Ebooks: Abandoned providers, DRM and fair use

It’s been a few weeks now since the Fictionwise and Ereader.com websites have been mothballed by Barnes & Noble, but I’ve been doing some ebook stuff recently and tried to access both of them without thinking. I remember getting warning emails back in November – US and UK customers were apparently offered the chance to roll their bookshelves over to the Barnes & Noble website, but for the rest of us, it was basically “Make sure you’ve downloaded backups of all your books, and have a nice life.”

It’s certainly not a great digital tragedy, but I’m disappointed to see those ebook providers disappear. Ereader.com used to be ‘Peanut press palm reader’, which was my intro into the world of electronic books, and they had a great, smart format that was supported by a wide range of devices. Fictionwise didn’t have a great selection of novels to my taste, but I was able to pick up some great short stories there, (as well as some interesting audio adaptations,) and I loved their ‘multi-format DRM free’ program, where you could download the story you purchased in any of 13 different popular formats, all of them without any copy protection mechanisms.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve downloaded copies in every format that I might have a use for, so the biggest immediate impact is that I can’t use the ereader.com online bookshelf to access my books from my iPhone or android phone. With the iPhone, this is just an annoyance, because I can put up my book files on another website and access them that way. But the Ereader.com app for Android is just about useless now; the ereader.com website was the only way to load books onto it, and I’d only loaded on one book so far.

But I’ve figured out another way to get those books onto my phone.

I don’t really have strong feelings one way or another on DRM; I don’t think of it as an offense against human rights the way a few people seem to, and I don’t hesitate to spend my money on DRM content; depending on my impression of the DRM system and how likely it seems that I’ll lose access to the file entirely, of course. On the other hand, I don’t really scruple about hedging my bets and using software tools to crack DRM protection when it seems to be in my best interests.

I didn’t do much to crack ebooks until last year. By that point, I’d long since missed the boat on some DRM PDF ebooks I got way back when; Adobe stopped supporting that format, and the publisher I bought them from, (Simon & Schuster, through the old http://www.simonsaysshop.com site,) didn’t re-issue them all in Adobe Digital Editions. I can still read all of those books on one surviving device – my palm Tungsten C. But anyway…

In May of 2012, I had some technical difficulties with my HP ipaq Pocket PC, and had to do a hard reset and set the device up from scratch without a system backup. Most of that went smoothly, but the DRM activation for Microsoft Reader just wouldn’t go. I could use MS reader on the device, but not open up my DRM-protected files. That’s when I found out that there was a program to convert my .LIT files into DRM-free versions, as long as the laptop I was running the converter program on was DRM-activated. So I did that on all my DRM LIT files, and copied them to the pocket PC, as well as keeping backup copies on a flash drive.

I’ve experimented with some other DRM crack tools for ebooks over the past year – including one that works with Adobe Digital Editions, and one that cracks the basic credit card encryption for ereader.com files. These worked really well, and let me put all the books that I’d purchased for different formats onto the Kindle, which strikes me as being fair enough.

And now, I’ve discovered a kinda cool little trick. Amazon has its own digital bookshelf and document converter service, that I can access with a smartphone, (though I can’t download from the cloud to the Kindle itself on-demand, because that isn’t available over whispersync in Canada, sigh.) What I didn’t realize until this week is that I can put Kindle files that I’ve cracked or converted from other sources up on my Kindle cloud, just by emailing them to the converter service – there’s not much conversion to do, because they’re already in the right basic format, but it gets them there. AND it keeps the previous author info, instead of putting in my email address as the author the way it does when I send an MSword document in to be converted.

Have you lost e-books to format changes or collapsed providers? Do you distrust ebook services in general? Or do you have your own tales of ebook wizardry and triumph to share?

One Response to Ebooks: Abandoned providers, DRM and fair use

  1. I registered with Barnes and Noble to move my eReader bookshelf over to Nook and got an email in December or so saying it would happen in a few weeks. Absolutely nothing yet, and their customer service haven’t responded beyond logging my enquiries.

    Fortunately I downloaded all my books to Calibre, and have cracked the DRM where necessary. Looks like I’ll be deleting the unused Nook reader and be using Kindle from now on.


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