Kobo store ebook restrictions and DRM

I was looking to buy a few ebooks since I’ve been using my Android phone for reading moreso than for other applications and I thought the Canadian company Kobo would have a fantastic store. Unfortunately that turned out not to be the case. Their website is confusing and it lists download options. Notice how this is plural rather than singular? Yeah, I noticed that and following that text it said “ADOBE DRM EPUB”. That’s three separate words and so I thought these were different options. Adobe means PDF, DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) means whatever crap Kobo wanted to use (kinda like the Kindle format), and EPUB was the free and open e-book standard.

It turns out I’m too optimistic and an idiot. When I bought the ebook, I ended up getting an EPUB format but with DRM wrapped around it! When I downloaded it, the Kobo ebook store said I needed extra software to read the book. What the fuck is the point of using a free/open e-book standard that can be read by any ebook reader when you’re going to wrap it up in shit and require even more software to be downloaded?? They wanted me to download the Adobe Digital Editions reader which is just a bloated ebook reader that can peel off the shitty DRM they add, and they wanted me to download the Kobo App for Android. This is like forcing me to download a particular type of Notepad program to be able to read a text file. This is stupid. I should have the choice of ebook readers to use for reading my books. Maybe if the Kobo app was free/open-source and maybe if there were no Digital Restrictions Management on top of the EPUB format, then maybe I would use it.

It is absurd to use a free and open format but then encase it in a restrictive format. I immediately disputed the transaction in PayPal and I submitted a support ticket to Kobo. They took a day or two to reply, after each response from me they took their sweet time and they didn’t provide a solution at all. They just told me that the book I bought is only available in a single restrictive format, and that they would give me a store credit. The book was only $5.64 and so I decided to accept the store credit. This means that the next book I download from them will also have DRM.

It is possible to remove the restrictions that Adobe places on the ebooks and to get the actual EPUB file, but this requires that you have a Windows computer and download some software from the Internet (which is stored in a pastebin so it’s a little sketchy). There are ways to circumvent the restrictive format, but that’s not a good solution. What’s worse, is that in some countries like the United States there exist laws, like the DMCA, that prevent this kind of circumvention. I have no idea what the laws are like in Canada regarding the removal of restrictions from a free/open format.

The DefectiveByDesign website has some initiatives for pressuring Amazon and Barnes & Noble to remove DRM from their ebooks, I only hope that a Canadian version comes along soon and that we can start pressuring Canadian companies like Kobo to remove restrictions from their ebooks. The shopping experience was pretty awful overall, I had to enter my shipping address in order for them to tax me “properly”, the support department responded slowly and it took them a few emails for them to kick me up to Tier 2 support, and their solution was to make the problem go away by giving me store credit, as if I really want to buy more restricted ebooks from them. I’m recommending that no one buy a Kobo reader, that no one buy an ebook from their store either, until the DRM is removed.

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