Readers, authors and librarians against DRM
March 17, 2011 | 10:55 am
She created versions for Readers Against DRM, Authors Against DRM, and Librarians Against DRM.
If you share these sentiments, go to the ReadersBillofRights.info site, download the images and sprinkle them on your blog or web site. The images can be freely distributed, though please cite http://readersbillofrights.info as the source of the images.
DRM stands for “Digital Rights Management.” It’s a copy protection scheme designed to prevent piracy.
While few would disagree that authors deserve compensation for their hard work, the problem with DRM is that it treats law-abiding customers like criminals. DRM controls how, where and when a reader reads books.
Oh, and then there’s the small matter that DRM doesn’t work.
- Readers (who know about DRM) don’t like DRM
- DRM adds expense to books
- DRM makes books complex
- DRM limits accessibility to books, especially for those with vision disabilities who require Text-to-Speach (TTS)
- DRM doesn’t prevent piracy
The biggest threat facing authors and publishers today is not piracy, it’s obscurity. Anything that makes a book less accessible and less enjoyable makes it more obscure.
Piracy is an indication your content is in demand, yet it’s also an indication your content is not available, accessible or affordable to those who want it. Pirates satisfy demand not satisfied by the publisher.
The best method of combat piracy is to make purchasing preferable to pirating.
How do you do this? First, distribute your book to as many retailers as possible. If your book is available where customers want to shop, it’s easier for a reader to buy it than to look for an illegal copy. Second, price your book fairly. If the book is affordable to your customers, they have less incentive to steal it. Third, make your book available in multiple formats so it can be read on any e-reading device. Fourth, trust your customer by going DRM-free, and communicate to them that you trust them. Rather than threatening the customer with legal action, gently remind them of their ethical obligation to support the hard work of the author (This is the thinking behind the Smashwords License Statement).
At the risk of beating a dead horse (literally and figuratively), if a publisher were to do the opposite of my above four recommendations, then what you’d have are the practices of the big 6 traditional book publishers.
Isn’t it ironic that the DRM they require for their books is in reaction to a fear of a practice (piracy) encouraged by their own customer-unfriendly business policies? I’m referring to their practice of scarcity-as-a-business-model, high ebook prices, limited worldwide distribution, limited formats and unwillingness to trust the customer. For more horse-beating, see my last post, The Author Uprising against Big Publishing.
There will always be scoundrels and cheapskates who will never pay for anything. Those people would never be your customer anyway so they don’t represent a lost sale. And who knows, they might even love your book so much they rave about it to their more ethically-inclined friends.
Some best-selling authors such as Paolo Coelho are known to have deliberately encouraged piracy of their books. Kevin Kelly, last year at the Writing for Change Conference in November, told the crowd he views piracy as a tax on success, a tax he said he’s happy to pay.
A couple years ago, I remember one prospective Smashwords author wrote me and said, “Do you think I’m an idiot? There’s no way I’m going to publish DRM-free at Smashwords. Within days there will be millions of stolen copies across the Internet!” I shared this story later in a talk I gave at the IBPA’s Publishing University conference in New York, and afterward one author walked up to me and said, “Are you kidding? I’d pay to have my book stolen a million times!”
There’s also a growing body of evidence that piracy doesn’t harm sales. Might piracy even improve sales? This is the conclusion author Neil Gaiman came to, as he explains in this must-watch video below.
Several major ebook retailers, including Apple, Barnes & Noble and Amazon, have already dropped DRM as a requirement in their ebook stores. Authors and publishers now have more freedom to publish DRM-free.
Some readers are rebelling against DRM. Check out Lost Book Sales. It’s a fun site sponsored by Jane Litte of Dear Author in which readers list books they would have purchased but didn’t because the books were DRM-infected.
Are you a reader? How do you feel about DRM?