Thursday, November 26, 2015

The curse of DRM - can't read new book because Adobe E_ACT_NOT_READY

This is why we should all loathe Digital Rights Management in books. I download the EPUB version of a Google Play book I bought and I got this when I launched the .acsm file

Screen Shot 2015 11 26 at 9 49 49 AM

The E_ACT_NOT_READY error message is a longstanding Adobe Digital Reader problem. It can have many causes, from a server outage to authorization problems. In this case I attempted to deauthorize my account and I got an error message that deauthorization failed.

The next step is to quite Adobe Digital Editions and “Navigate to /Users//Library/Application Support/Adobe/Digital Editions and drag the activation.dat file to the trash.” You then have to attempt to download again — by launching the .ascm file. This worked for me.

In my case I think the bug is related to restoring to a new machine from backup. The Adobe authorization is machine specific. Adobe forgot the use case of doing a restore from backup, so their code hangs and produces a default error message. The app should simply request authorization for the new machine. I suspect I deauthorization failed because, of course, I wasn’t using the original machine. So I suspect I have a ghost machine authorization in my Adobe account — another ubiquitous but subtle DRM problem (most often seen with iTunes authorizations) that occurs in iOS as well as OS X and Windows. It’s a fundamental problem with DRM tied to a specific device that is not immortal.

I checked my Adobe ID Profile, and there is no way to view authorized devices or deactivate them. I bet some users run into an activation limit.

I still think the slow/stalled adoption of eBooks is because of Apple/Adobe/Amazon DRM. In Emily’s words “English majors buy books. English majors don’t tolerate stupid software.”

We should be doing watermarking DRM instead and it should be a part of the EPUB specification.

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