Christina Vasilevski

Toronto Writer/Editor for Content Strategy and User Experience.

DRM, eBooks, and the ethics of eBook sharing

A few months back, I wrote a blog post talking about whether eBooks should have Digital Rights Management software, and stated that given the option, I’d prefer to buy DRM-free eBooks.

It turns out that Tor Books is of the same mindset – yesterday they announced that come July 2012, all Tor eBooks will thereafter be sold without DRM. This also applies to other imprints published by Tor’s parent, Tom Doherty Associates.

So what does this mean?

It means that publishers are starting to get the message that readers don’t want DRM on their files. I’d like to think that this would strengthen the viability of the ePub format against the Amazon onslaught, but I don’t know enough to make that prediction with certainty. It also means that publishers are starting to realize the futility of DRM – when a free program like Calibre is at your fingertips, it’s hard to argue that DRM offers a fool-proof anti-piracy method.

One big question remains: Will other publishers follow suit? I hope so, and soon. However, it makes sense that Tor, of all places, would be the torchbearer here. It’s an imprint that specializes in science-fiction – a genre that questions and comments upon how we use technology. Isn’t it fitting that a sci-fi imprint is the first one to recognize when a poor technology isn’t working and change courses in favour of a more rational alternative?

This is also the best time I can think of to introduce some new research I’m doing: I’m looking for authors, publishers, and eBook distributors to interview regarding the ethics of sharing eBooks.

I want to understand how various stakeholders in the ePublishing industry think about the prospect of sharing eBooks in the same way that people currently share print books. Is sharing considered a loss in current revenue (because that’s one less person who will pay for your book), or a herald of future revenue (because now your writing is on the radar of yet another reader).

The people I’ve spoken to so far are somewhat divided on the issue, but I want to hear more opinions. Are you interested? Have your own books been pirated? Email me or let me know in the comments  – the more viewpoints, the better.

Addendum: Here is an excellent, insightful article on why it makes sense for publishers to drop DRM.