Saturday, May 5, 2012

An Author's Important Choice - To DRM or Not to DRM? by Kareen McCabe

Kareen McCabe, author of Dreams Both Real and Strange and Dreams Both Real and Strange II , kindly wrote the following guest blog to help clarify the choices an author faces DRM when publishing their e-books.

To DRM or Not to DRM?
By K.W. McCabe

The controversy regarding DRM is not a new one. It has been in use in the music industry a long time. But with the advent of more and more successful independent authors entering the field, I had to ask myself a very important question: To DRM or Not to DRM?

DRM is anti-piracy technology1 which the traditional publishing industry has long utilized to prevent gift-giving of books. But now, everyone is watching an old, respected industry take serious hits from the Dept. of Justice.2 Nevertheless, the ebook industry is marching forward as an exploding market and many are starting to ask this question: Is DRM really necessary to protect this business from piracy?

The technology itself is controversial. As one article aptly stated, Amazon3 themselves showed us why DRM is of the devil . While the main point of DRM is to stop piracy, the unfortunate side effect of DRM technology is the strangling of good-ole American capitalism. An article on PaidContent4 stated,

"In order to provide DRM, you need at least $10,000 up front to cover software, server, and administration fees, plus ongoing expenses associated with the software. In other words, much bigger operating expenses than a small business can afford."
This means small businesses that are unable to provide DRM protection won't get business from big traditional publishers. If small businesses are unable to get a foothold in the business—the pool of competitors able to go against monopoly threatening companies like, say, Amazon, grows ever smaller.

The sorry truth of the whole situation is that while publishers desire to make the most money out of their products by preventing gift-giving of books—they are really biting themselves in the ass. An article on Digital Digest5 gives this quote:

"DRM also prevents interoperability, and with the big players increasing becoming suppliers of both content and the devices that read them, this is creating a crushing monopoly (or duopoly, of Apple and Amazon, specifically) that is destroying the marketplace."
And in the end, it's bad for consumers, as well as the paranoid publishers. Once one of the big 'A's can freely set the price of e-books, they can determine the conditions of the market for everybody. They can charge consumers anything, pay publishers very little (for who will exist to sell their products otherwise?), and leave writers hoping for some small crumb of the pie.

More and more authors as well as some publishers,6 including me, are realizing why DRM is a mistake. JA Konrath7  gave his complaint on why he hates DRM.

Traditional publishers need to wake up and smell the coffee. Things are changing. Their insistence on DRM technology on their ebooks could prove to aid in their own destruction.

Kareen said, "I'm a Californian who moved to Minnesota about 6 months ago -- the weather has taken a little getting used to!

"Currently, my Dreams Both Real and Strange series of anthologies on Amazon and Smashwords. I'm in the process of editing The Dragon's Call and I'm working on its sequel, Dragon Kin. Anyone can reach me on my blog."

4. Paid Content DRM is crushing indie booksellers online, By Ruth Curry
5. Digital Digest DRM For Publishers: Bad For Indie Sellers, Destroys Competition, by Sean F
6. BBC News Technology
7. A Newbie's Guide to Publishing