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Ebooks - Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Posted by Andy McDermott / Director Publicious Pty Ltd on 15 October 2015

Should you protect your ebook or not?

I wanted to spend a little time this month discussing ebook protection, because it seems to be a hot topic. Concerned authors often ask me how they can be sure their work will be protected from unauthorised copying and redistribution.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a system available to prevent just that problem. Normally it is offered as an option when submitting your ebook title to certain online stores and distributors, and can be as simple as ticking the appropriate box at the time of submission.

'So if it's that simple, what's all the fuss about?' I hear you say, rolling your eyes to the sky.

There are a couple of things to consider when choosing DRM in your distribution model. The obvious advantage is the one I've already mentioned above: protection with just a few easy steps. There are a few disadvantages, however, and they are outlined as follows:

  • Book buyers can be put off from purchasing an ebook with DRM installed. Their argument usually is that they have purchased the title, so why shouldn't they have the choice of reading it on several devices, as well as their computer? Or why can't they share the ebook with family or friends, in the same way you would a printed and bound book?
  • An increasing amount of online ebook stores are rejecting titles that have DRM installed. They seem to be taking the readers' (buyers') position in the argument.
  • For ebook titles distributed through Amazon Kindle, Amazon will allow the author a 70% royalty for titles without DRM installed. For titles with DRM installed, they will only allow 35% royalties.
  • It is almost impossible to install DRM if you are selling your ebook for download from your website. Because there is no way of knowing which device the buyer is using, it's very difficult to cater for all platforms.
  • DRM is not infallible. If somebody truly wants to copy your ebook, they can.

It is up to the author/publisher whether to choose DRM or not, and I can see both sides of the argument. Last year one of my students brought a copy of my first novel, The Tiger Chase, to class. She told me she had purchased it from a second hand bookstore. I didn't make any royalties from that sale, but to me it didn't matter - I was quite flattered!

If you're selling millions of digital copies, then yes, DRM may prevent the loss of royalties due to unauthorised sales. At the end of the day you'll need to decide wether the risk of anyone going to the trouble of copying and distributing your ebook will outway the disadvantage of missing out on having your title in some stores and earning a smaller royalty.

Until next time, write on...

Andy McDermott / Director Publicious Pty LtdAuthor: Andy McDermott / Director Publicious Pty Ltd Connect via: Twitter LinkedIn
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