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Old 09-02-2008, 06:29 PM   #1
Falbe Publishing
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Cool 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 haven’t 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 “inconvenience” 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 I’m 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, I’m 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 don’t know when or if that problem would actually require attention. If I became popular, then would the pirates matter? How much? I’ll 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, I’m 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.
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Old 09-02-2008, 06:46 PM   #2
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So, I’m 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.
Viola! I think that is the key there. The music industry is finally understanding this. I hope it is only a matter of time until the mainstream publishers realize this too.

BOb
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Old 09-02-2008, 06:46 PM   #3
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what a refreshing thing to hear from a publisher. you give me hope that other publishers will eventually see the light. let's hope it's sooner rather than later. on behalf of honest readers everywhere i thank you for this enlightened approach. bravo.
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Old 09-02-2008, 07:53 PM   #4
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Just a couple of thoughts on the piracy thing:

Not offering books as ebooks doesn't stop piracy, just look at the Harry Potter novels, or take a look on the "darknet" and you'll be amazed at the number of books available that have never been offered as ebooks. It's not legal, but it's there.

The people who would pirate a book when it's available as an ebook, probably were never going to buy it, anyway.

DRM is silly. There can be no DRM scheme that will be foolproof as long as it has to be made visible or audible to a human being.

So, I think you're right not to worry about offering your books as ebooks. It's just another possible income.

I certainly wish you the best in your endeavors!
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Old 09-02-2008, 09:09 PM   #5
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The people who would pirate a book when it's available as an ebook, probably were never going to buy it, anyway.
I would like to believe this is true but I'm a bit sceptical. I've met far too many people who see no reason to pay for their music when they can get it for free. They probably wouldn't have bought everything they downloaded if they couldn't get it free, but they would have bought some of it. This is especially the case with younger people. When ebooks become a larger market I'm concerned this may change. Maybe book culture is just different and people will show more concern for their beloved authors. After all, most of them make no other money from their writing but book sales. Musicians at least make money in other ways. It doesn't justify downloading illegally though I often hear it used as an excuse.

Also, right now most of the illegal copies of books available aren't very good and the community uploading them is more centered around the contribution of work by the individual uploaders. Scanning and OCR-ing is a big effort. Using a script to decrypt a book and post it isn't. It has no real value. Posting something that's available DRM-free is met with hostility because you're ripping off the good guys. If you want a good copy of something that's available as a commercial ebook, there's an incentive beyond respect for the author to actually pay for it. As the business of ebooks grows, this aspect of the culture may change. I

I totally agree with you that DRM is a bad idea. It will be broken and only punishes your paying customers. However, I still remain concerned about authors getting fairly compensated. I wish I had a good suggestion for how to do this but I don't. I hope that we can maintain that sense of community as this market grows. I want to believe that us book-lovers are special. Sadly, experience tells me that many people are willing to rationalize quite a bit when they can get something for nothing.
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Old 09-03-2008, 01:14 AM   #6
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what a refreshing thing to hear from a publisher. you give me hope that other publishers will eventually see the light. let's hope it's sooner rather than later. on behalf of honest readers everywhere i thank you for this enlightened approach. bravo.
What she said.

Yes, bravo.
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Old 09-03-2008, 07:32 AM   #7
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There'll always be some people unwilling to pay for products, but I do make sure I buy in a format I can at least remove the DRM from later if necessary, I do notice that not many sold LIT files with DRM removed seem to make it to the darknet, although I have to admit that in the past I have downloaded some books from that sort of place, either due to me owning the paper version but not wanting to get it damaged when reading outdoors, or if the book isn't available officially in ebook format. Any I download that way I keep strictly seperate and labeled so I know to purchase the official one either when it's released, or I have the money to properly replace my paper book
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Old 09-03-2008, 09:15 AM   #8
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I would like to believe this is true but I'm a bit sceptical. I've met far too many people who see no reason to pay for their music when they can get it for free. They probably wouldn't have bought everything they downloaded if they couldn't get it free, but they would have bought some of it. This is especially the case with younger people.
"Free" might mean different things. If "free" means "direct HTTP link on the first page of google results" and "legit" means "one obscure shop with a DRM PDF for $30" then of course not many people will see a reason to use the legal option. But if "free" means "badly OCR'ed TXT with missing pages on an IRC fserv that's online only on weekends" and "legit" means "$5 in multiple formats with no DRM" the situation changes quite a bit. The young people you mention usually have a lot of free time and can afford to spend it hunting down various things they can get for free. Most people don't want the hassle - if they can get what they need for a reasonable price, they'll gladly pay it.
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Old 09-03-2008, 09:52 AM   #9
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DRM = Don't Read Me

From where I see it one of the big problems with DRM is that it does not reduce piracy. It does inconvenience customers, and it fosters vendor lock-in but it does nothing to reduce piracy.

If the publishers can fix the pricing issue and go multi-format to avoid splitting the market they'll probably reduce piracy much more than any DRM scheme could ever do.l
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Old 09-03-2008, 09:53 AM   #10
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A few years ago...
PhanTasTic! I'll translate and publish it in my personal (Italian) blog. Thank you!
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Old 09-03-2008, 10:03 AM   #11
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... 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.
Agreed. The bookshelves (and closets, and attic) are filled. Most of what I read in paper form either gets passed on to someone I think will like it, or if I'm traveling, left in a hotel lobby, restaurant, airport waiting area...What I can, I sell for a few buck on Amazon. In neither case does the original author benefit EXCEPT that they might be introduced to a person that hasn't read the author yet and gain a new fan.
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Old 09-03-2008, 10:21 AM   #12
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I do notice that not many sold LIT files with DRM removed seem to make it to the darknet
Actually, What you find is a lot of HTML. The people on the Darknet with the eBooks convert a lot of LIT & PRC and such to HTML.
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Old 09-03-2008, 10:31 AM   #13
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Agreed. The bookshelves (and closets, and attic) are filled. Most of what I read in paper form either gets passed on to someone I think will like it, or if I'm traveling, left in a hotel lobby, restaurant, airport waiting area...What I can, I sell for a few buck on Amazon. In neither case does the original author benefit EXCEPT that they might be introduced to a person that hasn't read the author yet and gain a new fan.
which arguably can be a very important benefit, since the biggest obstacle for most authors these days is obscurity...
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Old 09-03-2008, 10:32 AM   #14
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Also, right now most of the illegal copies of books available aren't very good and the community uploading them is more centered around the contribution of work by the individual uploaders. Scanning and OCR-ing is a big effort.
From what I've seen, some commercial publishers just scan/OCR a book and then sell it, without doing any error checking either. Some of the worst books I've seen with regards to OCR errors, have been commercial ebooks. It's pretty annoying when I'm paying pbook prices for an ebook, that I have to spend a lot of time "fixing" their book for them before I read it.
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Old 09-03-2008, 11:06 AM   #15
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I don't think DRM purpose is to reduce piracy.
I think DRM technologies are aimed to regular customers.

;-)
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