Hank Jordan's Blog
Writing / Publishing / Business Consulting

What Is E-Book DRM All About?

December 2nd, 2009 by Hank

DRM, also known as digital rights management, is a copy protection scheme designed to prevent e-book piracy.

It tries to prevent customers from copying and re-distributing e-books. A DRM e-book is licensed like software — you’re not allowed to share it with friends or resell it.

A big debate is underway in e-book publishing circles about DRM.  Does it restrict sales of e-books, or does piracy prevail with non-DRM-protected books?  Many believe that the piracy could even help, instead of hurt, book sales.  They reason that the pirate would never buy the book anyhow, and a pirated book may get noticed by a consumer who will buy the book, or another book by the same author.

Most large publishers refuse to sell their e-books at this time without DRM-protection. They fear that without copy protection, readers would pirate their e-books and soon, millions of unpaid copies would be in the hands of ungrateful readers.

Readers who purchase e-books today from Amazon (Kindle) and some other sources, don’t even know their books are cursed by DRM.  Since Amazon is the world’s leading book store, what they do or don’t do is significant.  It’s up to the reading public to decide about the issue and influence the publishers and distributors.

Many people believe DRM is counterproductive to the future of book publishing. DRM treats law-abiding customers like criminals by limiting their ability to enjoy their book their way. It prevents them from lending the book to anyone.  It prevents moving your own book to another reading device. DRM adds unnecessary complexity and expense to books.

Barnes & Noble has introduced its new Nook e-book reader in direct competition to Amazon.  The Nook allows the owner to lend a book, but for only a limited time.  Expect a major battle to develop between Amazon and Barnes & Noble in this new e-book war.

DRM is a ticking time bomb for customers and publishers. A rude awakening may come when customers try to move their books to a different e-reading device, only to discover that it cannot be done.  Forward-thinking publishers do not put the DRM protection on their e-books – they make the books readable on a variety of reader devices.

—Thanks to Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, for much of the information in this article.

Posted in E-Books

One Response

  1. Gregory Jordan

    DRM is an interesting issue that will continually grow in importance. I wonder how DRM will affect other types of content, too. For example, music is a type of digital content that is influenced by this DRM issue. Also, digital photography and video are affected by DRM.

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