It’s 2014 and Adobe thinks its going to increase profitability of digital book producers by introducing a new kind of DRM or digital rights management. DRM is a software lock that binds a digital book you’ve purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble to a specific platform. A book you’ve purchased at BN can’t be read on a Kindle and vice versa.
I’ve long argued that publishers inability to move away from DRM prevents them from aggressively attacking Amazon’s position and moving toward Direct to Consumer purchases. See here and here. (It should be noted that publishers past hesitancy toward DTC sales is also predicated on not competing directly with its largest accounts such as Barnes & Noble, Target and the like but with B&N faltering and consumer confidence low at Target due the security breach, if there was ever a time for DTC it is now. HarperCollins is going forward with it on a small scale.)
Reiterating these arguments has little value. I simply want to point out what a mistake it would be to move to a platform that has stricter DRM, perhaps even an always on component.
Always on requires you to constantly be connected to the internet in order to access your digital entertainment. This type of DRM has been used increasingly with video games. There was a huge furor in the video game world when SimsCity was released in the spring of 2013 with always on DRM. The always on technology was flawed and users experienced sub optimum levels of enjoyment when game modules were removed, entire cities that users had created disappeared, and many other serious hardware issues.
Learning from this disaster Sims 4 will not be an always online DRM game. Neither will the next release of Metal Gear. When XBox launched with a 24 hour Internet check in and restrictions against used games, the video game community rose up and voiced its displeasure so ferociously that XBox removed the DRM restriction only 24 hours after the announcement and launch.
Music remains DRM free because that is the industry standard set by Apple.
So why would digital book producers follow down the rabbit hole of extreme customer dissatisfaction through the use of always on DRM? It’s foolhardy at best and potentially disastrous.
DRM has never and will never defeat piracy. There are absolutely no studies that indicate that DRM has reduced piracy. Not one. For the uninitiated, let me reiterate what DRM does do.
1) It creates platform dependent customers such that if yours is not the popular platform, you’re SOL.
2) It increases the barrier of competitors into the marketplace and enhances monopolistic control of the popular platform (aka Amazon).
3) It pisses off and punishes actual paying customers. That’s right. The only people that DRM affects negatively is the people who’ve actually paid for the product. How? Because people are stuck with one platform. Or if the platform goes out of business, they lose access to all their purchases. Or because if they lose their mother effing credit card or can’t remember what it is, then they can’t access the book/movie/song they’ve bought.
What does DRM not do?
1) It does not prevent piracy. If piracy were prevented by DRM why would there be such a big piracy problem?
2) Does not reduce casual sharing. This is the big one that I heard a few years back that pub people used to justify DRM. DRM prevents the teen from sending the one book to all her BFFs! Just who do you thinking is hacking the DRM these days? Grandmothers? It was a 17 year old kid who was responsible for the attacks against Target and Neiman Marcus.
DRM is nothing but a hassle for legitimate paying customers. In an industry that is bleeding readers, does it make sense to piss off the current ones? No. I’m not saying this for my own benefit because I’m pretty tech savvy. I’m saying this for all the emails I get from readers who are stumped about why they can’t get X book on their devices.
Adobe undoubtedly is looking for increased revenue from this new DRM but it’s fool’s gold for anyone else.