29 November 2011

The evils of DRM

Charlie Stross has just posted some words of wisdom on ebooks and DRM (here). The core of his argument is that:
As ebook sales mushroom, the Big Six's insistence on DRM has proven to be a hideous mistake. Rather than reducing piracy, it has locked customers in Amazon's walled garden, which in turn increases Amazon's leverage over publishers. And unlike pirated copies (which don't automatically represent lost sales) Amazon is a direct revenue threat because Amazon are have no qualms about squeezing their suppliers — or trying to poach authors for their "direct" publishing channel by offering initially favourable terms. (Which will doubtless get a lot less favourable once the monopoly is secured ...)
Hopefully, the accountants in the Big Six will wake up to this threat before it is too late.

Meanwhile, I have recently run into DRM in an unexpected and rather unwelcome way. One of the venerable traditions of book reviewing is that the reviewer gets to keep his review copy. Since most reviewers are not otherwise paid for their efforts, it seems the least the publisher can do by way of thanks for taking the time and trouble to look seriously at their book. In fact, in this new age of electronic publication it is not the least the publisher can do. The least they can now do is supply electronic review copies with time-limited DRM. Two books I have reviewed recently have now 'timed out', which feels like a slap in the face after spending several hours reading those books, thinking about them carefully and writing what I hope were fair reviews.

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