Articles tagged "piracy"

SiDiM…the future of DRM software

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the landing, holding a bowl of lather on which a glass and a razor were crossed.”

This is not the first sentence of James Joyce’s modernist masterpiece Ulysses. But one day it could be. Maybe. Joyce’s book actually begins like this:

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

I changed just three words in that first version of Ulysses‘ opening, “stairhead”, “holding,” and “mirror,” but that might well be enough to catch a pirate, according to DRM researchers at Germany’s Darmstadt Technical University. As I have discussed previously, DRM, which stands for Digital Rights Management, is any form of software that protects the copyright of digital books. Some software prevents piracy, other software alerts those charged with stopping it.

SiDiM, the radical new DRM software being developed by the aforementioned researchers with support from the German government, would achieve the latter. By making subtle changes to a book’s text, punctuation, or formatting, SiDiM would effectively “watermark” a digital book, making that book unique and therefore identifiable to agencies tracking pirates.

Researchers maintain that this is a consumer friendly version of DRM because it wouldn’t prevent sharing a book between devices or tether it to a specific account, but the prospect of altering a book’s text, however imperceptible, makes my skin crawl. How would you know you are reading what the author intended? The process is said to be automated, so what’s the guarantee the changes are slight, or even imperceptible?

I am always curious as to how new technologies will change the way we write (did the telegraph shorten our sentences? what will the SMS do??) but this kind of software, which literally changes the text, seems comically dystopic. Certainly writers need protections if their works are to circulate digitally. Author Phillip Pullman recently pointed out how much money authors stand to lose if they aren’t compensated when their books are borrowed, and he makes a good case.

What sort of protections do we want as writers and what sort do we want as readers? There is surely a balance to be found, but my guess is that it will be less intrusive than the vision advanced by SiDiM.

Would you let readers price your book?

Piracy is rampant. Music, eBooks, and films are all susceptible to being illegally downloaded for free, which deprives creators of compensation for their art. In the digital age, one way to combat piracy has been to use a “pay what you want” pricing model.

Ever since the band Radiohead released its highly anticipated 2007 album In Rainbows with a “pay what you want” scheme, it’s been viewed as a profitable way for large, highly successful bands to earn money in the era of internet piracy. But what about for smaller artists? And what about for books?

StoryBundle offers a “pay what you want” payment method for bundles of DRM-free eBooks, with each bundle comprised of a group of excellently reviewed eBooks from a specific genre. Readers decide how much of the money will go to the author, and how much will go StoryBundle.

This kind of innovative pricing leaves authors at a crossroads, choosing between making a surefire profit on their work (if priced at a consistent level and counting on good sales) or leaving it up to the goodwill of readers. If you’re beloved (like Radiohead) you stand a good chance of making a considerable amount of money. Still, this is a big risk to take.

The genius part of the StoryBundle project isn’t the pricing, though — it’s the bundling. By bundling your work with other authors, particularly if they are in the same genre, you stand a greater chance of reaching new readers, as well as a better chance of making money in a “pay what you want” model. When consumers buy a single book, they might be inclined to only cough up a dollar or so. But if they are buying five, well, that seems more like something that should cost $10. Of course, you’re still at the mercy of your readers.

Innovative pricing and bundling are just among the options writers get when they publish an eBook. By avoiding the overhead cost associated with print, they can experiment and become more entrepreneurial with selling their work. Not only that, but if a certain pricing model doesn’t work — then chuck it. If you find that a DRM model isn’t working for you, then maybe try being DRM-free for a while to see how sales go. Or even reach out to other, similar authors, and see if a bundle is something they’d be interested in.

The key thing is to keep trying new ways of selling your book. Remember, you have to be just as creative while marketing your book as you are when writing it.

The Word on Used eBooks

You walk around the old marketplace, through antique stores and old stacks of records, looking, hopefully, for that one store where you’ll be able to enter entirely new worlds. Yes, you’ve found it! The used eBookstore.

Used eBooks? As outrageous as that sounds, if a new ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union is followed by similar rulings, a used eBook could soon be coming your way. Of course, that all depends on how eBook publishers deal with this paradigm.

When you buy an eBook, you buy the license to use that file. The ruling declares that you have the right to resell that license to a third party, but only if you cease to use that file (and not make duplicates of it). Whether eBooks will now come with the ability to be resold, or if new software will create a whole market of secondhand books, remains to be seen. But if this ruling gains traction, it appears that publishers will at least have to make this option available. Or not — it’s also quite possible that a publisher would slap on a “no resale” protection to their eBooks.

As a writer, does it make sense to allow your eBook to be resold? You don’t make any money on a resale (at least not traditional ones), and it’s possible your eBook could just be traded around until it’s sold for mere pennies. Still, it never seemed like used bookstores were to be the downfall of the publishing industry in the pre-digital days.

However, Digital Book World paints a very positive picture of this new development:

“If eBooks could be easily resold by readers, the effects on the growing e-book industry would be great. Used eBookstores could pop up; new, exotic forms of digital rights management (DRM) software could be developed; and the price of eBooks, facing upward pressure from their new-found resale value and downward pressure from a used book market, could change.”

Do you think the idea of a used eBook is a good one? As a writer, will you offer the option for used copies of your eBook to be resold? Is this a good alternative to piracy?