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Social DRM Provider BooXtream Can Now Add Watermark DRM to Kindle eBooks

BooXtream-logo-RGB-hires-300x56[1]A small Dutch company may have just cancelled out one of clubs that Amazon uses to bludgeon the competition.

BooXtream, a startup which is best-known for providing the social DRM used by the Pottermore ebookstore, can now help publishers and indie ebookstores sell DRMed ebooks which can be read on the Kindle.

BooXtream can’t help the ebookstores sell ebooks with Kindle DRM, but they do offer a type of DRM that comes in a close second. It’s called digital watermarks, and it is a type of DRM is already widely used in audiobooks and mp3 but it’s still relatively uncommon in ebooks.

At its simplest, a digital watermark is a string of text or other data that is inserted into a file when it is downloaded by a customer. Unlike other types of ebook DRM, the digital watermark doesn’t lock down or control how a file is used. It only identifies the customer who bought it, making it as effective at preventing piracy as any other form of ebook DRM while at the same time giving publishers a way to track down the original customer of a pirated ebook.

Unlike Adobe DRM, a digital watermark doesn’t have any effect on the experience of using an ebook, and it won’t interfere when a customer converts the ebook to another format or loads the ebook onto their Kindle. The Kindle won’t even notice the DRM is there, and that means publishers now have a way to bypass Amazon’s Kindle ebookstore and sell DRMed ebooks directly to Kindle owners.

Amazon’s exclusive control of the Kindle Store and Kindle DRM is one of the ways that they have maintained a dominant position in the ebook market. But now thanks to BooXtream publishers can start chipping away at Amazon’s market dominance while still supporting Kindle owners.

BooXtream was launched in 2010 by Icontact, a Dutch firm that has been providing a similar digital watermark service to Dutch audiobook distributors since 2006. BooXtream has licensed their DRM platform to Epub ebookstores around the world, including in the Netherlands, Japan, the Sony ebookstore in Germany, and the aforementioned Pottermore.

P.S. This new support was actually announced a couple weeks ago, but it looks like I am the first to report on it.

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TheSFReader May 12, 2013 um 9:16 am

Problem is, the bookseller needs to make sure the publisher is OK to "Downgrade" the protection from full-DRM to Watermarks.
In France, where Watermarks are asked fo by some publishers, the problem is that "big" ebooksellers (Google, Apple, Amazon, Kobo etc), don’t do Watermarks, and apply full-blown encryption based DRM instead.

Tom Semple May 12, 2013 um 10:28 am

Pearson Education (publisher of many imprints including Addison-Wesley, Sams, Que, Prentice Hall Professional, Peachpit, Adobe Press) has offered watermarked ebooks in PDF, ePub and mobi for some months (possibly a year or two) when buying directly from their web sites. If BooXTream is only just now offering this capability, then PE must be using some other technology (perhaps even something developed in house).

But this is only going to be a big deal when Amazon, Apple, Google etc offer such an option (or publishers insist on them doing so).

Nate Hoffelder May 12, 2013 um 11:12 am

BooXtream has been offering this service since 2010, so they could be providing it to Pearson as well.

Sam spade May 12, 2013 um 11:21 am

Confused. What is unique about watermarking for the kindle? Why wouldn’t the same base file be used for ePub and mobi? Problem with social drm is not the ability to watermark but the ability to search the net for the watermarked titles!

Nate Hoffelder May 12, 2013 um 11:29 am

Selling a watermarked Kindle ebook is effectively the same as an Epub ebook, yes, but it saves the effort of making the customer convert the ebook.

fjtorres May 12, 2013 um 12:36 pm

The news here is thatBooxStream is now offering ebook savvy publishers and bookstores the ability to sell unencrypted but watermarked Kindle files to the Kindle installed base. If they’re really savvy vendors, they’ll set things up so the customer can buy off their website and have the file emailed the customer’s Kindle email address as a personal document. (As BAEN has been doing for years.)
The savviest of the savvy will set up a Kindle storefront that works fast and smoothly with the Kindle devices' browser to counter the built-in Kindle storefront.

The laziest or least savvy will simply rely on the user to download the file to a PC and manually transfer the files to the Kindle.
Anybody want to bet what most would-be Amazon competitors will choose? 😉

Next time somebody floats the worn myth that you can only buy Kindle books from Amazon, a quick link to the BooxStream Press Release should dispell the FUD. (Kinda kills all the "anti-trust" allegations about "closed" Kindles, too.)

Any half-way competent ebookstore operator can set up a Kindle compatible site and then email weekly or monthly ebook "newletters" to their registered customers that opt-in. Promos, samples, discount codes, included. And Amazon will do nothing to stop them.

Of course, they’ll still have to provide a better overall shopping experience than Amazon. But that is hardly impossible, is it?

Ebook Spending on the Rise | Digital Book World May 13, 2013 um 8:06 am

[…] Publishers Using BooXtream Can Sell DRM Ebooks on Kindle (The Digital Reader) The Dutch start-up is providing digital watermarks that identify the customer. This sort of DRM doesn’t impact user experience or control how the file can be used. With watermark technology publishers can sell DRM ebooks directly to Kindle users without going through the Amazon ebookstore. […]

David May 13, 2013 um 11:39 am

At last DRM done properly. In stead of treating all their customers as potential crooks publishers can now track down and prosecute the real offenders.

'Big Media' are you listening?

Dale May 13, 2013 um 3:00 pm

I used something like this to help identify a book reviewer who was distributing the ARCs she received to various torrent sites and book sharing forums. It was difficult to tell which reviewer was responsible, as she’d wait a few weeks to do it (after it was already in the hands of several reviewers), and strip the not for distribution message and more obvious watermarking. So we set up a sting. Sent out slightly different ebooks to each reviewer, tweaking minor points of punctuation here or there where it wouldn’t be noticed, things that would remain intact during any format conversions. After that, we waited for copies to appear on the pirate sites, downloaded a few to check against our records, and we had our culprit. At first she tried to claim someone must’ve hacked her computer, but then she admitted that she had indeed been distributing review copies without permission and promised to stop. The next day she took her review blog offline and disappeared. No idea whether she’s reappeared elsewhere, but if she’s still up to her old tricks she’ll know better than to share one of my client’s books again.

David Sentelle July 29, 2013 um 2:42 pm

So, when people steal books to electronically distribute, do they do anything to remove the watermark? I would suspect that it would be easily identified and removed by would-be thieves. Then again, someone acting so sophisticated is going to get through any DRM you put on it anyway.

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