While reviewing some articles on the Digital Book World site, I came across this snippet from Jeremy Greenfield. I was intrigued by the topic and had to read more. His initial premise that customers would pay more for a DRM free version of an e-book as opposed to a version that has DRM controls inserted, was a complete surprise to me especially based on the comparative costs ($5.99 for the DRM free version versus $4.61 for the version that has DRM inserted). Is not having DRM worth an extra $1.38 for the paying customer?
DRM: Akin to KGB?
What is DRM anyway? The definition seen on, no other authority than Wikipedia, is this:
“Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of controversial access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale. DRM is any technology that inhibits uses of digital content that are not desired or intended by the content provider. DRM also includes specific instances of digital works or devices. Companies such as Amazon, AT&T, AOL, Apple Inc., BBC, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Sony use digital rights management. In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the United States to impose criminal penalties on those who make available technologies whose primary purpose and function are to circumvent content protection technologies.”
This seems like a perfectly logical set of circumstances to me. The seller is trying to protect their copyright on the Intellectual Property that the consumer has purchased. The consumer, in purchasing the product, has purchased the ability to use that product in the way intended for the content, for self-entertainment or any other purpose that reading a product would entail. The consumer has not purchased a license to take that electronic product and use it in any way they deem acceptable to themselves. The version with DRM should be fine for anyone in the buying public who has no plans to parse and disseminate the content contained in the e-book. I seriously doubt people are wringing their hands waiting to get an e-book so they can split it up and re-use it in combination with other DRM free titles they have on hand.
Control is bigger than PRICE?
The real reason that the buying public would embrace DRM free e-books for a higher price is simply a matter of control. The level of control that an outside entity would have over their content on their device is just enough to make the public opt for higher costs in return for no “Big Brother” shadowing their e-books. We’ve seen this outrage before when Amazon pulled e-books off Kindles some years back. There was a public outcry due to the fact that no company should be able to unilaterally take a perfectly good product back from consumers after they have purchased this content and have it all set up on a Kindle. It was not even the title in question that Amazon deleted, it was the fact that they could do this without notification.
This debate will continue to rage, but I predict the eventual winner will be the e-book with the DRM installed. In the final analysis, price trumps all other issues and will make the market move in the direction of lower e-book costs, as happens with products all the time.
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