DRM-Free eBooks: An opportunity for Christian publishers and retailers
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Posted by: Sheri Toomb
Verner, President, eChristian, Inc.
If you follow publishing news, you can’t help but hear about
the issues surrounding DRM. Lately, things have been heating up even more than usual
and this topic has become one of the more debated and widely contested areas of
publishing, and for good reason: no matter which side of the argument you’re
on, DRM is a big deal.
As a publisher, I certainly understand the desire of those who create
content to protect their work from piracy. However, if you’ve talked to me -
and some of you have - you know I’m pretty passionate about providing DRM-free
content. While I don’t intend to rehash all the pros and cons of DRM vs.
DRM-free, there are a couple key reasons why I support removing DRM from
eBooks, and I think they are important to consider for those in the Christian
publishing and retailing market.
First, DRM creates a roadblock
between content and the consumer. If you are an Amazon Kindle or
Apple user, you may object to that statement - both companies have created
simple, compelling eBook experiences. They have a huge product selection, and
offer a terrific delivery experience for DRM content. In fact, 9 out of 10
customers don’t even notice DRM since it happens seamlessly without the
customer noticing that anything is happening to limit use of the content.
Amazon and Apple have proprietary systems that are tied into
the devices they sell and distribute. To create a similar experience, you
would need to have websites that are tied into devices in the same way Amazon
and Apple have done and a few billion dollars to create such an environment.
These systems are good if you stay
on a device. However, when the user switches platforms, DRM becomes painfully
When downloading a DRM file from sites like Google, Kobo,
Christianbook.com, eChristian.com and soon Family Christian, DRM is
apparent at every step to the user. The industry standard solution for DRM,
applied by Adobe’s Content Server (ACS), is so invasive that it is a deal
breaker for most consumers. In our experience, many customers who have a device
that can handle these files ultimately give up, ask for a refund, and decide
not to purchase again.
For those who overcome the downloading and syncing obstacles, ACS system
isn’t terribly consumer-friendly. While it allows publishers to decide how the
content can be used, it doesn’t clearly tell the user. It is nearly impossible,
for example, to figure out how to print a section of an Adobe DRMed eBook. A
publisher might limit printing to, say, 10 pages. For the user, there are two
ways to figure this out: either look in the ACS admin panel on the server (not
accessible) or experiment for 15-20 minutes, trying to print. Adobe doesn’t
deliver a message explaining that the printing app is stalling or crashing
because the user hasn’t selected an allowable print range. This small, singular
example is representative of what turns out to be an abysmal experience for the
Second, DRM creates a roadblock
for independent retailers. The statistics are everywhere; readers are adopting
eBook technology faster than ever in both the general and Christian markets.
Twitter feeds of Christian bloggers and authors often contain links to eBook
deals and recommendations. But the cost to enter the eBook market is
significant, in large part due to the cost of supporting DRM, which puts eBook
sales out of reach for many independent retailers.
But for a moment, let’s set aside the cost factor, and consider a
retailer who has launched an eBook store. Although they have a loyal customer
base who is willing to shop at their site, they encounter the retail side of
the consumer roadblock I mentioned above. Although they can sell and deliver
eBooks, DRM titles can’t be read on a Kindle, the most popular e-reading
device. For other device users, a retailer must be ready to address other
questions: Is the buyer’s device supported? Do they need a special app or
program? Where do they purchase or download the app? How do they sync their
books to their device? What happens if the user downloads a book and is
unsuccessful activating it?
While I don’t think we are obligated to resolve these issues primarily for the
retailer, I do support independent book retailing, and DRM is affecting that
market segment. More than that, I am passionate about helping us, as
publishers, deliver our content into the hands of those who most want it - our
customers - and I think DRM-free is the best way for us to continue to reach
our readers in an increasingly digital world.
as President of eChristian, Inc. He lives in San Diego, California with his
wife Crissy and two boys ages 10 and 13. Cory is the cofounder of
christianaudio (an eChristian owned company). Prior to eChristian, Cory worked
for ChannelWave (now Digital River), a leading provider of eCommerce solutions
to fortune 500 companies, where he managed large scale eCommerce initiatives
for Compaq, HP, Sony, Hyundai, Kia among others.