Regarding eBooks: To DRM or not to DRM; that is the question.

“…whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous [book thieves], or to take arms against a sea of [pirates] and by opposing, end them.”

Okay, so now that I’ve butchered Shakespeare’s Hamlet, let me ask the simpler question: Why wouldn’t you, as someone who publishes eBooks, use Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Now, I ask that question with the assumption that you’ll be making your eBook available most everywhere eBooks are sold—not just Amazon (MOBI), but Smashwords and BookieJar (EPUB, PDF, etc.), and all the distribution channels they provide (B&N, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, etc.).

As long as buyers, your customers, can go somewhere to purchase whatever electronic format they want, why wouldn’t you use DRM where you can to protect against piracy?

I’m trying to figure out the downside of doing so, as I’ve seen some discussions suggesting DRM is a bad idea. Why? What am I missing?

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15 responses to “Regarding eBooks: To DRM or not to DRM; that is the question.

  1. Anonymous Gamer

    I used to be an honest person like you, then I took DRM in the knee.
    Seriously, six years after obtaining legal title to a copy of Myst IV, I still haven’t played it because the DRM on the second disc prevents it from installing properly, and the patch that’s supposed to fix this issue requires the game to be fully installed.
    That’s why, if I want a game or book, I look for fanfic and free legal games, downloading cracks when I have no other option. I have to look for free stuff because no one accepts phone credit anymore.

    • Thanks, AG. We’ve conlcuded that we have to trust our readers and do right by them, knowing that some will take advantage. But DRM causes too many problems, for too many reasons, for too many people. So DRM-free it is.

      I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

  2. The reason to avoid DRM for me is simply that none of these DRM companies or DRM schemes last forever, and when they inevitably fail or change, the only people who are hurt are the consumers.

    If you want to sell your book everywhere, sell it without DRM. I think everywhere needs to include the future generations who won’t be able to use the DRM versions of books.

  3. I absolutely agree with you both Cheri and Lora. That is why I started publishing with a German publisher, located in Munich (http://www.grin.com/en/) who also provides its eBooks without any DRM. It’s easy and I mustn’t think about this complicated publishing process at e.g. amazon anymore, too. See you there – dear collegues.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with Lora. I feel DRM is just far too restrictive in terms of marketing and keeping readers happy. I’m willing to chance it with my own novel. I just read a post by JA Konrath just today in which he said there are no studies that suggest that piracy kills sales. In other words, it gets the book out to more readers than it would have otherwise.

    I’m not condoning piracy in any way. But I don’t think annoying and inconveniencing the majority of your readers to protect your book from the “few” is the right way to go.

    Just my two cents. =)
    ~Cheri

    • I appreciate it, Cheri, and that was worth at least 25 cents! 🙂 I may be leaning towards no DRM.

      Frankly, I think if we price our books reasonably enough, there’s little incentive to go through the hassles of pirating it anyway. At least for most people.

    • Re: piracy, Neil Gaiman actually did an experiment to show that piracy helped sell more books. In places where his work was pirated the most, he had the most sales. He did a whole interview about it.

      I don’t know much bout DRM, but I thought Gaiman’s article was interesting.

      • Yeah, I saw that too.

        I’ve been trying to get all sides of the argument, and I’m concluding that Amazon has pushed a lot of people into using DRM to protect not the authors or publishers, but themselves.

      • I think that conclusion may not exactly be warranted, as I think that ebook piracy is an expression of demand for the book, just from readers who wouldn’t buy the book at whatever price. Still, that the most popular and most pirated titles coincide gives no support to the idea that piracy harms sales.

        If you found a title that was much-pirated but comparatively low in sales juxtaposed with similar books, then you might be empowered to conclude that piracy was hurting sales.

        • jdac, I’ve concluded that piracy is not the crippling problem that some have made it out to be. I’ve also concluded that the biggest screamers are the legacy publishers offering eBooks for ridiculously high prices of $12.99-14.99. Absurd. And prime treasure for the pirates.

  5. I live in Japan. I cannot buy ebooks with DRM. Therefore, I don’t buy ebooks with DRM. End of story.

    Moreover, if I’m in a country where I CAN buy DRM books and buy an ebook for one device, then that device breaks, or gets old, or I buy a new one, or upgrade, or whatever, I can’t read my ebook on the new device.

    DRM is not fool-proof. With tools, pirates can remove DRM from books in 5 minutes (I’ve done it to read books I LEGALLY PURCHASED on my LEGALLY PURCHASED device, because the website did not bother to warn me ahead of time that they were incompatible.) DRM does absolutely nothing to stop piracy, but causes a whole bunch of trouble for honest people who just want to read your books.

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