Singaporean publisher Monsoon Books is opting to forego traditional DRM on its e-books in favor of social watermarking DRM provided by BooXtream. According to an interview with Publishing Perspectives, Monsoon Publisher Philip Tatham sees this as a way to boost sales in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region. Tatham believes most traditional publishers worry far too much about piracy, and throw up unnecessary obstacles in the way of its users making full use of their books. Tatham writes:
Some people will always take what they want for free, but as publishers we should worry more about making the experience of reading, whether ebooks or print books, easier and more enjoyable for those customers who are willing to pay for our products. What is important is word-of-mouth and publicity. I would worry more if nobody was talking about a book than if it appeared on a torrent site.
He and Monsoon’s authors want to make it possible for readers to read their e-books on more than one device, and to lend them to family and friends just as they can do with paper books. Strict DRM already doesn’t prevent e-books from being cracked and uploaded to torrent sites, so it doesn’t seem worth damaging readers’ experience for something that won’t even be an effective preventative measure.
He does find instances of piracy annoying, but finds they by and large do not get in the way of selling legitimate copies of his book. A far greater problem—and opportunity for Monsoon—is the lack of e-book penetration into the ASEAN market. But even without e-book penetration, bookstores are still suffering simply due to increased labor and rental costs and more non-book activities competing for readers’ leisure time. Meanwhile, apart from Google, none of the major players in the e-book industry seem to have set their sites on ASEAN yet—perhaps because it’s such a smaller market than places like India, that already have avid readers.
It’s good to see publishers anywhere coming to realize that restrictive DRM gets in the way of readers and is ineffective at deterring piracy. As one of the first e-publishers in a relatively unexploited region, let’s hope Monsoon sets a positive example for others to follow.