I know this is kind of old news, but it’s been on my mind and I wanted to talk about it a little bit. A major publishing group (including Tor and Forge) announced that it would go DRM-free for all it’s ebooks. DRM or digital rights management is any technology that limits the use of digital content after you’ve bought it. I didn’t think much of that announcement until I read an article from The Guardian titled “Why the death of DRM would be good news for readers, writers and publishers” that taught me a a lot. I highly recommend you read it.
The biggest thing in the article that blew my mind was this:
“[The] WIPO Copyright Treaty of 1996 [....] make[s] it illegal for anyone except a DRM vendor to remove DRM. If Tor sells you one of my books for the Kindle locked with Amazon’s DRM, neither I, nor Tor, can authorise you to remove that DRM.” – Cory Doctorow, The Guardian
This copyright law gives so much control to Amazon that it was mind boggling to me. It seems to me that the only person that benefits from DRM is Amazon. Imagine a world where you could buy your ebook from any vendor and it would work on your Kindle, Nook and iPad. I know, right? I’ll hop off my unicorn now.
I think that someday ebooks will dominate the book market. I read articles every now and then that insist that “It’s a print world.” Oh, really? In my life of less than 30 years I can name so many things that used to be in print that are now digital. For example: phone books, photographs, letters to friends (I seriously wrote letters to my friends and mailed them), encyclopedias, newspapers, bills, music, and more that I can’t think of right now.
It’s true that print hasn’t disappeared, but I need a good reason to buy something that is going to take up physical space in my house. I still buy print books that don’t translate well into ebooks like ones with pictures or special bindings, but I see absolutely no reason to buy a novel in print if it’s just black words on a white page when an ebook can do exactly that and more.
I don’t think that print books will ever go away. I don’t want this to be a battle between which is better and which format will “win.” I’m intensely fascinated with how the book industry is converting to digital and how books will change. Will print books come with a code to get a free digital copy? Will ebooks start having more videos, music and other interactive features? Will print books start to incorporate more art into the pages to get you to buy the print version? Will publishers be better or worse off 10 years from now because of ebooks? It was doubtful for a long time if the music industry would even survive converting to digital. Now that music is mostly digital, I think that they not only survived but they are thriving. But it’s a very different market than it was before.
So here’s what I want to know: Do you buy more ebooks or more print books? Will that change a year from now? What changes do you think will happen to books and the book industry in the next few years? Do you think removing DRM is a good thing or is it just going to let piracy run rampant?