David Pogue on e-book DRM
December 19, 2009 | 9:41 pm
As expected from Pogue, who has been aware of e-books at least since he wrote the O’Reilly guides for the Palm back in the ‘90s, he presents a clear understanding of both sides of the issue: publishers’ fears of piracy vs. consumer device lock-in. He makes comparisons to the iPod and music DRM.
Pogue also mentions an experiment that he and O’Reilly tried, in response to a reader’s suggestion—selling the Windows download of one of his e-books as unencrypted PDF. He feared piracy; the reader believed the pirated e-book would act as advertising for the print book.
The results? It was true. The thing was pirated to the skies. It’s all over the Web now, ridiculously easy to download without paying.
The crazy thing was, sales of the book did not fall. In fact, sales rose slightly during that year.
That’s not a perfect, all-variables-equal experiment, of course; any number of factors could explain the results. But for sure, it wasn’t the disaster I’d feared.
He does note, however, that people who just wanted the e-book would be satisfied with the pirated version and not need to pay for a legitimate edition.
Pogue closes the article:
Maybe, then, the publishers should try an experiment like mine. Maybe they should release a couple of Kindle or Nook books without copy protection and track the results. Maybe that way, we could bring this discussion out of the hypothetical and into the real world.
I suppose this is hardly surprising. Every time someone starts giving books away for free on the Internet, like Amazon with its free books for the Kindle, people act like the newcomer has this great idea. Nobody ever mentions Baen.
Still, it is nice to see that Pogue, who was formerly afraid of publishing digital at all, has come around to this way of thinking.