Is the removal of DRM really significant?

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That’s the question Michael A. Stackpole asks on his Stormwolf website.  His answer is that for the average person it probably isn’t, and I tend to agree with him:

Those of us who are early adopters, who are computer savvy, who are interested in digital books are at risk of forgetting some simple truths about readers in general and people who have bought dedicated e-readers. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had conversations with people about what I do, who profess to be Star Wars® fans, who profess to have read the novels, and who even tell me that I, Jedi is the best book they’ve ever read, who have no clue as to the name of the author. It astounds me, and not just because I wrote the book, but because, as an author and avid reader, I’ve trained myself to catalog author names and titles. Unfortunately, this is not a trait shared with the vast majority of readers, or such is my experience.

With e-readers, the thing I’m discovering is that most all of them have their book purchases tethered to the company that has its name of their e-readers. Okay, so this is like assuming that if you own a Ford you can only buy gas at the Ford filling station—a stupid idea. But owners of e-readers don’t drive past other gas stations when looking for books. They might hit a link in an email, but chances are they’ll just go to the store portal on their device and purchase from there, or do a quick search when they hear about a book on the radio or television. Because of that fact, because they only shop in one place, the issue of DRM is completely invisible to them. For those users, it is a complete non-issue.

It’s arguing color to folks who can only see in black and white.

I’m not arguing that TOR’s move to get rid of DRM is a bad one. Frankly, it will save them some money, so they can pass those savings on to us. (We know they’ll do that, right?) My point is that it’s immaterial. Anyone who knew enough to know DRM was in place also knew enough to work around DRM. And, sure, now that DRM doesn’t exist we can do the translation without having to worry about the FBI and ICE crashing through the door for our violating the DMCA. (Though I don’t think anyone cracking DRM for personal use only was losing any sleep over that possibility.)

1 Comment on Is the removal of DRM really significant?

  1. Part of this might be due to the fact that the average user hasn’t owned their ereader long enough to be tempted by an incompatible brand (e.g. maybe now some Kindle readers will be tempted to switch to the Nook Glow-thingy) and therefore haven’t realised that thanks to DRM they can’t switch brands if they want to take their existing ebooks with them. There might be a significant number of ereader owners out there for whom the other shoe simply hasn’t dropped yet.

    Again though, as Charles Stross noted recently, maybe many/most readers of mass market fiction don’t care, they treat their (mostly mass-market pb) print books as read-once disposable entertainment (and probably don’t recall many author’s names either) and so regard ebooks the same way? They’re not interested in owning a personal library, print or digital. They really only need an ereader with 1-2MB flash storage, enough to hold one or two big fat airport novels at a time.

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