The eBook future looks pretty bright for consumers, with devices improving and dropping in price, and a wealth of material to read thereon. But writers are worried, with some justification – after all, if the Kindle does for publishing what the iPod has done for the record labels, no one’s going to get much money for writing short stories any more.
Writer Luc Reid has been scratching his head over the Digital Rights Management question in an attempt to satisfy his requirements as both a writer and a reader, starting from the premise that DRM is necessary to enable authors to be paid for their work:
In general, the biggest argument against DRM seems to be that it provides positive things for the seller but only negative things to the buyer. Here’s a DRM proposal that actually helps the buyer, while taking away some of the biggest nuisances. I’m sure I’m not the first one to come up with it. It’s account-based DRM.
What I mean by “account-based” is that when a person buys a book, that person gets a permanent license to read that book on any eReader device they own, from a smart phone to a dedicated eReader to, who knows, their wide-screen TV with a little black box attachment. Computers might or might not be included; that would be mainly a technical issue.
This “account-based” idea is different from what’s usually talked about when people talk about eReader DRM, which is “device-based.” That is, much of the thinking about DRM has been that when I buy a book, I get to read it on the particular device I bought it for and nowhere else.
It’s a well-thought out set of ideas, and Reid has worked hard at including the flaws and objections. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s predicated on too many ‘ifs’ for it to be viable. An industry-wide standard retail structure complete with hardware and software that supports the system may sound easy on paper, but the real world is a little more messy, and getting competing companies to work together is like herding cats.
That said, Reid’s piece is one of the most honest defences of DRM I’ve ever read; maybe the publishing houses should get a think-tank of smart writers and readers together to boil up new ideas instead of leaving it to the beancounters and engineers?