Should I apply DRM to my ebook? Digital Rights Management and Piracy.
There is no doubt piracy of your work should be a consideration before publishing it. It is a big problem in the creative arts – always has been, whether it be art, music, film or books.
DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is technology that is applied to something, in order to limit or control it’s use, in order to protect it’s copyright or author. Downloading from iTunes is a great example of this. If you purchase a book on the iBookstore, and then buy a Kindle, you must re-purchase that book through Amazon, because you cannot move the one you have already purchased out of the Apple ecosystem. That is DRM applied to a system – you are unable to share between the two platforms.
When publishing your book, you will be asked if you wish to enable DRM on your book.
DRM applied to a book means that the purchaser is unable to share a book between more than device. For example, if they purchase your Kindle book and download it to their phone, they are then unable to share it to a desktop or iPad. It is a single-use download.
How do you apply DRM to your self-published book?
When selling your eBook through a distributor, enabling DRM is a one-click selection during the upload/publish process. The buyer will be purchasing the book on the bookseller’s site (whether it be Amazon, iBooks etc) and reading it on their platform. So if you click ‘enable DRM’ this means the reader is not able to load it on other devices.
If you also plan to sell your eBook on your own site, applying DRM to the eBooks sold on your site is a little more involved because it requires software on your site, for example, Adobe Content Server which may be cost prohibitive.
If you do decide to go ahead with DRM enabling software to your books sold on your own site, buyers will not be able to upload it to another account to read it on their device. For example, if they purchase the eBook from your site and download it to their desktop, they will not be able to add it to their iBookstore bookshelf or Kindle bookshelf and read it on their iPad, iPhone or Kindle device die to the DRM applied to it.
So, although applying DRM can be a way of minimising piracy (you cannot stop piracy because DRM on all platforms have already been cracked), it can cause some issues for honest people who are legitimately wanting to read and enjoy your book.
There is also a customer service consideration with this decision too. If clients are trying to upload the file to multiple devices and are not able to (due to the DRM you have applied to the file), you will receive a lot of queries asking for technical help.
When I am asked about DRM from clients, my intention is not to persuade or dissuade them from applying DRM or not, everyone’s situation is different so it’s helpful to receive balanced viewpoints.
The DRM debate is not something I lose sleep over, however, that’s not to say I might start laying awake at night pondering this issue when I become uber-famous and people do actually start taking liberties with my work. Everyone has a different tolerance, either morally or financially, so I thought it might be useful to include some perspective from others who have been directly affected by piracy.
Neil Gaiman is a well pirated author. Here is his healthy view:
For some deservedly-respected industry opinion on DRM and piracy, I recommend this article by Tim O’Reilly that, despite it’s age, never dates.
If you take due care to protect your work and strike a balance between showing respect for your work as well as respect for your readers (I mean the ones that pay for your work) – I believe you can still carve out a good income for yourself and not get too hung up on the DRM issue.