Thoughts on DRM from a small publisher
A few years ago when I decided to start putting my writings out in the marketplace, I researched the ebook market as best that I was able. At first I even debated whether I should even offer ebooks. I had read so much stuff about how ebooks where never going to make it. But ultimately I decided to include ebooks in my business because the dire predictions of naysayers havenít stopped me from doing much in my life. And preparing files for print publication gets you more than halfway to preparing files in various ebook formats. So there was no real reason not to sell ebooks, and the cost is almost nothing to produce ebooks.
Anyway, I lurked in an ebook discussion group in 2004/2005 and learned that people seem to universally detest digital rights management. The hatred was not so much caused by the fact that writers/publishers wanted to protect themselves from piracy, but just that the DRM caused so many inconveniences to the customer. Sometimes that ďinconvenienceĒ even meant losing the ebook entirely when equipment failed or needed to be upgraded.
Understanding that potential customers did not want the inconvenience of DRM I decided not to worry about using it on my digital products. I assume that I have some of my work out there posted and shared inappropriately, but at this point Iím assuming that the cost of protecting my works (which would require additional technical infrastructure on my part) would exceed the cost to me of them being acquired illegally.
When I made this decision, I drew upon an experience from my life. Years ago I worked at a department store. The store detectives who worked against the shoplifters were always annoyed with me for not enforcing the item limit on people going into the fitting rooms. I worked on commission and my best customers were the ones buying dozens of items. Therefore, I did not inconvenience them by making them get dressed and come out of the fitting room to grab more clothes. I wanted them happy, shopping, and spending money. I did not want to treat every customer like a thief. It was not a good way to make sales.
Right now, Iím doing the same thing. I believe that most people who are interested in my products will buy them. Of course at some point in the future if I were to become wildly successful, then piracy might be a problem. But I still donít know when or if that problem would actually require attention. If I became popular, then would the pirates matter? How much? Iíll probably never know.
I know this forum has discussed at length what reasonable measures publishers should take. As my overriding philosophy I believe in punishing criminals and treating customers right. Punishing wrongdoers is not necessarily possible, but treating readers with respect is.
So, Iím not sweating the pirates right now. Even if piracy did become a problem, instituting DRM on my products still would only annoy those people that came to me to buy anyway. Ultimately there really is no protection from digital piracy. A copy of something can always be obtained and distributed illegally. I have to live with that fact and focus on marketing to honest people.
I realize DRM is pretty much a knee-jerk reaction on behalf of the publishing industry. No business wants its products stolen, but as ebook reading devices become more prevalent, publishers should institute some kind of limited sharing ability on their products because readers are accustomed to sharing books. The type of people who share books is also the type of people who buy books.