Tuesday, 15 May 2012

E-Books Post Pottermore

I've decided to catch up on my musings in the e-book world, there have been several developments over the last month or two that I want to cover and given the amount I need to cover it seems I am going to have to do it through a series of posts over the next few days...

Here's the first.
To DRM or not to DRM?

At the beginning of the month The Bookseller reported that Pottermore had sold £3 million worth of ebooks in its first month of operating with many fans buying a complete set of the supposedly DRM free Harry potter books. Although this DRM approach is not unique, the launch of such high profile titles in a DRM free format is unusual enough to have raised eyebrows within the publishing world and I expect was risky enough to have given publishers Redmayne a few sleepless nights. According to Redmayne the risk paid off, maybe, because as they themselves believe, the books were offered  at an attractive price, in an attractive format.

Admittedly there have been some complaints about whether these copies are really DRM free. Although you can download your purchase up to 8 times you have to download the book direct (rather than through a partner site such as Amazon) to get the DRM free ePub file and even these have watermarks to enable Pottermore to track down individuals who make their copies available illegally. And it's not as if the DRM free format gives you free reign to loan or resell your title as you might a paper copy, the terms and conditions are very clear on that point, you cannot  'sell, distribute, loan, share, give or lend the book or extract to any other person, including to your friends.' So while you certainly have more license to use your copy than with a file from Amazon or Overdriveit can be argued that they aren't really DRM free.

While this development is of interest to me I see it of more relevance to my personal reading habits than my college collection. (My husband has a Kindle while I favor my Sony ereader so an ebook we could purchase once then download to both would be brilliant - assuming that wouldn't breach the terms and conditions) I see selling DRM free (or light) ebooks to individuals as a very different, and much more likely future than lending DRM free ebooks in college, university or even public libraries. 

Publishers in general are very twitchy about ebook lending and are increasingly seeing it as a threat to their profit marginsaccording to The Guardian only Random House and Bloomsbury are still signed up to library e-lending platform Overdrive. The fact is that ebooks are a valuable commodity and represent a growing market to the publisher world, one which they can ill afford to lose.  In the short term at least it's unrealistic to expect publishers to take Redmayne's leap of faith and make their titles available DRM lite. It's even more unrealistic to expect them to provide DRM ebooks to lending platforms such as Overdrive or Dawson.

So that brings me to my next post, e-lending in the current climate. Coming as soon as I've recovered from writing this post. 

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