DRM Is No E-Book Piracy Fix
While publishing e-books protected by DRM seems like a no-brainer solution to piracy, the idea has faced criticism from within the publishing industry and from consumers. First, publishers are weary of reports that the DRM technology used in the Kindle and the Sony Reader has been hacked, says Nick Bogaty, an expert in DRM technology for Adobe. Second, consumers are hesitant to buy digital books with inflexible DRM that ties an e-book to a limited number of e-readers.
Critics say that the two providers of DRM-protected e-books, Amazon and Adobe, are stunting the e-book industry's progress. For instance, Amazon's Kindle uses its own DRM-restricted AZW e-book format. People who purchase an e-book on their Kindle cannot transfer it for reading on another, competing e-book reader from a different company.
DRM issues get thornier when device makers, such as Amazon, start negotiating exclusive e-publishing rights for their product. Amazon signed a deal with best-selling business writer Stephen R. Covey to publish several of his books, including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle-Centered Leadership, exclusively for the Kindle. The company has also negotiated exclusive rights for Kindle e-books from author Stephen King and for a biography of First Lady Michelle Obama.
The idea of exclusive e-book rights tied to devices seems as annoying as being allowed to play a particular new CD only on a certain company's CD players. But Ian Fried, the vice president of Amazon Kindle, has stated that Kindle consumers don't mind its DRM. That could change, however, as a predicted flood of new, rival e-readers hit the market in 2010, and Kindle owners think about jumping ship--only to discover that they can't take their e-books with them. Remember the backlash against DRM-protected content in Apple's iTunes store?
Bogaty points out that Adobe, whose DRM technology is used by Sony and Barnes & Noble, is yielding to critics who say that its antipiracy technology is too restrictive. Adobe is loosening the grip of its DRM, allowing users to share e-books with friends and to read books on up to 12 different devices (6 desktop and 6 handheld).
Author Marcia Layton Turner says she is less concerned about piracy and more interested in making her books available via the e-book format. Turner says the potential of new e-book revenue is reason enough to jump on the e-book bandwagon, despite the risk of piracy. "I'd rather sell twice as many books and lose a few sales due to stealing than to miss out on those additional sales altogether," Turner says.
And many other authors agree: The problem of piracy takes a backseat to the challenge of getting people to read books in the first place.