How I Cracked The Slap And Lived To Tell About It


by - May 3rd, 2010


One of the first Australian ebooks I ever purchased legitimately through an Australian e-tailer was The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. And in order to read it I had to crack the DRM. DRM (digital rights management) is the extra bit of software attached to ebooks to stop people from copying digital products as they like. It’s a divisive issue, but it is at the centre of publishing ebooks in Australia.

At the time it was the only place I could find this book electronically (legitimately – there were plenty of pirated copies floating about). I was about to travel overseas with my Kindle and wanted to bring it with me without carrying the whole book. The book was sold as PDF with DRM by Adobe. Before I bought the book I googled whether it would be possible to crack the DRM, as I knew my iPhone and Kindle were not capable of reading the DRM on a PDF. There are thousands of people around the world interested in this kind of thing, so it took only a few minutes before I’d downloaded the software, downloaded the book and had cracked it using the software. These kinds of cracking programs pop up with different software authors every few months before getting shut down and then reopening somewhere else. They’re very difficult to stop, and I believe that as long as there is DRM there will be people willing to spend time and effort cracking it and making it available on the internet. From what I’ve read there is not a single major type of DRM that has not been cracked (the DRM used on the iPad is the only one that I haven’t seen a crack for – but I’m sure the situation is temporary).

All in all this is not something the average internet user would be bothered doing. Instead, they just wouldn’t buy the book at all. The current crop of people who read ebooks in Australia don’t significantly overlap with readers of paper books. If I want a book electronically, I either get it electronically or not at all.

The cracking process wasn’t difficult, but it helped to know a bit about the ins and outs of ebook formats and computers in general. However, the longer ebooks are available, and the more ubiquitous ebook readers become, the more readily available and easy-to-use these types of software packages will become. DRM generally makes early adopters pretty angry with publishers and record labels, because it makes the process unnecessarily difficult for legitimate purchasers. In general it is far easier to download a pre-cracked pirated version of a book than it is to crack the DRM on a legitimate purchase. DRM tends to push early adopters towards the easiest option – which in this case happens to be illegal.

I prefer to buy legitimate copies of books, because they tend to be formatted and typeset properly, unlike the scanned and digitised copies you are likely to see on pirate book websites. The care and attention given to them is (or should be) equal to a published book, and it pays off while you’re reading. However, I’m increasingly frustrated by DRM. Most of the people I know reading ebooks are doing so on their iPhone, their Kindle or their Sony Reader. Out of these three dominant readers (likely to be followed by the iPad shortly), very few Australian publishers support files readable on any of these devices. This type of scattered support is very frustrating for readers of ebooks – no publisher is ever going to be capable of covering every version of ebook format with DRM that can be read by every type of ebook reader. However, if books were sold without DRM in the first place, legitimate buyers of ebooks would be able to easily convert the book to the format of their choice – with the added benefit that the book would be ‘future proof’ (most types of current DRM will eventually become defunct and render reading of the copy-proof versions impossible).

Australian ebooks are currently sold at the same price as their paper counterparts. This is an economic decision I understand, but when you take into account how crippled the formats that are sold actually are, it is little wonder legitimate ebooks are selling so slowly.

What do you think? Have you ever cracked the DRM on an ebook? Does DRM turn you off purchasing ebooks? Are you willing to break the law in order to truly own a book you have paid for?


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Joel Naoum (113 Posts)

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No Responses to “How I Cracked The Slap And Lived To Tell About It”

  1. Lachlan Jobbins Says:

    Hey Joel,

    Another spot-on post.

    I think you absolutely nailed it here: ‘All in all this [cracking the DRM] is not something the average internet user would be bothered doing. Instead, they just wouldn’t buy the book at all.’

    I strongly suspect that local publishers are losing sales to piracy, simply because they currently make it too difficult to read in the format(s) readers want. What good is a PDF on anything but a screen? If it’s easier to download a pirated ePub copy than locate a legitimate one (if it even exists), then why wouldn’t they?

    I know at least one other person who has a similar issue – with Nam Le’s ‘The Boat’. It’s crazy. We’re all shooting ourselves in the foot.

    Lach

    P.S. Isn’t Christos Tsiolkas a genius? ‘The Slap’ was my absolute favourite book of 2009 [read in the ‘treeware’ version]

  2. joelblacklock Says:

    Yes – I loved The Slap – I probably should have mentioned that. The quality of the book wasn’t marred by the process of buying it! I’ve spoken to a couple of people in-house about DRM now, and they all completely disagree with me. I suspect it may turn out to be a generational thing. Many of the people making these decisions about DRM protection have never and would never pirate something – mostly, I suspect, for technical reasons. They really do not see the threat of piracy as serious, because they don’t do it, and don’t really know anyone who does.

    Having said that, I don’t think DRM will last with ebooks. I think it’s just a matter of time before readers settle in to using a few different ereaders and the ebook sellers no longer have a monopolistic motivation to force DRM on the books they sell. The same thing happened with iTunes music – it’s now sold DRM free.

  3. Sam Says:

    I thought that quite a few ebooks came with multiple licenses enabling you to own several copies? I thought the norm was three versions, enabling the owner to have one on there hand held device and others on their PC. Having said that, I have never downloaded a book so I think I’m way off.

  4. joelblacklock Says:

    Many come with multiple licenses. But those licenses are restricted to certain devices. For example, if you buy a Kindle book for your Kindle, you can read that book on your iPhone as well – but only through the Kindle iPhone app. Each vendor of ebooks creates a closed ebook ecosystem in order to force book buyers to only buy from them. It’s quite anti-competitive and anti-consumer – but it’s obviously better than only being able to read that one book on the one device. The ideal situation is that once you buy your book, YOU get to decide which device you read it on – be it your computer, iPhone, iPad, Kindle or whatever – without being beholden to a single ebook store.

  5. Nyssa Says:

    Years ago I had bought an ebook from Dymocks that was Adobe Digital Edition. Since I got an iphone, I figured why not re-download it and stick it on there. Of course that didn’t work! The only cracking software I found that was free put watermarks on every page ><

    So why would I ever buy from Dymocks again? They've just brought out yet another DRM – called DNL, which is by an Aussie group. Can't find out on the website if there's any iphone apps for it, or any devices it works on/with other than downloading the reader software on computers.

    I don't like this idea of not owning anything, but rather being 'loaned'. With music a few years back, I bought a few cds worth from NineMSN and it only had a 5 copy limit. Now it's on my old Mp3 player that I never use because I have my iphone. There were rumours about the Sims 3 having DRM that limited how many times you could install the game, and that's just plain fail.

    So yes…DRM = ftl.

  6. Joel Blacklock Says:

    Totally agree. DNL is a special format that’s used for Dymocks’s ridiculously overpriced Iliad ereader. Apparently it has provisions for including images and video etc. The only problem is, as far as I can tell, about three people own an Iliad. They cost over $1000!

  7. leta Says:

    Where can I find a PDF copy of the Slap? Any help finding it would be very much appreciated. Thanks

  8. Joel Blacklock Says:

    I believe you can buy a copy at ebooks.com.