Still not living in the future

Twice this week I’ve tried to be a good little boy and pay for digital content instead of just getting it off of Usenet or some BitTorrent site. And twice I’ve been shut down. Apple may have finally solved the DRM problem as it pertains to music, but there are still a whole lot of other hurdles on the track.

Today I saw that Michael Givens had published a book on Apollo: Adobe Apollo In Flight. It’s offered as a PDF eBook. That’s cool, because I don’t generally actually read hardcopy these days. Without so much as a moment’s hesitation, I punched in my credit card number and $8 later I had my eBook.

Except, I didn’t.

I had an ETD file that was far too small to be an eBook. It had a cute little PDF icon, but Reader just sat there like a post when I tried to open the file. Being the curious kind of guy that I am, I opened up the file to peek inside. Sure enough, it was XML, and sure enough, there was a URL inside. A quick wget later and I had a 1.4MB file downloading. I opened up that file to see what it was, as it had an ENC extension. It was a PDF, so I tried opening it in Reader:

Adobe recommends that you activate Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat before continuing. Please visit to activate your Adobe software.

And by the way … Acrobat refused to open the file. Adobe apparently has a rather tight-fisted definition of the word “recommendation”.

This being a registered copy of Acrobat, further registration sounds a little hinky to me. I’m also wary of exactly what this registration process might entail. I’ve already paid for the book, so why can’t I just read the frickin’ thing? If it’s slathered in DRM, is the registration process going to lock it to this one workstation? What if I want to read it from my laptop while sitting in some teahouse or something?

The original page on the Sams Publishing site doesn’t say anything about DRM or the inability to read the file. I’m pretty sure I would have noticed something during the checkout process that would have said “this file has DRM” or even “this file comes with usage restrictions”.

I fire up VMWare and run my Debian install. It’s only got Reader 7 because the nice folks at Adobe don’t think Linux is a good place to put resources, so that’s the latest version. But, it’s worth a try, right?

Again no dice, but this time with a slightly different error message about a missing plugin. I run Synaptic to check for updates and whatnot — nada. I do have the acrobat-plugins package installed, and it is up to date. I search the Adobe site for some sort of separate download for the eBook plugin — nothing. All they have is Reader 7 as a tgz or rpm. Huzzah. Did I mention that Linux is not a priority for Adobe?

After rooting around for a bit on the internets, I find that you simply cannot read DRM-protected eBooks on Linux at this time. There is no workaround — it just is not possible. This has been a known problem since at least 2005, apparently. wtg, Adobe.

Now I am at a bit of an impasse. I could jump through the hoops any try to figure out how to get my Windows copy of Acrobat to open up the file, but then I am unsure of the side-effects. Or I could just give up and call the $8 a loss and wait for a few days to see if a hacked copy surfaces. With the mood I’m in right now, the hoop-jumping isn’t all that likely.

And, honestly, am I going to feel bad about downloading a hacked copy of something I’ve already paid for?

Previously: You Only Hurt the Ones Who Love You

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Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.