Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why do people hate digital rights management (DRM) on their ebooks?

As a seller of books and ebooks, I spend time measuring the pulse of the growing ebook market. With so many formats and devices out there for reading ebooks, there is a lot to keep track of as I try to create viable product offerings. Most major retail sellers of ebooks employ DRM systems to restrict copying and distribution of ebook content. This is done because the material is copyrighted and the publishers and authors have legitimate fears about online pirates stealing their works.

Although DRM at first sounds reasonable, in practice it is very inconvenient for the actual paying customers of ebooks. Here are some of the problems that arise when people buy ebooks restricted by digital rights management systems:

* DRM can add extra steps to purchase process because the customer's device needs to be registered and authorized in order to open the file.

* Difficulty in placing the ebook on another device. Because the DRM is meant to keep the ebook on the reading device of a single user, a person who uses two devices (say a Sony and a PDA) for ebook reading can run into problems.

* Loss of purchased ebooks when a person decides to get a new ebook reader. If DRM makes an ebook only accessible by a specific authorized device, then getting another new reader means the person cannot transfer his or her ebooks that have already been purchased.

I believe some retailers offer workarounds for these problems, but DRM remains an inconvenience. People just want to buy a product and have it without having to jump through hoops or run into barriers.

As a writer and publisher who is trying to establish a readership, I have chosen to make my ebooks free of DRM. I want my products to be reader friendly, and implementing DRM would be an inconvenience and an expense for me as well. Most certainly I don't want my ebooks to be pirated, but with so many DRM-cracking software programs out there, my research indicates that DRM only delays piracy by a few minutes anyway.

Because lack of DRM seems to be a marketing point that might interest ebook readers, I've decided to be more open about mentioning it. Last night I placed a short video on YouTube promoting my DRM-free ebooks located at and