Matt Bradbeer has a piece on FuturEBook looking at the ineffectiveness and irritation of e-book DRM. It is very similar to the piece we posted here a few days ago talking about much the same thing. In Bradbeer’s words:
DRM is easily removed and therefore pointless, costly and a barrier to sale.
DRM does not stop piracy, it is restrictive and therefore it promotes piracy.
He points out that DRM is easy to remove for those people with a little technical know-how, whereas people without the know-how but want to get copies of books that they can use outside DRM’s narrow bounds will generally still know how to download illicit versions from peer-to-peer.
Bradbeer points out that complex or malfunctioning DRM is also a burden on small e-book retailers, who have to field the tech support questions that invariably come from confused or angry users. (Given my experiences in my current full-time tech support day job, I can understand exactly where he’s coming from!)
When coupled with a 3 download limit the problem is intensified and we, the small retailer, end up refunding and praying that we will get a credit back. We also end up playing first line support for Digital Editions and offering technical support, which is a real pain, but always done with a smile.
Meanwhile, on Read Write Web, Frederic Lardinois has an article about a study showing that e-book piracy from filesharing websites such as RapidShare has increased by more than 50% over last year, 20% of that since the launch of the iPad.
There seem to be some concerns about this study’s methodology, and it also focuses on only one sector of the peer-to-peer world, but even looking at it generally it still shows that as interest in e-books increases, so does interest in obtaining them illicitly.
Sooner or later, publishers are going to have to decide which they want: DRM and more piracy, and no DRM and less piracy. While I doubt that anything will ever completely eliminate illicit downloads, I think dropping DRM would go a long way toward cutting their numbers—especially if at the same time publishers focused on building communities the way Baen has. Baen books are very rarely seen on pirate sites, in part because the community gives “faces” to the people who it would hurt.