The anti-DRM struggle: Which stores, publishers and people are the heroes? Help ‘em enjoy the spotlight at TOC
January 30, 2009 | 10:47 am
They understand that if a publisher, store or tech company goes out of business, you eventually may not be able to access a DRMed book. You really don’t own DRM-blighted titles for real. You’re just leasing them.
So who are the heroes in the anti-DRM struggle?
Among the stars, as I see it, are Steve and Scott Pendergrast, the owners of Fictionwise, who offer DRM only because publishers insist on it. They really prefer that books appear in a bunch of formats without DRM, and as a bonus they’re updating their eReader software to handle ePub, the industry standard.
Please help the anti-DRM cause by using the comments section of this post to name your own favorite anti-DRM examples. Or e-mail me. Mention the good guys’ actions or planned actions. Mark Coker, moderator of Tools of Change‘s Feb. 10 panel on the rise of e-books, will be celebrating these anti-DRM heroes during the panel.
Below, to help get you going, are some of my other choices for the anti-DRM honors—listed in no particular order, except that I’ll mention publishers first.
- Small publishers such as Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books (home to The Solomon Scandals, my own novel), who arranged with the Pendergrasts for her books not to be infested with DRM at Fictionwise’s eReader.com site. Who are your own favorite small publishers battling against DRM? Some of the romance houses, such as Ellora’s Cave, have led the way. For publishers like Lida, one of the big frustrations is that stores such as Mobipocket’s insist on use of DRM. And my impression is that publishers have to go out of their way for Kindle Store books not to be DRMed, assuming that Amazon will let them. It’s another indication that DRM is really better as a monopoly-promoter than as a genuine protector of intellectual property in the era of the scanner and crowd-sourced transcription of popular books.
- Sara Lloyd of Pan Macmillan. Pan Mac is laudably asking writers not to insist on DRM, when they sign up. It’s already offering some DRM-free titles. Most Pac Mac e-books are still DRMed, but ideally this can change over time.
- Tim O’Reilly, Andrew Savikas and colleagues at O’Reilly Media (TOC organizer), which is promoting new books as DRM free and is also championing the ePub format. Perhaps someone at O’Reilly can enlighten us as to the DRM situation with past titles. Significantly, within the book world, O’Reilly is known as a technological leader.
- Random House, which in the past has at least experimented with nonDRMed books, and which is encouraging authors of audio books to drop DRM.
- Wiley, which publishes books in a number of areas, including the technical one, O’Reilly’s specialty. It, too, has experimented with DRM-free books. Laudably this house has even tried social DRM, which isn’t "protection" in the traditional sense. Rather books come with users’ names embedded, as a way to discourage sharing. This doesn’t interfere with long-term ownership of books.
- Richard Nash of Soft Skull Press, who, through Wowio, let his titles appear without DRM (yes, Wowio itself deserves praising for relying on a form of social DRM rather than traditional DRM). Soft Skull will be releasing a number of e-books on its own for the iPhone and, I suspect, other formats. And my bet is that Richard will avoid DRM.
- Smashwords (Mark’s company), Book Glutton and other new outlets for independent authors—which aren’t hobbling themselves with any DRM.
- Marc Prud’hommeaux and Neelan Choksi at Lexcycle, who, while offering DRM to publisher as an option, have strongly spoken out against its use.
- Jon Noring. Early on, as a small publisher, Jon discovered that "protection" harmed e-books. His tiny Blue Grass Publishing avoids DRM entirely.
- Cory Doctorow. He’s consistently slammed DRM in his blog and lobbied against it among fellow writers.
- Jeff Gomez, now at Penguin, who, during his names as an Internet marketer for Macmillian, wrote Print Is Dead—where he took some swipes at DRM even though I’m sure that many of his publishing colleagues didn’t especially cotton to this criticism. Let’s hope that Macmillan and Penguin will both pay attention to Jeff’s warning that DRM detracts from price leverage (even though I don’t think that people want to may $20 for e-books, "protected" or not).
- Hadrien Gardeur at Feedbooks, a mostly public domain site, which in the future will be getting into commercial books and doing its best to avoid DRM.
- Techmeme, which, like TeleRead, has regularly published examples of DRM as an anti-consumer technology. So has MobileRead. Keep it up!
In responding, please list or link to the Web addresses of the people involved, and in the cases of stores and publishers, tell how far along they are in dropping DRM. Realistically publishers can’t always wean themselves away from DRM overnight—given their existing commitments.
Update, noon EST: Yes, it would be nice to have mentioned Baen—which for years has been clueful about DRM and hates it with a passion, just as my own publisher does. Check out the late Jim Baen’s record. As noted, however, I didn’t claim to be mentioning everyone. I want people to help me fill in the gaps. I’m sure there are players missing as important as Baen. Help Mark and me out!
Detail: Yes, as the author of this post, I hereby declare myself ineligible for mention.