Pogue on an author's view of DRM for books

David Pogue (NY Times) has written a blog entry about his experience as an author selling an ebook with no DRM... and it wasn't the end of the world, or even his career as an author. With the nook and a possible Apple tablet coming to contend with the Kindle, will the publishing industry realize that this may just be another lock-in like Apple and the iPod (which basically killed music DRM).

He goes on in the article to describe how scared the publishing industry is about ebooks and the classic problems with DRM (hurts the people who are honest, never really gets in the way of the people who aren't).

Then, he gets to the interesting part. It turns out that he and O'Reilly got together to do an experiment and offered one of his windows books online without DRM (but with pricing). The book showed up quickly on file sharing sites, as was the case when he released it in DRM'd form.

Speaking as somebody in the software industry, I feel for his concerns about completely removing DRM. Without some form of reminder to people that the books that they are reading are theirs and not free for the taking, it's likely that even naturally honest people will find themselves "loaning" their books out, only to have the recipient keep the books for a long time, which is something that just doesn't happen with a physical book (at least not without the original owner losing the ability to use the book while it's loaned out).

However, those of us in the software industry have long realized (except for the saturation sellers, like Microsoft and Adobe) that the "copy protection" portion of the software is there to keep the honest people honest and the folks who are on the fence feeling bad, and it just doesn't have any effect on those who are prone to copying... there's just no way to help those people from their kleptomaniacal ways.

As a Kindle owner, I hope that the DRM for books is resolved soon, since I'm very hesitant to buy books on the Kindle in its current form. However, I am enjoying reading my PDF books that I purchased from places like Pragmatic, which offers DRM-free books in PDF (and now I find out mobi) format that can be used on just about anything.