—Guest Post by Xavier Davis—
Despite Digital Rights Management (DRM) being a widely used technology in the eBook industry, many authors lack a firm understanding of what DRM actually is. In this post, we will discuss what DRM is, who is currently using DRM technology and if it is the right choice for you.
Like it or not, DRM seems to be here to stay. Understanding what it is and the potential alternatives will allow you to make an informed decision about how to protect and distribute your eBooks moving forward.
What Is Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
DRM is a form of protection for eBooks that ties a purchased book to a specific user account. By doing so, only the purchaser of the eBook will be able to read the eBook. If the DRM protected eBook were to be shared with someone else, they would not be able to access or read the eBook due to the DRM protection. Depending on the DRM settings, other features include time restrictions (library lending) and printing and copying restrictions.
Examples of eBook DRM
Amazon and Apple: Both apply their own DRM (Amazon DRM and Fairplay DRM). Amazon and Apple use their DRM to protect against illegal sharing, as well as to prevent the ability to sell from other websites.
Adobe: Adobe’s DRM solution, Adobe Digital Editions Protection Technology, requires a program called Adobe Content Server to manage the DRM.
One of the benefits of Adobe’s DRM solution is that it is used by several industry giants, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony. Unlike Amazon and Apple’s DRM solutions, Adobe DRM protected eBooks can be sold from your own website.
The major problem with Adobe DRM is the upfront costs, which can exceed $15,000 and the technical skills required for setup and ongoing maintenance. Luckily companies like EditionGuard offer an affordable way to sell Adobe DRM protected eBooks without the need for your own server.
Social DRM, also known as eBook watermarking, is another form of DRM. Many experts will argue that watermarking is not technically DRM since there is not active protection. Instead, eBooks are protected by including visible and/or invisible watermarks within the eBook.
Visible watermarks often include personal information of the purchaser, such as their name, phone number and email address. See an example below:
This form of watermarking is effective for two reasons. The first reason is that it makes a book easily traceable back to its owner. The second reason is that the purchaser will be less likely to share the eBook since they will not want their personal information in the hands of people they do not know.
Since Social DRM protected eBooks do not require specific software to be accessed, like Adobe DRM does, it is far more compatible across devices. Most Social DRM solutions collect the information displayed in the watermark during the signup and payment process, meaning there is no additional work required for the author. Great compatibility and ease of use have allowed Social DRM to gain popularity over the years.
Is Digital Rights Management for Everyone?
The simple answer is no. Studies have shown that pirating does not have a negative effect on eBooks sales in most cases since the people who do so are not planning to buy your eBook anyway. If you are not worried about pirating, it will be easier to sell your eBooks without digital rights protection.
However, if you are selling a high-value eBook or an eBook that will be used by a tight-knit community, Digital Rights Management protection is a very good idea. Textbooks are an excellent example of this. Imagine if a textbook was offered in digital form without any DRM protection. There would be nothing to prevent a student from printing off 100 copies of the book and selling one to every student in the class.
The goal of DRM is to protect eBooks against piracy and for the most part it does an effective job. Of course like all technology it can be circumvented by a skilled hacker. While DRM is not loved by all, it will remain used by those who truly need it.
In recent years many authors have decided to move away from Digital Rights Management and instead focus on making it as easy as possible for their paying readers to consume their eBooks. By offering raw ePub, MOBI, and PDF files, authors can ensure that their readers are able to read their books on any device of their choosing.
So, the final question is: would you feel comfortable allowing people to purchase your eBooks without any piracy protection in place? Let us know in the comment section below.
Guest Writer, Xavier Davis is a Growth Hacker at EditionGuard, a technology startup providing secure eBook fulfillment services for authors, publishers, and businesses. He currently is living in Honolulu, Hawaii and when not growth hacking he can be found reading, hiking and relaxing on the beautiful Hawaiian beaches.