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Last modified: November 14, 2001
Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) Working Group

[October 26, 2000] The Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) Working Group is an organization of companies, organizations, and individuals developing a standard for protecting copyright in electronic books and for distributing electronic books among publishers, distributors, retailers, libraries, and consumers. The draft EBX specification accommodates a variety of content formats for electronic books, including Open eBook Publication Structure and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). The EBX Working Group operates under the auspices of the Book Industry Study Group."

"The Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) Working Group develops open, freely available, and commercially viable standards for the secure transmission of electronic books (e-books) among rights holders, intermediaries, and users. EBX addresses such issues as the purchase, sale, lending, giving, printing, subscribing, and licensing of electronic books. Independent of content format, EBX strives to embrace levels of usability, internationalization, authentication, accountability, auditing, and robust security sufficient to satisfy all participants in the value chain. Through cooperation with other standards efforts, EBX aims to facilitate the growth of e-book markets."


  • EBX web site

  • EBX Working Group Members

  • Specification page. "A standard for protecting copyright in electronic books and for distributing electronic books among publishers, distributors, retailers, libraries, and consumers."

  • Meeting Schedule

  • EBX Working Group Membership. WG bylaws and terms.

  • Contact:

  • Book Industry Study Group

  • Sample EBX voucher encoded in XML, fulfillment instruction message, etc.

  • The Electronic Book Exchange System (EBX). Version 0.8. July 2000 Draft. "An interim, incomplete draft and has not been approved as a standard by the EBX Working Group." 109 pages. Editorial contact: Glassbook, Inc., 1601 Trapelo Rd., Waltham, MA 02451, tel. 781-434-2000; "[This is] the complete technical specifications for the Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) system for interoperable applications and devices that use public-key cryptography for copyright protection and distribution of electronic books. The EBX system is being developed by the EBX Working Group, whose members are Adobe Systems Incorporated, the American Library Association, Audible, ContentGuard,, Glassbook, GlobalMentor, Nokia,,, Thomson Consumer Electronics, Versaware, and Yankee Rights Management." This document describes the Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) system. The EBX system defines the way in which electronic books (e-books) are distributed from publishers to booksellers and distributors, from booksellers to consumers, between consumers and between consumers and libraries. It describes the basic requirements of electronic book reading devices and the electronic books themselves. It also describes how these 'trusted' components interact to form a comprehensive copyright protection system that both protects the intellectual property of authors and publishers as well as describes the capabilities required by consumers. In addition, the model describes in general how products and revenue for those products are generated and managed." While the The EBX system does not define a specific 'content' file format, it does define vouchers, which are encoded in XML. "EBX is primarily concerned with the creation and transfer of digital objects called vouchers. A voucher is an electronic description of e-book permissions transferred from one book owner in the network to another book owner. EBX vouchers are encoded in XML. A book voucher contains the following information: (1) ID - ISBN or Digital Object Identifier (DOI) of the e-book content object. (2) ContentKey - Content-decryption key (e.g., 56-bit DES). (3) CopyCount - Number of copies of the content object the holder of the voucher is allowed to view/lend/give/sell. (4) Permissions - Various permissions that the holder of the voucher has: (a) Lendable - Whether the holder can lend the voucher. (b) Givable - Whether the holder can give the voucher to another entity. (c) Sellable - Whether the holder can sell the voucher to another entity. (d) LendingTimeout - Amount of time the holder is allowed to borrow the voucher. (e) PersonalUseCopies - Maximum number of personal use copies per PersonalUseTime. (f) PersonalUseTime - Day, Week, Month, Year. (g) PersonalUseCopySize - Paragraph, page, chapter, whole." Section 4.7.3 describes "Handoff Response from Voucher Server (XML fulfillment instructions): The voucher server responds to the handoff request by returning fulfillment instructions that the protocol engine in the EBX reading system uses to obtain the vouchers and books for the order. As a result of this response, the reading system must receive the fulfillment instructions. Fulfillment instructions are in XML format..." Section 4.8.3 describes "Response from Voucher Server (purchase, borrow): The voucher server responds with an XML object containing the status of the operation and, if successful, the voucher(s) for the particular order. The returned voucher(s) have the content-key encrypted with the public key of the client, which was obtained from the credentials sent on the request. Metadata for the particular books, including the URL for the encrypted content files, is contained in the voucher(s) that are received." Section 4.8.5 describes "Acknowledgment Request to Voucher Server (ACK): For fail-safe error recovery, the client must make a request to the voucher server to acknowledge that it received the vouchers successfully and added them to persistent storage. The client must make an acknowledgment request if it has successfully received and stored any vouchers. The request contains data in XML format. The XML data includes the same action and orderID elements as the previous voucherRequest object that was sent to the voucher server. The entry element for vouchers received is not required. If the entry element is omitted, it is assumed that all vouchers from the previous request were received. If the client wishes to add every voucher received in the entry tag, it may. However, if only some of the vouchers could be stored, then in this case the successfully stored vouchers are passed as entry elements." [...] "It is important that the format of Vouchers and Credentials be standardized to ensure interoperability between publishers, booksellers, libraries, and consumers. To allow vouchers and credentials to be readily used by many components, the object format for these objects is XML. Since metadata is not stored in vouchers or credentials, the use of XML in EBX is limited to the UTF-8 encoding." [cache]

