Christina Vasilevski

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.

Little Seeds of Success

So, I have three lovely developments to report:

  1. As of today, I am officially a Student Member o f the Editor’s Association of Canada. While I have yet to fully investigate the resources they have available, it looks like they have a veritable bonanza of forums, postings, publications and seminars to take advantage of. Thanks go to Sharon Crawford, who originally suggested I join.
  2. A contact called to tell me about a speech-writing opportunity that might be available in the future. More details are pending, but I’m quite excited.
  3. I have received some feedback from the author of my first editing project. While she agreed with my decision to rearrange the order of paragraphs to highlight the topic of the article, her reaction to some of my other editing choices was less favourable. In particular, I reworded or deleted words and phrases that have important meanings in the context of the article’s topic, and she’d like me to reincorporate those words. Now, in fairness, I didn’t know some of the terms she was referring to were professionally relevant , or (as in one particular case) that they even existed.

This brings me to a new feature I’d like to introduce as I post more: Lessons Learned. As I make my way through this new industry, I realize that I’m going to need to learn and adapt to the needs of my clients.  So, as I finish projects, I’m going do to little post-mortems to figure out what I did well and what I need to remember next time.  It’ll be our own personal little cheat sheet.

So, what were today’s lessons?

  • Be aware of the cultural and professional context in which you are preparing a project. If there are specialized terms that you are not familiar with or words that you think don’t belong, bring them up with the author or project manager, and do the following:
    • Ask the person who has commissioned your work for style guides or references to help you understand the terms in question
    • Make sure to update your style sheet, if you’re using one

In any event, I think today’s been fairly successful. I’ll go over the EAC’s member area in more detail over the weekend, and prepare an application for that very tempting scholarship of theirs that is due on November 30th.