publishing headslap

Hachette finally feels the downside of DRM

There’s a great post by renowned writer and (self-) publishing anarchist Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

By now, almost everyone knows about the Hachette / Amazon publishing farrago. Hachette want to force Amazon to allow it to set its own prices for its books (they call that “Agency Pricing” or “The Agency Model” for those new to this) and not allow discounting. Amazon doesn’t want that – it wants the wholesale / retail price structure that allows discounting. And also probably because it doesn’t want to be told how to run its own store.

Mark Coker of Smashwords likes the Agency Model. The US Department of Justice and others do not.

I’m on Amazon’t side, incidentally. I’m for a free market, open competition – which means lower prices and more choice for readers. Keep in mind that Hachette can sell their titles on their own store and charge what they want.

Of course Hachette, along with the rest of “big publishing” is for the Agency Model, aka price-fixing. Last week Apple was ordered to pay millions of dollars back to readers in damages for anti-competitive price-fixing via iBooks. The “Big Five” publishers have already been stung with $US160m for price-fixing.

In any case, it’s the DRM irony that’s delicious in this case. Why don’t Hachette just pull the books from Amazon and sell them somewhere else? Because they forced Amazon to add DRM to all Hachette books.

As Doctorow points out:

It is an own-goal masterstroke. It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can’t afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers. The law of DRM means that neither the writer who created a book, nor the publisher who invested in it, gets to control its digital destiny: the lion’s share of copyright control goes to the ebook retailer whose sole contribution to the book was running it through a formatting script that locked it up with Amazon’s DRM.

One big problem with DRM is that it removes portability.

Hachette has helped “lock in” readers to the Kindle ecosystem by insisting that Amazon DRM be added to all titles. Now readers can’t migrate those books, even if they wanted to – unless they want to strip the DRM. It’s easy to do, but neither Hachette or Amazon can endorse that – it’s illegal.

So readers aren’t going to switch ecosystems and leave all of their Hachette books in Amazonland (or run two devices for books).

They buy on Amazon and it works on Kindle and it’s easy. End of story.

Good old DRM, eh, Hachette?

Posted in trends.

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