That is the question a modern day Hamlet and Ophelia might ponder if they could just get past his stabbing of her father.

On a serious note, DRM (digital rights management) remains a hot button of conversation in the ebook realm. Traditional publishers are supporters of DRM maintaining it is necessary to prevent illegal downloads and piracy.

However, not everyone feels the same way. While most people deplore piracy and illegal downloads, many feel that you should be able to do the same things with an ebook that you can do with a paperback, for example lend it to a friend. Depending on the level of DRM on the particular file, you may or may not be able to do that. Usually not.

Other publishers maintain that the key to preventing illegal downloads and piracy is to get your price point right. I once attended an Australian Publishers Association talk at which a high profile Carina Press editor from the US who was adamant that the key issue was price point not DRM. She said that if she had her laptop with her, she could show us all how to unlock DRM in less than 30 seconds! We didn’t put her to the test but I hope most people’s home security is better than that. She did say that their experience at Carina Press was that if the price was right, the vast majority of readers were happy to do the right thing and buy a legal copy of the ebook.

Bill Pollock, founder of niche San Francisco publisher No Starch Press, goes one step further. In an interview with Publishing Perspectives*, he said, ‘We have never used DRM and we never will. It’s just foolish… I don’t believe in charging people three times for the same information.’

Pollock, like Carina Press, believes in the radical notion that, ‘You have to trust your readers, and when you show that you them, they will respond to you.’

No Starch Press publishes book for geeks on a range of tech-related subjects from hacking to programming for kids including LOTS of books about Lego. When you buy a physical book from them, you get a free copy of the ebook to use however you want to.

The approach is paying off for them. They publish about thirty titles a year and their new book, LEGO Neighborhood Book, sold 15,000 copies in two weeks and had to be reprinted. Pollock says that pirate sites are not a real threat with books typically downloaded only a few hundred times. He argues that piracy may actually help build a buzz about new books.

‘Our business has been up every one of the last 15 years, but you don’t see those DRM-loving publishers going round talking about what a great year they’re having,’ he says.

Carina Press is primarily a digital-only imprint. No Starch Press makes their money from their print books. What they have in common is a belief that DRM is not a key factor in building a business / brand / author.

Where do you stand on the DRM debate, especially if you are an indie publisher for whom a ‘few hundred’ pirated copies would make a real difference, especially in a smaller market such as Australia. Do you believe in DRM or not? What do you do for your books? We’d love to hear from you.


* You can read Mark Piesing’s full interview with Bill Pollock at Publishing Perspectives.

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  1. MarianneTheresa

     /  February 12, 2015

    I have had nothing but headaches when I purchased a few DRM protected books. They wouldn’t read/open/download, one of them I couldn’t read 3 months later after buying and I had to re apply to the publisher where I bought it (who were great) they chased up the Author’s publisher to re-release another copy for me. What a headache!
    I just refuse to buy a DRM book off any of my preferred publishers these days. I don’t care how much I want to read the book!

  2. It’s so easy to break DRM I don’t know why the big publishers bother to keep it.


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