20110131174000Lysenko with Stalin

From boingboing:

My latest Publishers Weekly column is “Digital Lysenkoism,” a look at the bizarre internal forces that causes people who work at publishers to defend DRM, even though they know it doesn’t work.

I also recently chatted with a big-six digital strategist, who explained to me how his employer would soon be sending out all of its digital advanced reader copies (ARCs) as DRM-crippled PDFs. We shared a moment of incredulous silence at this. Most reviewers, after all, get hundreds of times more material than they can ever use. I literally get 100 books in the post for every one that I choose to review, and the idea that reviewers like me will put up with crippled e-ARCs that must be read at one’s desk or on one’s laptop, that we can’t load onto our tablets or e-readers, that generate all kinds of failures in the wee hours of the night, on weekends, or on airplanes when no one is around to offer technical support—well, it’s beyond absurd.

What will happen to these crippled e-ARCs, most likely, is that they will be ignored. This is exactly what happens to most DRM-locked screener copies distributed to voters for major film awards, like the BAFTAs and the Academy Awards. When you have 50 times more movies to consider than you could possibly watch, and when 10% of those movies require you to figure out how to connect a special player to your already overly complex home theater, well, that just makes it easy to exclude 10% of the load.

With A Little Help: Digital Lysenkoism

(Image: Lysenko with Stalin.gif, public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

[Reprinted from boingboing under a Creative Commons license]


  1. Every ARC I got through NetGalley was a DRMed PDF. After doing a half-dozen reviews, I realized that this would be the rule, and not the exception, and dropped off of NetGalley. Paper or eInk is fine, but I ***hate*** reading long form fiction on non-fiction on my computer screen.

  2. I’m a reader, not a reviewer, but when I see those ‘read free online’ books, I skip them automatically. There are so many ebooks out there for free or really cheap, why would I want to waste my time reading one on my computer? I hate reading ebooks on my computer!

    DRM also makes it hard to share between family members. We have several Amazon accounts for various reasons, so can’t automatically share ebooks. I have to strip the DRM first, then load the file on the other device. I also have to strip the DRM in order to do a true backup. If they were physical books we’d just pass them along. It’s very frustrating not to be easily able to do the same with ebooks.

    I’m not one to file share and I don’t use bit torrents because I don’t want the hassle of dealing with potential malware. I also have more ebooks than I can get through in my lifetime. So if the publisher makes it difficult for me to read a book on my Kindle, either through unavailability or too high a price, I just don’t read it.

  3. I kept thinking that headline doesn’t make sense as is. DRM is to publishing as Stalinism was to Science would be a more legitimate equivalent, but it turns out that Doctorow was comparing DRM to *junk science*: “DRM is to publishing as junk science was to Stalinism”

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