eBook restrictions vex users

Publishers suggest that eBook restrictions are the result of device makers’ policies.
Publishers suggest that eBook restrictions are the result of device makers’ policies.

As more and more eReading devices flood the market, users are beginning to feel the restrictions imposed by copyright and digital rights management (DRM)—restrictions that some fear could hold back the use of eBooks in education.

Imagine this: You’re in the market for an eReader device and decide to buy a Kindle. Books for your Kindle must be purchased through Amazon’s eBook store. You can download the books you buy to your computer and/or your Kindle device.

Now, imagine that you’d like a Barnes & Noble Nook instead: Can you upload your Amazon eBooks to your Nook? Can you lend the books you’ve downloaded on your computer to friends? The answer to these questions is no, leading some to question whether purchasing an eBook for an eReader device is really buying the book at all.

“Having books on one eReader and not having access to [them] later [owing] to a want [or] need to switch [devices] can be a problem—one that is a major issue for the market at this time,” said Jay Diskey, executive director of the school division for the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Researching exactly what you can and can’t do with certain eReader devices can be daunting, but really the rules are simple: If you buy an eReader other than Apple’s iPad, you’re locked in … at least for now.

Kindle users are required to purchase their eBooks through Amazon’s eBook web site. Barnes & Noble Nook users are required to purchase eBooks through Barnes & Noble. Sony Reader users are required to purchase eBooks through the Sony Reader store. In all cases, once you’ve bought an eBook through these sources, you can’t read the text on a competitor’s eReading device.

iPad users, however, can access Kindle books by downloading an application that Amazon developed for reading its texts on iPhones and iPod touches. According to a recent blog post by Paul Hochman, manager of content and social media at Barnes & Noble, the company soon will be adding a Nook eReader app for the iPad as well.

Yet, books purchased through Apple’s iBooks store will not be compatible with the Kindle, Nook, or Sony Reader.

“DRM is a significant issue in the eBook market; there is no way to consider providing this kind of content without grappling with issues of DRM,” said Anne-Marie Deitering, Franklin McEdward Professor for Undergraduate Learning Initiatives at Oregon State University (OSU) and a leader in OSU’s library Kindle pilot.

The pilot project at OSU began last summer, when the university bought six Kindles so students could check them out. Because of the Kindle’s popularity at the time, and students’ desire to “try them out,” OSU decided Kindles were the devices best suited for the pilot, said Deitering.

After purchasing the six Kindles, the library immediately had 60 requests to use them. It now has 12 Kindles for lending out, which contain 121 downloaded eBooks. Both the eBooks and Kindles were purchased using library gift funds.

Titles are bought from Amazon upon the request of patrons, and students also can purchase books with their own Amazon account and read them on the library’s Kindles.

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