Intellectual theft and piracy are two major problems that hound authors. It is extremely difficult to prevent people from copying and illegally distributing their work. According to estimates, more than 4 million books are downloaded illegally every year. This means authors, publishers, and distributors lose roughly $300 million in earnings annually.
The problem has gotten worse now when it has become so easy to copy digital works. People who do not wish to pay retailers can just do a quick search and a pirated copy of almost any book can easily be found. Other writers who simply want to make a quick buck selling ebooks copy and paste existing works for editing.
What Is DRM Free?
DRM-free content is content that does not have any restrictions placed on it. This means that anyone who acquires DRM-free content can copy and reproduce it on as many devices as they like. However, this does not mean they are not subject to copyright which may be associated with the content.
To protect digital content and prevent people from stealing them, DRM has been created. Since its inception, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the use of Digital Rights Management. Most of the readers hate it because it limits what they can do to an ebook.
Most in the industry believe that it is a must to ensure that everybody responsible for the content gets compensated. Selling books is their primary source of income. They can’t earn if people can easily get free copies of ebooks. Why then, is there a growing number of authors and publishers that are choosing to go DRM-free?
- What Is DRM Free?
- What Are Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
- How does DRM work?
- Why are some authors and publishers choosing to post DRM-free content?
- What are the benefits of DRM-free content?
- How can you prove ownership of your work without DRM?
- Should you post DRM-free copies of your ebook?
- Should I Enable DRM on My Kindle Book?
What Are Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
Digital Rights Management is the technology that prevents unauthorized use, modification, or distribution of protected digital content. The various software can be used on ebooks, films, and music, It is such a complex system and is also highly talked about in the writing and reading communities.
According to The Digital Guardian, DRM is the use of technology to protect the copyrights for digital media. It gives the authors and publishers the ability to limit what paying users can do with their work. DRM is the solution to the problem that arose due to the rise of torrent sites and other peer-to-peer file exchange services.
For authors, DRM helps by preventing the people who bought copies of their works from sharing with others. It is a matter of controlling the access by limiting it only to those who actually bought a copy. And even if a person has already bought an ebook, what he or she can do to it is still limited by the kind of DRM feature enabled.
DRM can also restrict the sharing between devices. This means if that person bought a DRM-enabled ebook for his tablet, he won’t be able to read it on his computer or mobile phone. In short, if you want to read an ebook on multiple devices, you’d have to buy separate copies.
The technology can also prevent you from copying the entire work or even just certain parts of the book. This is specifically for people who copy content to use as their own. Some to make a similar ebook. It is similar to how some websites prevent visitors from copying and pasting the contents found on their pages.
How does DRM work?
Most DRM technology has something to do with codes that stop users from copying content. Some codes limit the number of devices on which or instances when content can be accessed. Authors, publishers, and distributors use these applications to encrypt data, software, media, and other copyrighted materials.
To gain access to the content, the user must have the right decryption code. This is what most users are provided when they buy the content from a retailer. In some cases, the decryption key should work anytime the client asks for access. However, there are some that contain rules.
There are various ways the DRM can protect content. Some prevent or restrict users from saving or editing content, Others prevent the buyer from sharing the ebook with other readers or even devices. There are even applications that can prevent you from taking screenshots or printing the content whether in part or in whole.
Why are some authors and publishers choosing to post DRM-free content?
While many content owners, such as book authors, invest heavily in DRM, others accept that piracy is inevitable. The technology that bypasses these protective measures always catches up, rendering the DRM useless. Surprisingly, some content creators not just embrace but also promote piracy of their work.
One example is Paulo Coelho who claims that not all authors care about sales. Many writers simply want their work to be read, and having DRM prevents a lot of readers from doing this. Secondly, he claims that no author really has ownership of a novel idea. Everything has been copied from another, so there is really nothing to protect.
Finally, he believes that the free distribution of an author’s book can help build interest in his work and boost his fan base. This means there is an increased chance of his other works being purchased.
This is echoed by fellow bestselling author, Neil Gaiman. He claims that giving away copies of an author’s book should be considered a promotional activity. This claim can be backed up by numbers when Russian retailers observed an increase in sales of Gaiman’s and Coelho’s books after some of their works were pirated and distributed.
