To DRM or Not to?

Two recent announcements one by J. K. Rowling and other by Tor/Forge has put Digital Rights Management (DRM) back on the discussion table in the publishing world. What is interesting is that two completely different types of “publishers” have taken the same decision – sell their eBooks DRM-free. J. K. Rowling represents the new breed of “self-publishers”, authors who want to sell directly to their readers. Tor/Forge books is a science fiction/fantasy imprint of Macmillan, a big six publisher.

While there may be many underlying reasons for the decision, it addresses the key concerns of legitimate buyers on “fair use”. Consumption of eBooks over various devices (especially mobile devices) like tablets, smartphones and dedicated e-reader is increasing. Readers typically own multiple devices (not necessarily from the same manufacturer) and want to be able to consume the eBook on a device of their choice. Additionally, readers who buy new devices will want to access their previously purchased eBooks on these new devices.

Other publishers will closely watch the “success” of these moves in terms of impact on revenues and piracy before deciding to go DRM-free.

One of the key pain areas that we have heard from publishers who use industry standard DMR solutions is the costs associated with DRM. This is an acute problem for publishers who sell to the institutional market (like schools, public libraries) as there is a cost associated with each “fulfilment”. Large publishers are able to negotiate discounted fees, but this is not the case with smaller publishers. Over time these costs can add up and turn out to be prohibitive. Will such publishers be tempted to go DRM free? What if they are offered a DRM solution that does not have charges associated with each fulfilment?

A DRM free world is likely to throw up several interesting opportunities. For example, readers are likely to migrate from using reading applications/apps provided by the publisher to third party reading apps that provide a better reading experience. These reading apps are also likely to support a variety of file formats like (PDF, EPUB, MOBI). (Like video players that support a variety of formats today). Additionally, readers will want reading apps provided by publishers to support exporting of notes.

The team at iPublishCentral tries to track emerging trends in the industry and align the iPublishCentral roadmap to help publishers deal with these emerging trends. Do you have any thoughts on the impact of DRM-free eBook sales? Please share your thoughts with us – feedback at ipublishcentral dot com or pandith.jp at impelsys dot com.

This article was featured in the iPublishCentral Newsletter. To subscribe to our newsletters, write to us at marketing@impelsys.com

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