BEA Show Notes: Publishers Launch: DRM is Genre Fiction Poison
Speaking at the Publishers Launch conference at BookExpo America, Charlie Stross, sci-fi writer and noted proponent of abandoning digital rights management for ebooks, laid out the business case for doing so.
Noting that the issue is at the intersection of culture and technology, Stross, during a panel discussion on DRM, emphasized that DRM technology renders ebooks ephemeral as it locks them into devices that the consumer electronics industry’s business model renders obsolete every 12 to 24 months.
“Books with DRM are unlikely to be readable within five years,” explained Stross. While this may not affect casual readers who only read books once and read primarily bestsellers, DRM, Stross noted, has a profound effect on the midlist titles read by “people who collect books because they re-read their favorites. These are committed readers who consume books the way many people consume TV.”
These readers, said Stross tend to be readers of genre fiction and, while they make up a small customer base, they buy in disproportionately large numbers.
“DRM is poison to genre readers,” said Stross. “Dropping DRM on ebooks won’t effect bestsellers, but it will deliver a long-term boost to the mid list.”
Author John Scalzi, speaking later in the session, said, “Dropping DRM makes it easier to be an author, easier to be a reader and easier to be a retailer. All of these things make sense.”
Earlier in the session, author and blogger Cory Doctorow said that DRM breaks the social contract of books.
“We are the people of the book,” he said. “We know each other by the books that line our walls. We know what the book bargain is. The ancient compact of book ownership states that when you buy a book, you own the book. The public’s end of the bargain is that we as a society treasure books. DRM reduces books to mere objects of commerce.”