As many of you are aware, Lulu recently started offering Digital Rights Management (DRM) for eBooks. We did this because many of our users requested it and because we want to offer our authors the tools they need. Whether you choose to use those tools is completely up to you. That said, DRM is a complicated subject, so I wanted to try to lay out some of the reasons you might choose to use DRM and why you might not. This will enable you to make an informed decision about what option is best for you and whether you want to invest in the tool.
What is DRM?
To begin with, I wanted to give a quick overview of Digital Rights Management. Googling the term pulls up a plethora of information and I highly suggest you poke around and research the topic further. In its simplest form, DRM is a technology tool that restricts access to digital content. It is typically used by the content provider to prevent unauthorized access to their work.
There is some controversy surrounding the use of DRM because of its use by some companies to restrict the use of content beyond what is covered by existing laws and can be (in some cases) used for anti-competitive purposes. Lulu does not in any way support these practices. Rather, we believe that DRM can be useful for authors who want to control the use of their content. We also believe that authors should be able to make the decision whether or not to use DRM for themselves.
Why You Might Want DRM
As previously mentioned, DRM can be beneficial to an author trying to protect their work from unauthorized distribution. Using DRM, you can control how many times an eBook can be downloaded for a single purchase, and the number of devices (computers, eBook readers, etc.) to which the eBook can be transferred.
If you’re an author who is trying to generate revenue off of eBook sales and you want added protection against your customers freely sharing your content, then you may want to consider investing in DRM.
Why You Might Not Want DRM
In an essay about the digital distribution of books, publisher Tim O’Reilly said, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.” If you are more concerned with people reading your material, and you want to encourage people to share your work, then you may not want to use DRM.
There is no one answer for everyone and I encourage everyone to research the topic. Think about your work and what you want to accomplish before deciding to add DRM to your eBook.