Digital Rights Management or DRM for short is a way for companies to protect emedia sold to consumers. Music, videos and ebooks are all subject to DRM protection if the selling company wants to add it. My question to them is WHY?
Recently, I wrote about a relatively new piece of software that manages ebook libraries and converts formats to fit your reader device. This software works great for files without DRM protection but when you try to work with a DRM protected file it doesn’t allow you to unless you remove the encrypted protection. This is wrong. I should be able to manage my e-library with any software I choose and sync it to the device of my liking. I’ve paid for the device and the files so why can’t I use them as I see fit?
The music industry went through this a few years back when the Napster controversy was such a big deal. What did we learn from that? If you look at download statistics from sites that sell music you will see a large increase of sales now that quality files are available for a reasonable price. Last October, I discussed a New York Times article that addressed the issue of piracy in the ebook industry. Not unlike the Napster battle of over a decade ago, the ebook world is trying to use heavy handed tactics to control its product and what is going to happen if things don’t change is that retailers like Sony and Amazon are going to shoot themselves in the foot and lose the battle for market share in this growing area.
Look at it this way…If I buy a book at Borders I should be able to take that book to a Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, or even McDonalds and read it when and how I choose. I bought the book right? The concern for piracy is always going to be there but here’s the reality: People who want to pirate copies of books, music, or ANY media will find a way to do so. There are already a number of scripts you can download online to remove DRM protection from ebooks. There’s even step by step guides accompanying the scripts. 20 years ago when I first started playing around with computers, hackers were learning ways to pirate software from the Commodore 64 community (Yes, I know I go back a ways!). I can remember the lengths to which people would go. You could even purchase a “dongle” that plugged into the back of your computer that would allow you to bypass much of the protection on the software products and use them copyright free! Even before home computers, people were using copying machines to copy portions of books or certain documents without paying for a pad of pre-printed forms. My point is that piracy will ALWAYS be an issue but if we’ve learned anything from the past 15 years or so it’s that people will pay a fair price for a quality product. I would much rather buy an ebook file that’s guaranteed error free than try to hack one or download a pirated copy that could be corrupted or worse, infected with a virus that could wipe out my reader. I shouldn’t have to put up with DRM protection on my files. I didn’t pay for that option and publishers need to remove it!
If you are a seller of emedia, consider this fresh option..You could set up a “bookstore” with reasonably priced DRM free files in a standard format like ePub and allow those files to be read on ereaders like the Nook, Kobo, iPad, or Sony Reader. Can you imagine the money you could make assuring customers that if their device tastes change (or their device breaks!), their files are safe and sound and usable on any device. Amazon needs to wake up in this area too and get away from their proprietary nature. Of all of the readers available, only the Kindle will not allow you to read a standard format like ePub and it is the main reason why I will not ever purchase one. I’ve purchased a few different MP3 players for my music and in each case, my files always transferred without me worrying that I had to buy a specific brand. If my Sony Reader dies at some point and I want to try out a Kobo reader, my ebook files purchased through Sony should easily slide right into the new device without me having to purchase them again.
I was talking with a friend of mine who works in the publishing industry and we discussed the idea of his organization offering his magazines, bible studies, and other related material in formats that ereader devices could use. His response to me was basically that once the companies quit fighting and settle on a standard, then he will be open to making such an offering. Right now, to try to offer material for all readers would be time intensive with the conversion to formats readable on both Kindles and other similar devices. For the sake of momentum, I hope the decision makers for the ereader devices get together, remove DRM protection, and settle on one standard for the publishing industry. It’s where we are going folks..like it or not!