To DRM or not to DRM?

March 31, 2014 Publishing/marketing 2

I’ve spent some time this past weekend setting up my account on Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) preparatory to self-publishing ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ this autumn. I didn’t actually intend to do more than input a few basic details, but Amazon makes it incredibly easy to go on from there. So I entered my bank details ready for all those royalty payments (ha!), confirmed that I’m a non-US citizen for tax purposes and amused myself by generating a very bad cover from the built-in cover art creator.

It’s possible to go through the entire process of uploading the book, cover art, the whole kit and caboodle to KDP (and to CreateSpace if you plan a printed version), see what everything looks like and generally get things in place ahead of time. CreateSpace helpfully reformatted everything for me and told me how many pages there were (over 600 at font size 12 – eek!). KDP found 17 spelling mistakes, of which one was in fact an actual, genuine spelling mistake. It’s all very helpful. And at the end of it, the famous ‘Save and Publish’ button. One click, and there you go, your book for sale on Amazon.

Obviously, I’m not ready for that yet. There were sections that I’ll need to come back to later, to make sure I’ve got them right: the tax bits, for one thing, and the keywords to describe the book, which I know are vitally important for getting the book to pop up in front of likely readers. But on the whole, everything was reassuringly straightforward.

Then I came to the question: do you want to have DRM on your book? DRM is Digital Rights Management, a system of encrypting content so that, in theory at least, it can’t be pirated. In practice, of course, the software to crack DRM is widely available, so it’s no deterrent to pirates or anyone else. The effects of DRM  are felt by legitimate purchasers who find that the book they’ve paid good money for can’t be backed up or read on a different device without jumping through hoops.

As a reader, I hate DRM on books. It ties me to a specific ereader, and if I actually strip off the DRM in order to make a backup or sideload to a different device (both perfectly normal requirements), I’m made to feel like a criminal. My daughter, who is an avid video games player, tells of instances where the DRM actually made the game unplayable. Legitimate purchasers kept the shrink-wrapped game on the shelf, and downloaded the cracked version to play. There may be benefits for Amazon in using DRM on ebooks (it locks in customers to Kindles quite effectively), but for users it’s hard to see any benefits at all.

So although the question took me by surprise, I didn’t have to think very hard about which way to jump. I’ll be publishing without DRM.

2 Responses to “To DRM or not to DRM?”

  1. Neil M

    Dan and I allowed DRM on our first book because it was the default setting and we were new at self-publishing, and on the second because we’d just finished publishing two novels in two years and we were tired, but I doubt we’ll do it for the third. Honestly, I think that protection benefits the distributor more than the author, and as far as I am concerned, Amazon can see to its own interests.

    As amends, we put our books on Smashwords, DMR-free, and I also notice they are available on a half-dozen torrent sites. I guess people stealing your books means you are a success…?

    • PaulineMRoss

      I suppose being pirated is a positive thing? Building name recognition, maybe. Some authors swear by it. I don’t know how you define success. I’ve been loitering on the Kindle Boards Writers Cafe lately, and sometimes it seems as if the only way to be a financial success is to write romance/erotica novellas very rapidly. Writing a good book certainly isn’t enough.

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