Here’s an interesting opinion post on The Bookseller by Rebecca Smart, CEO of the Osprey Group. Smart holds that, while DRM is damaging to the relationship between consumers on the one side and authors and publishers on the other, continuing to paint it as the source of Amazon’s dominance and, hence, a threat to the industry is keeping publishers from putting attention on what they should be doing.

Nobody cares about publishers or the publishing industry per se—readers care about finding consistently high-quality books to read, in whatever format they want them, via whatever retailer they want to visit, at a price which makes sense. This is what we do well day-in, day-out, and it’s what we should be talking about—not what we are as an “industry”, not who is coming to gobble us up, not protecting our books from the naughty pirates. We ought to be talking about what we do well.

I’ll give her that publishing should be concentrating more on trying to get across its value proposition to consumers. But publishers have more problems than just DRM. There’s the fact that five of the biggest ones of them have just been found guilty of conspiring to raise consumer e-book prices across the board. Smart notes that publishers have “more opportunity than ever to talk to readers,” but actions speak louder than words. I predict a lot of consumers will have a hard time caring about the plight of the companies who illegally took aim at their wallets.

And then there’s the DRM issue. Whether it’s to blame for Amazon’s ascendency or not, and whether or not most consumers don’t even notice it, it is a pain for those who do, and it’s ridiculous that it’s illegal to break it on things that we purchased for our own personal use. And an interesting thing: in a recent survey of the top 100 paid-purchase e-books in the Kindle store, 19 of them were found to be DRM-free.

And anti-DRM advocates are unlikely to stop, especially since they seem to be seeing so much success so far. Nor should they. If publishers don’t want to talk about DRM, the solution is simple: drop the DRM. Make it a non-issue, so that publishers and readers alike can worry about other things. Don’t try to tell us what we “should” be talking about.

Of course, Rebecca Smart may already know that better than most. We covered her announcement that Osprey Group was going DRM-free last year.


  1. DRM is definitely a PITA! The majority of the books I buy are DRM-free and for those that do, Calibre is my friend. Out of the 3000+ eBooks I own approximately 30 were purchased from Amazon.

  2. Amazon sells some books without DRM, publisher permitting. I find it ironic that the publishers gnash their collective teeth over Amazon’s ebook monopoly, yet require the DRM that locks Amazon customers into the Amazon ebook walled garden. If they want both to have their cake and eat it too, they either need to drop DRM or only sell ebooks in standard format that is not tied solely to a proprietary ebook reader sold by a single vendor.

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