company) offers a coupon, it needs to be a REAL deal–not a shop around and you can find this price at some retailers. If you don’t want to discount the book, don’t offer the coupon.
DavidW July 5, 2015 um 11:50 pm
I would think that the better solution would be Google Play. They are price competitive with Amazon, and use ADE for DRM. That makes their ebooks readable on almost every ereader, phone and tablet excepting Kindle.
I don’t think any recommendation should be made based upon using calibre. After all, a few years ago I used a Nook STR, and I would download the ebooks and use calibre to decrypt them and dump them into my dropbox. If I can’t do that with Nook anymore, who is to say that in a few years I can’t do that with Kobo?
If you want a DRM free collection, the only sure way to do that is to buy only DRM free books.
Nate Hoffelder July 6, 2015 um 6:28 am
I don’t decide based on calibre; I decide based on being able to remove the DRM. And Google Play has the same DRM problems as other stores with Adobe DRM.
Kobo is simply the better option. Stripping the DRM is easy.
Gwenhael July 6, 2015 um 1:15 am
I’ve had no problem stripping DRM neither from Kindle nor ADE using http://apprenticealf.wordpress.com/ plugin.
As for buying ebooks I alternate between Amazon and Kobo depending on who has the best price (yes, sometimes, many times Kobo does!)
Destination Infinity July 6, 2015 um 1:47 am
Please give the link on how to remove DRM from Kobo, to read aloud the book on FBReader. Or how to enable Text to Speech from within Kobo app.
Nate Hoffelder July 6, 2015 um 6:16 am
I already included the link; once the DRM is off all that you have to do is load the ebooks into FBReader.
Ingo Lembcke July 6, 2015 um 6:38 am
Google for "Apprentice Alf", then read the FAQ, download the newest tools and configure them according to FAQ.
Navigation on the Website is not very good solved, take your time to read all, and prepare to read it while installing / stripping DRM.
While it is a time I tested them on Windows (XP, then), the install is basically the same as on Mac OS. You have a ZIP-file, which contains ZIP-files for Calibre and a few standalone-programs.
Some configuration is automatically found, if you installed Kindle for PC (or Mac) and downloaded the eBooks there and drag/drop them on DeDRM.
All DeDRM is working on the assumption, that you registered for buying EBooks and have bought them. An Adobe ID (EPUB) may require registration at a shop AND a second registration with Adobe – but for newer registrations, the registration at a shop might do both, and it is a good idea, to use the same login for the Shop and Adobe, to makle things easier.
– Kindle eInk-Devices: find out your serial number and enter it without spaces.
Easy remembered Link: My Kindle – amazon.com/myk
and klick on "My Devices" (other countries have the same link, like
amazon.de/myk ). The Serial number can be cut and pasted, but it may be
necessary to strip the blank spaces.
– Kindle Fire? IMHO not possible with these tools, I have no device, so I
– Lent books from the Library (may refer only to Kindle): no dice, DeDRM is not working there.
– Books bought or only downloaded on the eInk-Device have can be copied
and stripped from DRM with the Serial Number correctly configured.
– at amazon.com/myk you can download books from the browser directly
to your computer, without the "Kindle for PC/Mac".
– Barnes & Nobles: uses now two methods, the old one was to enter your name and your credit-card-number – at the time the book was bought (problems occur when that number has changed, you should save it somewhere). Newly bought books get the "Nook Study"-DRM, configuration is explained at Alfs Website, but not really easy (calling an URL, getting a longer Hex-String, stripping extra characters etc.).
– Adobe Digital Editions should be installed and configured.
– Kobo: hate, hate, hate the Webstore and have only bought a few free books there, and my entire collection from Sony was transferred there, as Sony closed (still my favorite closed book-store for ebooks RIP Sony). The books I bough may have been without DRM or the Adobe-ID from other stores worked in stripping DRM, I cannot really say.
If it DeDRM does not work or stops working, the usual procedure would be for Windows AND Mac: Add a new User, to start without baggage. Install Calibre if you use it, new, download the DeDRM-Tools new, unzip. Install Kindle for PC/Mac, and other needed programs, like Adobe Digital Editions, Login with your credentials and download your books NEW, and test them, wether you can read them in the required program. If not, you have DRM on a book but the wrong credentials and cannot stripp them.
Hope that helps a little bit.
Nate Hoffelder July 6, 2015 um 6:58 am
That is the better answer, thanks.
SAD July 6, 2015 um 1:55 pm
Unfortunately, Kobo recently started refusing to sell me certain books because I live in the wrong country. 🙁
Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 6, 2015 um 2:07 pm
They used to be pretty careless about watching out or georestrictions. Either the publishers complained or Kobo got their act together and started restricting according to the publisher wishes. Georestrictions are a huge disservice in today’s world. You can try ordering directly from the publisher site, but they often don’t have the rights to sell (the author hasn’t sold World rights or the author did, but the publisher resold them to other countries separately.)
SAD July 6, 2015 um 2:18 pm
I use Feedbooks for the stuff I can’t get from Kobo, they’re not doing any geo-blocking. I have to go through Adobe and ePUBee to get rid of the DRM encryption, but so far it’s been working fine for me.
puzzled July 6, 2015 um 5:50 pm
Strangely, I VPNed into the UK to check out a book, and Kobo displayed a dollar oriented site (US/Canada?) rather than the usual pound oriented site. Once I logged in with my UK based account, it switched over to the UK site.
Purple Lady July 6, 2015 um 6:25 pm
Amazon’s drm has always been easy to strip, and Kobo is finally fixing drm free books that couldn’t be downloaded. But their price is just way too high. In the US coupons can’t be used on any big publishers books and I think Kobo is still on the old agency agreement, so Amazon always wins there. I just found recently that book prices in Kobo’s UK shop can be much cheaper even with the difference in pounds and dollars, so I may start to buy there. You can’t use coupons on much there either though.
Miriam November 3, 2016 um 2:28 am
I use Kobo because it supports the local indie bookstore, and I’m willing to pay the extra money for that. For DRM’d books that Kobo doesn’t carry, I use Kindle or Feedbooks. Books in the public domain or with a CC license I deal with on a case-by-case basis.
Caroline November 4, 2016 um 8:46 am
I love Kobo, the new Aura One is my fourth Kobo. Once, I was searching a ebook and it’s wasn’t on there site so I wrote them a email and a couple of days later they contacted me to say there we’re sorry, they contacted the author and now have the ebook on there site.