Thursday, 31 March 2011

DRM part two

On Wednesday night I met Niall Griffiths and was pleased to discover that he's a very down-to-Earth bloke with lots of traveller's tales (and a massive collection of books). We were both part of a small group having drinks and a meal to say bon voyage to a mutual and vibrant Finnish friend who impressed me with a happy hardcore penguin dance: sadly, not captured on video. Niall's new book Ten Pound Pom is out soon via Parthian, keep an eye out for it in any good bookshop, I am sure it will be really popular.

One thing that was discussed during the evening was electronic books versus physical artifacts and some of the issues involved, including DRM. It reminded me to provide an update to my last blog post DRM will kill us all, so here it is. Big news: we're not dead yet, but this topic is definitely part of the zeitgeist at present, and an enduring interest of mine. I had even touched on it in an article I had published in Sconul Focus 49: E-book readers: what are librarians to make of them? (As an aside, the article must have been so good it was reprinted in the next issue too which is a first for that journal, as far as I know.)*



To be exact, the issue of DRM is just one part of the greater discussion taking place across the globe. The overall picture is one of an industry struggling to deal with a sea-change in distribution. There is a really interesting article on Techdirt called Best Selling Author Turns Down Half A Million Dollar Publishing Contract To Self-Publish about the changes the publishing industry is facing, and how the traditional publishing model is not as rosy as is being frequently described through - possibly - rose-tinted glasses on the face of technological change. Definitely worth a read. From the post:
"the publishing industry [...] is struggling to recognize that it's moving away from being a gatekeeper business, and needs to start becoming an enabler business. Instead, it's trying to hang onto the gatekeeper side of things for as long as possible"
DRM is one issue that I feel is being mis-managed, to the detriment of publishers, writers, and the audience who buy their books in electronic versions. I'm not basing things on self-interest here - I want all three to succeed. And I believe they can, without DRM.

Last time I mentioned authors and publishers who were dropping the DRM. They were not isolated cases. Forbes.com has an excellent interview with Tim O' Reilly, the technology publisher, who has recently dropped DRM from all their e-books. The article is called Steal This E-book and when asked if he was worried about piracy, Tim replied:
"No. And so what? 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. People who don't pay you generally wouldn't have paid you anyway. [...] I think having faith in that basic logic of the market is important. Besides, DRM interferes with the user experience. [...] I just think the whole logic of DRM is flawed."
The same argument is being seen in the PC games industry too. See this enlightening interview with Lukasz Kukawski on bitnet. Lukasz works for Good Old Games, the most progressive game distribution platform I have come across.

I mentioned that DRM is a hot topic at the moment. This blog is a new one but I have just checked the stats, and they are interesting - expand the image below to see the recent usage stats (some people hide data like this, but I am all for openness).


What does it show? Firstly that my post about DRM is the most popular thing on the blog with 233 page views in the last few weeks. The greatest traffic source (i.e. the place that led people to my blog post) was from Rock, Paper, Shotgun (RPS), a gaming site where my DRM post had been mentioned in a comment. Notice the spike in the overview graph? It took place on 24th March, shortly after that comment on RPS. It shows how huge a difference even a single comment can have, if it is in the right place. DRM is a topic that is of interest to producers and consumers of films, games, music, technology and books, so is bound to spark interest. I only hope some of my 'real' writing can get that much interest.

On Monday I am going to continue with a complete re-write of an unpublished novel, so maybe my next post will be about how that is going!



* Okay okay, maybe it was because the footnotes were misprinted the first time, rather than because it is the best article ever... ;-)

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