The Way of the Word

25. November 2010

DRM – What it it Good For? (Absolutely Nothing)

As some of you have already noticed, I released my hardboiled mystery novel The Coldest Blood as an e-book for the Kindle (US-Version) (UK-Version). When you set it up, Amazon’s DTO program offers you the choice of putting DRM on the file.

DRM translates as Digital Rights Management, and it’s a copy protection scheme. Depending on the program, it restricts user rights in regards to how many copies they can make/use/keep, how long they can keep them, and it makes sure they can’t make any copies by themselves.

There is also another side to DRM, one that Amazon has been known to exploit. Does anyone else remember the event that became known as Amazon Fail 2? Basically, Amazon pulled supposedly pirated copies of George Orwell’s works Animal Farm and 1984 from the Kindles of people who had bought those copies. Without so much as an explanation (at least not until the brown mass hit the air circulation device).

I was not the only one to appreciate the irony that they did this with the works of George Orwell. If you don’t know why, I suggest you read 1984.

Anyway. DRM is one of the two buzzkill reasons why I don’t own an e-book reader. I’m used to owning what I buy (or at least not pay very much for borrowing – yes, I do have a library card). When I buy a book (as in, not explicitly borrowing), I do so with the expectation of getting to keep it, and not being at the mercy of whoever sold it to me. However, DRM turns the supposed purchase into a lending fee. Don’t believe me? Try transferring your Kindle book to another device after having used up your allocation.

If I want to borrow a book, I’ll use the aforementioned library card.

The major reason for DRM is the fear of piracy. If your work isn’t copy-protected, someone will make an illegal copy and make it available for illegal download, robbing the creator of their income.

Now, mind you this: I’ll come down on anyone who pirates my work. Yes. Because I’d rather get those royalties to pay my bills. Times are hard for me too.


DRM isn’t the way. Seriously, any would-be pirate who knows what they’re doing will crack your DRM in one minute flat. Or possibly less. DRM is just a minor irritant for copy pirates. It doesn’t stop them at all.

I suppose you see what I mean now. Why I believe that DRM is not only worth absolutely nothing, it has only one practical use: to annoy the consumer.

Now, as someone who considers DRM a deal-breaker in buying an e-book reader, I was faced with the choice of putting DRM on The Coldest Blood. It was no choice at all: of course I didn’t. And as long as I get any say about how my work is uploaded, it will not have any DRM ever. I believe that if you buy something you should own it.

Plus, a pledge: If, despite everything, Amazon ever deletes my work from your Kindle, drop me a line. Prove that you actually did buy a copy (receipt or whatever). And I’ll provide you a new one, DRM free, at no extra charge, in a file format of your choice, that Amazon can never take away from you.


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