In Mike Shatzkin’s latest essay about publishing, collecting his insights about this year’s London Book Fair, an interesting paragraph leaps out at me. Shatzkin was talking to Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne about the DRM-free release of the Harry Potter books, and reports being startled by what Redmayne had to say about Potter piracy:
Apparently, Potter ebook files started showing up on file-sharing sites pretty much right away after they opened. But before they could serve any takedown notices, Charlie says the community of sharers reacted. They said “C’mon now. Here we have a publisher doing what we’ve been asking for: delivering content DRM-free, across devices, at a reasonable price. And, by the way, don’t you know your file up there on the sharing site is watermarked? They know who you are!” And then the pirated content started being taken down by the community, before Pottermore could react. And very quickly, there were fewer pirated copies out there than before.
Aside from the bit about the watermarking, this is exactly what’s been happening with Baen’s e-books ever since the company started selling them cheaply and DRM-free—it’s become one of the least-often-pirated publishers. (No, I don’t have any particular citation for this, though it’s what I’ve been hearing constantly for the last ten-plus years I’ve been buying from Baen and hanging out in its community. And the fact it’s happening again with Harry Potter makes it all the more credible.)
Shatzkin also notes he’s heard a rumor from a source he considers “very reliable” that at least two of the Big Six publishers are considering dropping DRM soon. One of those might very well have been Tor, in retrospect. I wonder if another shoe will drop soon?