Who decides on DRM for ebooks?

picture of a Kindle Reading Devise on a flat backgroundDRM is a difficult subject to get your arms around. People use it to cover everything from the format of the ebook, to geographic restrictions. There’s an article over at Teleread that inspired this post.

My opinion on DRM is that it should go away, that includes the different formats and the geographic restrictions. The thing is that pointing the finger at retailers for restrictions they don’t apply is not going to help.

What the retailer chooses

Let’s be clear the goal of the retailer is to sell as much of their product as they can. Any restrictions are going to get in the way of that goal. Retailers are responsible for the available formats. This is proprietary formatting and each retailer gets around their own barrier by providing apps. You don’t need a Kindle to read a Kindle book; nor do you need a Kobo, or a Sony reader or a iDevice.

The challenge of format comes when you do have a Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Sony reader. You can’t read .mobi (Kindle format) on a Kobo. Now, I understand the other ereaders all do Epub and that Amazon is the holdout for proprietary formatting. As long as they hold the vast majority of the market share of ebook sales, I don’t see them changing and if there is no DRM, you should be able to convert your .mobi to epub with free software like Calibre. There’s no reason for Amazon to change their format to epub, there may be a reason in the future, but there isn’t one right now.

But, I can’t convert my books to epub, so Amazon must have to change what they do

Here we are at the other side of the equation. Amazon doesn’t apply DRM that restricts your ability to convert formats. They also don’t require it, in fact they encourage no DRM by defaulting the choice to none when you upload.

The publisher decides on the DRM – whether they are a big 6 or a self publisher, they choose whether they tick the box or not.

There are some reasons why a publisher would apply DRM, one is that they don’t have the rights to sell a book in certain geographic areas. I can’t think what other reason there might be, they make money on selling books, why would they want to put barriers to the purchase?

What can you do about it?

I think we know that eventually the discussion will make a difference, but the consumer has one power in this game; to purchase or not to purchase. With books it’s not that easy to substitute one purchase for another. While I would love to think otherwise, I don’t think someone would buy my DRM free books instead of  a Janet Evanovich book which comes with DRM – including a limit on how many devices you can read it on. Although, please feel free to do so.

You also have the power of your voice. You can let the author and publisher know – politely so they can listen – what you feel about DRM.

And just what do you feel about it? Do you care? Have you noticed that the more expensive the book, the more DRM is applied? Would you prefer to see a two tier pricing with DRM free coming in at a few dollars more than a DRM heavy?