Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ebook Pricing and DRM

I'm digressing for another week. Nope, it doesn't mean I'm not working on the book,. I've written more than 11K words this month, and it's going well.

But I've been thinking and reading a lot about ebook pricing, and I wanted to gather some of my thoughts in one place, especially since my thinking has changed somewhat with my shiny new NookColor.

I've never been an ebook pricing snob, with a fixed price point I won't exceed. Okay, I probably shouldn't use the word "snob," but some people come across that way with loud pronouncements that "I won't buy a book that's more than $9.99" or "I refuse to buy an ebook that's more expensive than a paperback."

I am more likely to impulse buy something that is $2.99 or less, and .99 is certainly a no-brainer if I'm at all interested in the subject, but I've certainly spent more.

I guess for me, price is less important than DRM. If you don't know what that is, it stands for Digital Rights Management. In simple terms, it's copy protection on a book. If you buy a book on Amazon for Kindle, you can't (legally) read it on another brand of reader. There are ways out there to strip DRM so you can convert from one format to another, but those are illegal.

I understand that I don't really purchase an ebook. I'm purchasing a license to use it, but that bothers me. I've bought electronic versions of books I own in paper because I prefer reading electronically, but I'm only willing to do that once. If I buy a book in Nook format today, I don't want to have to buy it again three years from now because I've traded in my Nook for a Kindle.

It seems that media providers want us to pay each times we read/view/listen to something, and that's just not good for consumers. Look at all the flack about Harper Collins deciding to have library ebooks "expire" after 26 checkouts. This kind of stuff is just nuts and makes books less accessible, which, I think, is contrary to what publishers really want.

I've read conspiracy theories that publishers want ebooks to fail to preserve paper books. I'm not sure I buy it. Never confuse ignorance for conspiracy. I know the big publishers don't understand ebook readers.

They use piracy as the excuse. "If we release a book without DRM, millions of copies will be instantly available as torrent downloads." Hello, they already are!

Basically, DRM treats us all as criminals, even when we're not. I've bought plenty of DRM-free ebooks. I've NEVER shared or uploaded one. Do I know how and where? Yes, but I don't. Because it's wrong.

I guess where I'm going with this rambling is that price is less a concern than lack of DRM. I'll pay $12.99 for an ebook if I know I can convert it to read on today's device. And tomorrow's. And the one for the day after.

All of my books will be available electronically and free of DRM. That's my promise to you. And I won't be charging $12.99 either. I'm thinking more like $2.99. And if you want to share with a friend, I'm okay with that. I'd appreciate you not uploading to a Torrent, but if it gives me exposure, well, I can't argue too much with that either.


  1. While tech books might be a bit different, you should take a look at Tim O'Reilly's thoughts on DRM and piracy:

    Money quote:
    "Let’s say my goal is to sell 10,000 copies of something. And let’s say that if by putting DRM in it I sell 10,000 copies and I make my money, and if by having no DRM 100,000 copies go into circulation and I still sell 10,000 copies. Which of those is the better outcome? I think having 100,000 in circulation and selling 10,000 is way better than having just the 10,000 that are paid for and nobody else benefits."

  2. I don't think tech books are different here. Lots of writers I know want people to read their books and share them with friends. That's why libraries aren't bad things, no matter how much publishers disagree. Ultimately, I want my books read. If people pay for them, great. But reading and enjoying them are the more important thing. I trust that the readers who can pay will. And those who can't? Well, at least they read and enjoyed it.