DRM Should I have it?

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Every author who publishes an ebook has to decide whether to digitally protect their book from copying. This is done by adding something called Digital Rights Management or DRM for short. This is a form of electronic protection added to digital files like ebooks, music files and video files. DRM places a “lock” on the file which should prevent the file being altered or copied.

DRM is actually just a piece of code that is added by the retailer to the book. And because it is applied when the book is downloaded from the website, the code is unique to each download. There as many forms of DRM as there are digital platforms available. There are different ones for audio, video and ebooks which is then complicated by the fact that many of the retailers and manufacturers have their own version.

Adobe DRM is the main form of DRM in use for ebooks, virtually all of the retailers use it apart from Amazon and Apple who both have their own version. In Amazon’s case this means that unless the book is sold via Amazon there is no way to apply DRM to an Amazon Kindle file.

All of this sounds fine and as most authors want some reward for their hard work, which author wouldn’t want to protect their work from being copied and downloaded for free, especially after the time and angst spent in writing it. The problem though is that unfortunately it also locks the file to the individual device it is purchased for. Which means (unless they are updating from an older version of the same device) that if the purchaser swaps devices they cannot take the book they have brought with them or, as recently happened with Sony, if the retailer shuts down they cannot access all of their ebooks.

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Another shortcoming with DRM is that it really does not protect against copying. There is a constant battle between the DRM software manufacturers and people who want to find ways around it. DRM is constantly updated and just as quickly broken. The end result is that just by searching on the internet, ways to break DRM are easily available. And you do not have to be a computer expert to use them.

As an author you need to decide to whether to have DRM or not. Most authors tend to think that internet piracy is rife and that as soon as you put the book online it will be copied. The evidence, though, contradicts this. Piracy is not as prevalent as people think and it is unlikely that your book will be copied unless it is a bestseller. There are now publishers who do not use DRM and all have reported that there is no noticeable increase in piracy.

So do you need DRM? It really boils down to personal choice. Those who are determined to copy your book will find a way whether you have DRM or not and, in this author’s humble opinion, all DRM really does is punish the honest reader by not allowing them to transfer something they have legally purchased between devices that they own. The vast majority of readers are honest and are quite prepared to pay for a book they perceive is priced at a fair price.