E-Books and Digital Rights Management

By Kevin • April 1st, 2012

Your e-book is now complete and it’s time to upload it to an online bookstore. Working your way through the online store’s upload menu, you’ll see opt-in and opt-out check-boxes that might puzzle you. One check-box is cause for hesitation, the one prompting you whether or not to choose digital rights management (DRM).

There’s an ongoing debate whether DRM actually protects your intellectual property from piracy, or whether the protections actually benefit the hardware manufacturer more. Some critics say DRM simply restricts use after sale, or “Digital Restriction Management.”

If you choose DRM while uploading your e-book to Barnes & Noble, for example, when the book is purchased the user can read the file only a Nook. The purchaser can’t read the file on other manufacturers’ e-book readers, such as the  Kobo e-reader or the Sony Reader. And you can’t lend, donate or sell this version of your DRM-“protected” e-book anywhere else, like you could if you bought a print version at the local bookstore. Moreover, once you choose DRM on most online bookseller websites, there’s no going back. You can’t change your mind.

If the goal is to stop e-book piracy, choosing DRM when uploading an e-book probably won’t do the trick. If you plan to sell scores of books to schools, nonprofits and/or government agencies, then consider working up an e-book license agreement and focus on selling through your website, rather than locking in DRM via giant online booksellers. Before purchase, have buyers sign your terms before purchase and download, then hope customers are honest.

But if you’re going to upload to Amazon, et al, it’s wise to research DRM beforehand so you don’t make the decision on the fly.


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