Additionally, some DRM not only fail in stopping piracy but also serve as a huge nuisance to users who legitimately bought their books. One such case is when a reader cannot use another device to read an ebook that is purchased specifically for a certain gadget. Once the gadget fails, access to the books is gone.
What are the benefits of DRM-free content?
One of the biggest problems with DRM-enabled content is that it makes it difficult for users to read your work. If the DRM is device-sensitive, the reader would only be able to read the work on one device. What would happen if the device is rendered unusable? This will happen if the gadget breaks or gets lost or stolen.
Another case is if the user decides to upgrade to the latest mobile phone or tablet model. If the access to the ebooks is limited to one device, the reader would need to repurchase everything to continue reading. This lack of flexibility is a deterrent and can cost a writer sales especially if they are just starting out.
A DRM-free ebook also lets the reader fully interact with it. If the reader wanted to copy some chunks of a chapter and share them in class or in a book club session, he can easily do so. Want to copy a quote for your social media posts? This is not going to be a problem with DRM-free material.
Imagine how much publicity it will earn authors if a reader’s post about their work goes viral? Cutting and pasting parts of the book or even taking a screenshot of the page cannot be possible for some content protected by DRM. And if a reader has to retype a chunk just to make a post on Facebook or Instagram, he’d probably end up not doing it.
The ability to download parts and mark up ebooks is also something that students and teachers should be able to do. If readers buy a digital copy of a textbook, shouldn’t they be able to save parts of it for future reference or make annotations? That’s what a user typically does with a printed reference.
Readers appreciate the flexibility that DRM-free content provides. In fact, in some studies comparing the usage of DRM-free versus 1-user ebooks, it was found that the former was getting more use than the 1-user model of the same titles.
That is why many new self-publishers opt to post their titles DRM-free. The more accommodating these writers are to their audience, the likelier that the buyer would come back and explore the writer’s other works. One download would mean that the user can read it on his desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or ebook reader.
How can you prove ownership of your work without DRM?
One of the problems mentioned when it comes to posting DRM-free content is the difficulty in claiming ownership. With so many copies of your work floating out there, how can you say that the plot of the book or the research for the content came from you?
One solution is to put a digital watermark on the copies of your ebook. Watermarks are great because they can be used on most formats like ePub and Mobi. It does not restrict access to the content at all. Additionally, it does not prevent the viewing or sharing of content on different devices.
What watermarks do is declare the name of the author and the publisher. This can help readers identify if the copy they are accessing has been pirated from another website. As for ownership, it will be difficult for another writer to claim to be the source of the content when another name is printed all over the material.
Should you post DRM-free copies of your ebook?
As an author, you need to weigh your options before releasing an ebook that is DRM enabled. If you look at the pros and cons, as well as the advice of other self-publishing writers, going the DRM-free route is the more beneficial option. Yes, you’d probably lose a few hundred dollars to piracy.
However, that can easily be matched by the free publicity that you will get if people shared your work freely. Plus, more readers will be enticed to download or even purchase a copy of your work if they didn’t have to deal with all the restrictions that most DRM comes with.
Even printed books get shared or donated, Some used books even get sold, depriving their authors of extra revenue. If you do decide to forgo enabling DRM on your work, make sure to check the option to post your work DRM-free with your distributor before deciding to publish.
Should I Enable DRM on My Kindle Book?
While DRM is often seen as a necessary measure for protecting your intellectual property, there are some valid concerns that must be considered when deciding whether or not to enable it on your Kindle book. On the one hand, DRM can help to prevent piracy and make it more difficult for unscrupulous readers to access and share your content without permission.
However, this protection can also come at a cost by limiting the flexibility of your content in certain ways. For example, many customers dislike having to register their devices with an account or using the technical workarounds that are often required for removing DRM once it has been applied.
As both a publisher and a customer, you must carefully weigh these pros and cons in order to decide whether or not DRM is worth the potential hassles that it may create in your own life and for your readers. Ultimately, only you can decide what approach works best for your individual situation.