In its experience, Tor discovered that DRM did not stop anyone from copying, and in fact served only to lock them into the DRM vendors’ platforms. If you sell a million bucks worth of DRM-hobbled e-books on iBooks or Amazon, you create a million dollar switching-cost for your customers if they ever decide to switch to B&N or Kobo or any other new platform that might emerge in this still developing market. These companies are dire competitors, and they use DRM as offensive weapons against one another, suing anyone who makes a tool that might convert DRM-locked files from one platform to run on another.
–Cory Doctorow on DRM.
Like Doctorow, I tend to be of the opinion that DRM is bad but, as an author, there’s not much I can do about whether it’s applied to my books or not; when it’s released, Liesmith will have DRM because, as far as I know, that’s just with Random House does. This is not something I like, but it’s not really something I can change, either. (Believe me, if I was actually offered to option to opt-into a DRM free distribution I’d take it, but I’m not so… sorry, basically, is all I can go with on that one.)
Doctorow makes the argument that DRM had never actually lead to a sale; no customer in the history of ever has ever thought “gosh, I hope this title has DRM!” But the thing he doesn’t mention is that publishers do “sell” their DRM–and other anti-copyright measures–to authors as part of their “why you should sign with us!” pitches. I can kind of see why; for a debut or midlist author, piracy really can hurt,1 and DRM would seem to be a solution, of a sort.
Thing is, it’s not. As I’ve mentioned before, I de-DRM most of my own, legally purchased ebooks so I can remove them from their walled gardens and read them in whatever goddamn ereader I happen to be fond of at the time (currently iBooks), and using whatever formatting I goddamn want to (fonts and line heights in ebooks still tend to be fucking awful, because IDK people are still typesetting them for print, not screen, or something). This takes me about five minutes. I’m actually not sure what the legal status of this is in Australia; back probably ten to fifteen years ago, our Competition and Consumer Commission was big on protecting the rights of consumers to strip DRM-ish things like region-locking on electronic devices but I’m not sure if their stance has changed (it definitely seem to’ve softened).
So I dunno. All I know is being able to remove the DRM and use the resulting files more flexibly is the main reason I do, in fact, buy so many ebooks.
- Or, at least, the perception of it can hurt. Basically, raw sales figures are the only thing that stands between an author and another contract. There’s definitely an argument to be made in here as to whether piracy actually leads to lost sales–I’ve heard arguments both ways–but for authors who live royalty-cheque to royalty-cheque, finding their works on pirate sites can be an absolutely devastating feeling. Especially if they’re the sites that charge (yes, these exist). Basically, my point here is that, if you want to read free ebooks, for gods sakes borrow them from your library, okay? Authors get paid for those ones. [↩]