Digital Publishing in a Post DRM World

Publishers are starting to reject DRM (Digital Rights Managed) ebooks:

This fact is important for all authors, self published or not.


Because you can learn from these big businesses mistakes.

  • They spent millions (collectively) protecting their publications.
  • They spread fear into authors about piracy and copyright protection for their books.
  • They did all they can to save the dollars / pounds from slipping through authors and publishers fingers.
  • They worked hard to make it as difficult as possible to make the reading experience for their paying customers worse.

The end result: they got it all wrong. A post DRM publishing world means everything DRM stands for is wrong. It was initially created to stop sharing and to make money.

Trying to undo that wrong information is going to be slow and hard: the damage is done in the authors’ mind.

Just the other day I heard an author mention the words ‘protection’, ‘copyright’ and ‘piracy’ – and I cringed. I stressed to her (and the room of authors) that copyright and piracy isn’t the issue – it’s obscurity. If no-one knows you exist, then all the protection in the world is going to hamper your ability to reach more people.

New authors need to reach as many people as possible. Putting up barriers to sharing and distribution and enjoyment of your work is ridiculous. It’s like owning a beautiful garden and installing gates all down the entrance to ensure people have paid to get in to see it.

What can you do?

  • Instead of protection against distribution, the self published author should encourage liberal distribution of their work. This will not hamper sales, because digitally you are able to reach millions online and the cost for reproduction is zero – unlike the physical book.
  • We need to understand that finding a thousand (or more) people who love our work and want to read more or future work, is the goal.
  • We should provide our work in every possible format. People may decide to switch between phone reading to ebook reading to computer reading – depending on where they are, what they are doing and what technology they have access to. You must give them the rights and access to allow this.

Let’s all start sharing more and forgetting about the money – at least until you have an audience who are willing to pay.


About the photo:

I love this shot. I found it on Flickr somewhere, but can’t recall who took it. If anyone can claim it, please contact me as I want to credit them. This photo is about exposure – how the author must feel – knowing that it is no longer possible to remain anonymous if they wish to attract an audience in the absence of a traditional publisher.


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