DRM and eBooks

As the eBooks business continues to expand, it’s remarkable to see how it is rushing to provide an ever expanding breadth of reading material available on terms that were developed during the centuries-long history of paper book publishing. Witness this recent announcement from Amazon:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1552678&highlight=

Now library lending is available on your kindle, as it already is on other platforms. What’s remarkable is that this move to digital is not negatively affecting the author’s rights under copyright or the business of writing and publishing in general. The copyright holder can set the number of copies of a book that can be checked out at one time, just as they could by limiting the number of physical books in the library’s stock. But the copyright holder can also, if it chooses to, offer to sell the book, so rather than “returning” it to the library, you can pay for it and keep it, and automatically, your “copy” of the virtual library book is again available for lending to others. Late fees do not apply because the book simply stops being readable when the time limit is exceeded, and again, the virtual book becomes available for the library to lend it to others.

I expect this will be very well received by the eBook reading public because it makes eBooks available in a manner that is straightforward, very familiar to the reading public at large, and well regarded as completely fair and equitable to the institution of the library, the original author, and most of all, the reader.

None of this would be possible if the enforcement practices for paper books, now afforded by nasty-grams and late fees, was no longer available in the eBook space. The new technology that closes this gap between paper books and eBooks is DRM.

DRM is capable of protecting eBooks in any number of different business models. The existing models of purchase, lending library and others are now well in place, and the book industry remains healthy as the transition to eBooks continues. But now with DRM comes the possibility to make new offers to consumers of e-reading material. The sky is the limit and we have only just begun.