Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DRM and security -- writing tip

Question from the e-mail: I notice that you don't use DRM. I have another book with a different publisher and they have assured me that it's absolutely necessary to use it. But I sell far more copies of the book I have with you, too. There seems to be a difference of opinion about whether DRM is reliable or not in my author's group as well. Any thoughts?

Answer: DRM or "Digital Rights Management" involves putting a code in the front of a file that requires a "key" (sent separately via e-mail to the customer) to get the file to open. People who fear Pirates often seek publishers using DRM.

To use it or not, is a decision a publisher makes as a business person. Some publishers feel this enhances the sales experience and will protect the author's file from pirates, which is why it was invented in the first place.

I made a consciencious decision not to use DRM after I received a number of complaints from customers that, even when they entered the key, the file wouldn't open. I also noticed those DRM protected files had more, not less, problems with Pirate sites.

Personally, if I hear of a pirate, I ask them politely to remove the material, pointing out that they have it illegally as the publications rights are contracted to me. If they do remove it, that's that. If they tell me, too bad, you can't touch us, I send a "cease and desist" letter prepared for me by an author who is also an attorney. I copy that letter to the company that hosts the domain of the offender, with a note pointing out that they are hosting an entity that is doing illegal business on the Internet. SOME domains remove the site forthwith. Some warn them. Some could care less, especially some hosts in China.

DRM protection sounds like a good idea. But I do not use it for the following reasons.

1. It annoys customers, who sometimes can't get the book they have just bought and paid for to open.

2. I has been known to scramble formats, making your carefully prepared and formatted files look like crap when they do open.

3. Anyone with a copy of Microsoft Word 7 or above can disable DRM on any file, if they know how. So it doesn't really protect anyone from Pirates, because they make it their business to know how.

Bottom line: DRM was a good idea, but it doesn't work very well. I believe the annoyance factor kicks in and costs sales. In addition SOME vendor sites will not discount or promote books with DRM enabled.

Small publishers get breaks with vendors, who will send e-mail to people who have bought others by the same author, or books in a series, and so on -- a case where spam can work for you -- BUT they do NOT get such breaks if DRM is enabled, or in some cases, if the book's price is $7.00 or more.

1 comment:

  1. Arline,
    This information about DRM is so valuable. It seems to me publishing has become so convoluted with multiple options which can be confusing to new writers such as myself. Information from your author experience as you have provided here helps me to sift it all. My goal for this year is to finish the first draft of a memoir I have been working on,in earnest,for the past two years so I will be following your publishing tips closely. I'm so glad I found you! Kathy