Digital handcuffs for Apple ebooks?

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Apple’s old digital rights management software (DRM), FairPlay, is slated to make a comeback with the e-books it will be selling on its iBook Store. While music users have been free of these ‘digital handcuffs’ for the last year, Alex Pham reports that readers will not be.

When Apple launches its iBook store to sell titles for its new iPad device in March, many of its titles are expected to come with a set of handsome digital locks designed to deter piracy....Next month, Apple will be dusting off those digital cuffs for books, according to sources in the publishing industry.


Pham speculates that publishers that have fought against DRM -- notably O’Reilly Media -- may opt out of Apple’s digital rights protections. Others are expected to double up, using FairPlay with other copy protection software.

Books purchased for the Kindle come with digital rights management software, which in many cases limits the number of times a downloaded book can be purchased. This information is not available to the customer at time of purchase (it’s buried somewhere in the user agreement), so when one heavy gadget user blogged about hitting the limit last summer, there was a flurry of consternation.

As the publishing industry tries to find a way to incorporate electronic books in its business model, it can learn from the successes -- and failures -- of the music industry, which stumbled over this hurdle first. The music industry couldn’t make DRM work, and savvy users like Cory Doctorow say publishers shouldn’t be able to either.

For now, though, it looks like the iBook Store will be under digital lock and key.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Follow me on Twitter @paperhaus