Digital rights management (DRM) has become one of the most hotly contested things in the world of books in the last decade. According to Kindle Digital Publishing, it’s “intended to inhibit unauthorized access to or copying of digital content files.”, or so major eBook publishers say. This is the choice you will have to make as an indie author. Once you select your DRM setting, you can’t change it later.
What is DRM?
Digital rights management (DRM) is a type of systematic copyright protection that stops your work from being shared or copied without authentication of purchase. On one hand, it adds an extra layer of protection for content creators. Stopping copyright pirating is a noble goal, but the pirates are rarely who the DRM hurts.
DRM vs No DRM
Enabling DRM is like putting a lock on your book, and the only way to open it is on the device it was purchased for. Readers, some of whom want to share their books to other devices or with friends are suddenly unable thanks to DRM software. They are forced to purchase another copy or a physical copy of the book in order to share it with their book club or with a friend. Video game publishers have also done this with digitally purchased games, making it impossible to even play a game over at a friend’s house without authenticating your purchase by logging in.
There are federal laws in place that prevent the dissemination of software that strip the DRM from the products they protect. That said, that’s never stopped piracy before. There are still plenty of programs available that can strip the DRM from the files for particularly determined pirates. Readers, however, are forced to either buy another copy of your book to put it on a different device or commit a federal crime.
Readers aren’t the only ones angered by DRM. Librarians, who have made it a life goal to make content free and accessible can only lend non-DRM content out of their libraries to readers. This means DRM isn’t only protecting sales, but the flow of knowledge and wonder between human beings, too. Limiting people from reading, specifically underprivileged people who may depend on free resources, have deeper implications than sales.
Many authors choose to release their eBooks with no DRM to make their books more widely available to readers and fans, finding that looking out for their reader’s experience actually builds trust. Personally, that’s something I value highly, but not everyone does. Looking out for your reader’s interests and experience is part of your author platform, too.
- Adds extra layer of protection
- Federally backed
- Protects intellectual property
- DRM can still be removed
- Readers unable to share content to other devices
- Readers unable to share content with friends
- Libraries unable to share content with readers
- Possible loss of sales
To DRM or no DRM…
If your publisher has the rights to your eBook, chances are you don’t have a choice. Publishers generally force DRM copyright protection on all eBooks to protect their sales and intellectual property from pirating. However, this will be a turn off for some readers. Some refuse to buy copies of eBooks with a DRM. Some authors who even enabled DRM found their books pirated and for sale on other websites, and the most legal action that can be taken is a lawyer sending a cease and desist, and intellectual property lawsuits.
DRM vs no DRM…If you’ve self published, the choice remains yours: Is adding a few more security measures worth it to your bottom line or your readers?