  • [October 27, 2000] "Mad Scramble for Mindshare In Digital Rights Management. [Digital Rights Management: Peacekeepers Needed.]" By Mark Walter and Mike Letts. In The Seybold Report on Internet Publishing Volume 5, Number 2 (October 2000), pages 9-15. Feature article, Special Report: SSF 2000. ['DRM vendors are scrambling for market share even as standards are developed. Why does DRM matter? Hoping that DRM exhibitors at Seybold San Francisco 2000 would offer some answers on how to protect their digital content, it's likely that many publishers walked away more confused than ever. Although DRM was a hot topic at this year's West Coast event, attendees found themselves in the midst of a bazaar of incompatible choices made worse by the confusing number of multi-faceted vendors eager to establish their names. As one vendor put it: "The action on the show floor isn't really between vendor and customer, it's between vendor and vendor." For those seeking answers, we offer our latest status report.]' "These are complicated but exciting times for the book publishing industry. Traditionally the laggards of technology adoption, book publishers find themselves at the nexis of an important development in the evolution of digital media: color the rise of e-books and other offline digital media players. The current generation of DRM tools are being tested for e-books, but many of them can be easily adapted to other digital media, including music and video. Essential ingredients. For those still unsure as to exactly what DRM technologies do, here's a quick summary of the basic components: (1) Encryption: encryption is based on algorithms that are published and not patentable; (2) Authentication: a DRM system will verify that a document is an authentic, unaltered copy of the original work; (3) Enforcement of rights [...] Some progress has been made. The Association of American Publishers has set up three subcommittees that are defining common vocabulary and metadata, as well as painting some typical scenarios. This summer the Open E-Book Forum formed a DRM committee [Digital Rights Management Strategy Working Group], which issued a draft 'Framework for the Epublishing Ecology' to foster discussion. At the same time, the EBX working group, which is writing a protocol for digital exchange of e-books, is considering its options for how rights are expressed. By late September, the OEB Forum and the EBX Working Group were discussing how they might cooperate and minimize duplicating efforts. . . The most promising candidate thus far to define such standards is the Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) Working Group. Founded by Glassbook but now operating under the auspices of the Book Industry Study Group, the EBX committee is developing a protocol for transmitting secure, copy-protected e-books among publishers, distributors, retailers, libraries and consumers. The hope is that a single, open standard that is independent of data format and viewing software will help grow the e-book business by laying the groundwork for communication among disparate software systems. One of the knottier issues still facing the group is how far to extend the scope of licensing rights that are defined within EBX. The current draft covers a variety of usage terms and conditions, but it is by no means exhaustive. As it strives to nail down the language and syntax of its rights-definition component, the EBX group is considering two rights-definition languages that have more depth than the current EBX draft. The first is XrML (Extensible Rights Management Language), owned by ContentGuard, the rights-management software company spun off from Xerox earlier this year. The second is the Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL), developed by IPR Systems of Australia. The third option the group will consider is writing its own rights specification, which would likely be a subset of what XrML and ODRL handle."

  • See also on digital rights management:

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