One of the early posts I wrote here was to praise to one of my favorite publishers, Baen Books. One of the things I really love about them – and the other science fiction/fantasy publishers who have joined them – is that they treat you like a customer. That is, treat you like you’re valued, and recognize that if you buy something, you should be able to do what you want with it. The better your experience, the more likely you are to come back.
I was reminded of that post after reading an article discussing “e-book piracy.” As I said earlier, the way the laws are written it’s almost impossible not to be “a pirate” at some point. This article discusses the various “protections” and “worries” that e-book publishers are having on their wares:
As digital book publishing continues to expand at a rapid pace to meet reader demands, piracy rears its head at the forefront of many a discussion in publisher circles. Many publishers respond to the perceived threat with strict digital rights management (DRM) software. But is this the best solution? And does it even provide protection from piracy?
Mostly, some of the background runs along the same line as the movie and music industry. The idea is that piracy “steals” from their revenue, and that there is a one to one equivalency between each “pirated copy” and a “purchased copy.” The idea they have is that if someone can’t pirate it, they’ll buy it instead, which is not necessarily the case. They’re just as (or more) likely to “do without.” The problem I’ve seen with most e-book publishers is that they spend an enormous amount of time and money to protect their goods, and then try to recoup that cost by charging just as much for the e-book as for the paper copy. The article tells of the ultimate futility of that:
I’m pretty adamant on DRM: It has no impact whatsoever on piracy. Any good pirate can strip DRM in a matter of seconds to minutes. A pirate can scan a print copy easily as well. DRM is really only useful for keeping people who otherwise might have shared a copy of a book from doing so.
I should also point out that up until recently, most publishers lost money on their e-book sales. They weren’t popular. Which is where Baen comes in. Not only were they making money on their e-books, all of which are without DRM, they were charging a fair price for the books – less than a paperback or hardcover. Which is why this nugget caught my eye:
I think of Baen Books, for example, which doesn’t put any DRM restrictions on its content but is one of the least pirated book publishers.
It’s one of the truths that the late Jim Baen kept stating – people would rather be honest than dishonest. Give them a fair deal, trust them, and they’ll be honest. Why would I want to pirate something that doesn’t cost me all that much to buy, that I can read in any format, even read it on the Internet if I choose? Heck, if you wanted a copy you could just ask me! Seriously, I’m allowed to do that – they even encourage it. So no one really bothers. It’s a point that I see from other publishing executives occasionally, but the people in the boardrooms don’t get it. It’s their “precious” and everyone would be sneaking thieves taking the money from their pockets if they didn’t protect it. All the while, the little publisher that could has been making money, their stuff isn’t being pirated, and they’ve been doing it all along without any restrictions on their books. You’d think after 10 years the rest of them would have gotten the message.