Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is DRM helping or hurting ebooks?

There was a very interesting story on NPR yesterday about whether DRM — digitial rights management — is helping or hurting ebook sales. It's a well-done story that quotes experts on both sides.

Personally, I think DRM is a bad idea. I completely agree with the author who says it makes it too difficult and frustrating for readers, as well as with the book marketing expert who says that filesharing actually helps to build a fan base by getting the word out.

Also, as I've heard (read) Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly point out before: The people who pirate ebooks would probably not go out and buy the ebook if they couldn't steal it, so it's not actually resulting in lost sales.

I think you have to look at the cost in each scenario. You could put DRM on your ebooks, make sure no one can pirate them, but also create lots of problems for legitimate customers. Or you can not use DRM, risk a few pirated copies, but also gain fans through filesharing. While filesharing may cost you a sale occasionally in the short run, who is to say that 1) the new fan would have heard of you and bought the ebook themselves, had they not been sent the file, anyway, and 2) that they won't go out and buy your next book, now that they know who you are?

I am curious what other writers and authors think. Do you support DRM? Or do you think it's a bad idea?


Lori said...

Books fall into that sharing category - you lend it to a friend, you give it to the used book store, etc. Historically, it's been a market that has a strong resale market.

That said, I think the main reason the resale market survives is that without the initial sale, there would be no product. The publisher and author get their profit, and the used book sellers get the opportunity to make whatever they can from "pre-read" books (like that PC term?).

How that translates into digital form SHOULD be the same, in my opinion. As long as that first copy was purchased, fair play to the reseller. HOWEVER, these are copies that can be copied and redistributed. There's no real "used" feeling to it in the same sense as there is with hard copies. Without the tangible product, can (or should) the same rules apply?

I'm not all that familiar with DRM, but if they're proposing allowing the buyer/reader to share that file once or twice, fine. If they're forbidding it altogether, that's a little harsh.

I can see the reasons for it, but I'm not sure it's going to help the industry to put restrictions on what one can do with their purchases.

Lori said...

That should read "..what one can do with one's purchases." Entirely too little tea this morning. :)


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