Diminishing DRM use in the Kindle store?
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is basically code inserted into a digital file (such as an e-book) to control its use by consumers.
Ostensibly, it’s there to limit copyright infringement. It can be used for other purposes, though, such as blocking text-to-speech access (which is not an infringement, although it could be in violation of the terms of a license).
Some consumers simply detest the idea.
They equate it to someone controlling the use of a copy of a p-book (paperbook) after you buy it, although that’s really an imperfect analogy (see my post, How an e-book is like a treadmill at the gym).
Regardless of whether or not that distaste for DRM is justified, that it exists in some segment of the buying public can not be denied.
You also frequently hear about how Amazon is so restrictive, and has a “walled garden”.
I also find that to be…less than a comprehensive assessment of the situation. After all, Amazon has approved the Netflix app for the Amazon Appstore: a direct competitor to its own Amazon Instant Video service. I could give you several other examples.
What about e-books? You can’t (legally) read a Kindle store book without a hardware Kindle or a free Kindle reading app, right?
Usually, that’s right…but Amazon allows publishers to have their books in the Kindle store without DRM, if they want.
Even independent publishers (which might be just an author), using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, can simply make that choice when publishing the book.
If the book is published without DRM, it can be converted into other formats…and some publishers even give you instructions on how to do that.
I’ve done that my itself, on one of my titles: The Disabled Deserve to Read: The Controversy Over the Amazon Kindle’s Voice. I allow that one to be freely distributed, and if I could make it free in the Kindle store, I would. Instead, I’ve taken the royalties and purchased a Kindle to donate to charity.
There are arguments for and against publishing with DRM. Eliminating it gives sophisticated users more flexibility, but increases the chance of accidental infringement (sending a copy to relative, who might otherwise have bought it, without realizing there was a problem with that, as one example). It doesn’t do much to limit serious pirates, most likely (for one thing, they can just scan the p-book).
So, I was curious: how many publishers are making the choice to go without DRM?
Let’s look at the top 100 selling e-books in the Kindle store. I’m only going to go with paid books, not ones which you can currently download for free.
- #2: Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia
- #11: Loving the CEO (bundle of five romance novels)
- #25 Marriage of Convenience Boxed Set (Favorite Romance Themes) (The Summit Authors Present Favorite Romance Themes)
- #27: Bring Me Home (Shattered Hearts)
- #29: The Billionaire’s Obsession: The Complete Collection Boxed Set (Mine For Tonight, Mine For Now, Mine Forever, Mine Completely)
- #36: 3 Bodies and a Biscotti (A Lexy Baker Bakery Cozy Mystery)
- #40: A Rite of Swords (Book #7 in the Sorcerer’s Ring)
- #41: Off Course
- #45: The Arrangement 9 (Ferro Family)
- #50: Wicked Firsts
- #51: Saltwater Kisses: A Billionaire Love Story
- #52: Breathless (Jesse)
- #56: Bodyguards Boxed Set (Favorite Romance Themes) (The Summit Authors Present: Favorite Romance ThemesTM)
- #59: Wounded
- #67: The Atlantis Gene: A Thriller (The Origin Mystery, Book 1)
- #72: Josh and Hannah (Redwood Falls #1)
- #78: Fearless (The Story of Samantha Smith #1)
- #81: Rainwater Kisses: A Billionaire Love Story
- #84: Freefall
That’s an extraordinarily high amount! Nineteen of the most popular books in the Kindle store have been released without DRM.
Just based on my quick survey in putting this together, it tended to be independents (of course…only Tor, among the big publishers, is publishing without DRM), and they tended to be “progressive” in other ways (allowing lending, not blocking text-to-speech access).
It appears that the overall percentage in the Kindle store might be much higher. I did this Google search:
“site:www.amazon.com “simultaneous device usage:unlimited” asin -domain”
and got 2,220,000 results. Clearly, there are some false positives there…there are only 2,085,461 altogether. :) Still, I’m guessing the percentage is pretty high.
Indies may be using this to give themselves a competitive advantage over tradpubs (traditional publishers)…and they may simply be trying to extend their reach by selling in the Kindle store to people who don’t use Kindles (but do need to be somewhat sophisticated in terms of technology).
Just as MP3s became the most popular format for distributing music commercially, it may become true in the future that the default is to sell books without DRM.
What do you think? Do you check to see if a book has DRM before buying it? Have you ever decided not to buy a book, because of DRM? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.