Major Publishers and online bookstores in Europe have been slowly been forgoing Adobe DRM and embracing Digital Watermarking technology. They are doing this because it is easier for the customer to be able to load the eBooks they purchase onto their e-Reader, smartphone or tablet. This phenomenon has not crossed over in a meaningful way in North America, but one company hoping to spark a revolution.
Netgalley is certainly not a household name, but its a company that specializes in providing members of the media and reviewers with ARC editions of an e-book before it is officially released. This basically gives everyone a chance to read and digest the book and have a review ready before it hits the the shelves at your local store.
In order to make their e-books more accessible Netgalley is giving publishers the option to opt into social DRM, instead of Adobe Digital Editions. This will make it far easier to copy the book to many different devices, without the need of external programs.
A watermark or social DRM is imperceptible to the average book reader because the underlying technology is invisible to the naked eye. The way it handles data can take two distinctive forms: personal information about the user who purchased the eBook (such as an email address) or an ID number that the distributor can use to look up the user or transaction in a database and is otherwise meaningless.
There are a few major players in the Watermarking arena that have gained the most traction from publishers and have been adopted by some fairly big companies. The Dutch firm Booxtream has been providing social DRM since 2011 to its roster of Dutch bookstores and has recently spread their wings globally. One of their biggest clients isPottermore. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter focused online community and ebookstore. They have been using the technology since the service first launched in 2012.
HarperColllins and ebook distributor LibreDigital decided to embrace a competitor; Guardian Watermarking for Publishing from Digimarc. It is a fairly new anti-piracy technology that not only embeds an invisible watermark into eBooks, but it also crawls the web 24×7 searching for watermarked content. When a watermark is detected, Digimarc provides the unique identifier to the publisher to match against its own transaction records. Digimarc Guardian Watermarks do not contain any personal or user information; the Digimarc Watermarks contain only anonymous digital IDs.
“It’s always been important to NetGalley that we offer readers of influence as many ways to access content as possible, while also preserving the publishers’ legitimate right to protect their content,” said Susan Ruszala, President of NetGalley. “We are pleased to support the emergence of Social DRM as an additional reading option for publishers to enable if they choose.”
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.