DRMs is a crucial issue for what concerns digital publishing and interoperability of e-book formats. How do you protect copyright within the Tolino system?
The Tolino ecosystem consequently protects the content during storage, the transport through the internet and also on the e-reading devices. Unauthorized copying is effectively protected. Still Tolino users will not even realize all this, it all happens in the background.
Yet DRM also has its dark sides. Walled garden systems like Apple and Amazon are using DRM as technical fence to lock the customers into their services. And customers are not even made aware of this. The DRM content will not work on any other device. If they ever switch their content will be lost!
We feel this is not acceptable and we provide an open system: Tolino users enjoy the freedom to move their content to other devices. In this case we apply the Adobe DRM system – currently the de-facto market standard. Supporting Adobe DRM unfortunately adds complexity – often enough on the part of the end user. We therefore encourage publishers to also consider Social DRM like watermarking. The music industry last gave up DRM completely and it turned out to boost sales.
Which are the future advancements of the project? Have you already identified possible improvements of the model?
Only recently, in November 2013, did we launched our Android Tablets. A smaller 7” device and a larger 8,9” device. Now we have a real product family on offer. And of course we are working on new device generations as we go along. Furthermore we are very fast in establishing new features for the consumer. We use methods of agile development to enhance the software in short cycles for both frontend and backend features. E.g. our Tolino Shine eReader customers already benefited from three functional upgrade packages – for free of course!
The unique alliance we have with the booksellers allow us to focus on those topics with the most customer benefit: our roadmap is defined in regular meetings with the experts in this market: the booksellers. Only recently have we established a feature to link the accounts of all booksellers within the Tolino alliance. So now customers can have all their e-books on their device and in their personal cloud storage – regardless where they have bought it. And, as mentioned above, we are exploiting possibilities to enable Tolino for the large number of independent booksellers, too.
To which extent your e-distribution model can be extended to other countries or it is based upon some peculiarity of the German-speaking area of the bookmarket?
The German market for sure is a ‘proof-of concept’ for the Tolino model. But the model is neither typical German nor bound on any national market. Tolino by the way is also present in Austria and Switzerland. Also there is no technical boundary that would keep it from being established in other countries, too. But we need partners: as a ‘white label’ ecosystem we do not enter markets on our own – we are dependant on booksellers or other distribution channels who actually own the customer relationship and simply use us to establish their own compelling consumer offering. As such we are unique and we believe there is a pan-European demand for the potential that lies within Tolino.
Can you already make an evaluation on the results of the project since it was launched?
With all due modesty I would call it a total success. And this opinion is shared by the booksellers, the consumers and the press. The expectations were by far exceeded: device sales top the forecasts by far and at the same time boost the e-book sales at to unpredictablyingly high level. The Tolino Shine e-reader was tested by the German independent ‘Stiftung Warentest’ as best ‘value for money’ device out of 16 tested ereaders. The customers appreciate the ease-of-use of the device and sales figures reflect that. All this gives us the positive feedback to continue our story.