Books Yearn to Be Free of Copy Protection

Added features haven’t justified the inconvenience of special E-readers.


Random House and Penguin have said they'll soon start selling audiobooks without copy protection, making it easier to play their books on the same hand-helds that play our music. The publishers seem worried that their audiobooks with digital rights management aren't selling.

I can only hope the same will happen for specialized E-book readers from Sony and Amazon. They just don't do enough to justify the hassles of their copy protection.

Those devices offer great screens and innovative features for reading electronic books, writes Michael McGuire at Gartner. But in the end, consumers mostly want the content and have resisted the cost of books that can play in only one device.

Maybe some consumers are drawn by add-ons, such as bookmarking and highlighting. But McGuire says consumer electronics makers seem overly fixated on adding things, including all the hype about the extra capabilities of Blu-ray disk players. "Truly, some of these features are nice to have, but really, isn't the movie, the TV show, or the book what matters?"

In my life, features get trumped by convenience. Lifting copy protection from audiobooks is a step in that direction. We can only hope the E-book readers aren't far behind.