Hacked: Amazon Kindle

Amazon’s popular (and sometimes controversial) e-reader, Kindle, has been hacked this week.  What this means for users is that it allows for all purchased content to be transferred off the device via a PDF file. 

amazonKindle e-books are sold as .AZW files which have DRM that stops users from transferring the purchased books to other devices that are not Kindles.  This has led to passionate debate over ownership issues of purchased material.

That should no longer be a problem thanks to an Israeli hacker that goes by the name of “Labba” who has cracked the DRM. A second hacker who goes by the handle, “I <3 cabbages,” has released the “Unswindle” program, which reformats digital content that is downloaded and stored on the Kindle for PC app, converting it to easily movable formats, such as PDF.

“Cabbages” did note that Amazon’s DRM process was tough to crack, although ultimately Amazon’s work was in vain. “Amazon actually put a bit of effort behind the DRM obfuscation in their Kindle for PC application. And they seem to have done a reasonable job on the obfuscation. Way to go Amazon! It’s good enough that I got bored unwinding it all and just got lazy with the Windows debugging APIs instead,” he said.

The hack is the latest to show the futility of digital rights management schemes, which more often than not inconvenience paying customers more than they prevent unauthorized copying. 

Is this the beginning of the end for Amazon’suse of DRM?  Apple was using it for their music business but stopped after figuring out they couldn’t win the digital battle versus hackers.  Once products become digital, over time, they stop being controlled by the vendor.  How Amazon will deal with this latest issue will interesting to watch in 2010.