iktaPOP Media

Self-publishing electronically, not in vain

Against DRM

As my previous post encouraged you to pirate my work far and wide (executive summary: not being stupid, I like free advertising!), it should come as no surprise that I am against Digital Rights Management (DRM) as well.

What I’m really against is Customer Abuse. That is what DRM is, when you get right down to it.

Last year when I bought my Kobo eReader, specifically because its default format is the open ePub standard, Borders gave me a gift card with which to buy some ebooks to load onto it. I quickly bought the Robert Heinlein biography, because I’ve been itching to read it.

And now, eight months later, I’m still itching to read it.

Because, even though I’ve purchased the book legally, it’s not mine, according to them. I don’t use Windows or Mac (yes, I’m a Linux dork). And their proprietary software does not support anything but Win, Mac, or Android.

Yes, Android.

Which is Linux.

Which they don’t support.

Wait, it gets better.

I contacted their Customer Service, opened a “trouble ticket”, and carefully and clearly explained my situation, noting that lack of Linux support was the cause of the problem, and wondering if there were some work-around, or a way to unlock the DRM, so that I could read the book I had paid for (and downloaded).

Their first response was a copy and paste of the “how to” portion of their FAQ for downloading and reading on Windows.

No, they did not bother to read any of what I wrote.

That kept up, off and on, over the course of six months. I’d open a ticket, they’d say “Sorry, we can’t help you” and mark the ticket “resolved” — even though they completely failed to resolve the issue — that I could not read the book I had bought.

Imagine this kind of aggravation with a print book. You get it home, try to read it, and it is purposely crippled — let’s say that it’s printed black-on-black, and you need a special UV light to read it.

Except that, as a skin cancer survivor, you can’t take additional levels of UV.

And the store says, well, too flippin’ bad. No, we won’t give you a refund, no we won’t give you a readable copy, no we won’t do a damn thing to help you out. Because you might, possibly, maybe, perhaps could be a nefarious pirate.

So there you are, never having had a thought of piracy in your life before, being denied access to something you bought legally, being refused any sort of restitution or apology for misleading advertising, and being de facto accused of being a criminal because you just want to read the damn book that you bought.

That’s how DRM works.

There is no excuse for abusing your customer and treating him like a criminal absent any evidence at all. It pisses off that customer, makes him hate you, and inclines him to disrespect your rights where before he more than likely would never have thought about violating them, as payback.

Again, I point to the example of Baen Books, which not only makes many of their ebooks available for free, but never, ever locks the books they sell for a profit up with any kind of DRM.

Baen, you see, is happy that you bought their book, and would like you to buy more. So they don’t punish you for it, or tell you how you must read it, or anything stupid or implicitly accusatory. You can download any of almost a dozen formats, and tweak them in any way that you like. Just like with their physical books, they assume that when you buy the book, it is yours.

Baen’s customers, incensed and outraged at being treated like rational, upstanding human beings, have been attempting to drown the publisher in money ever since, out of spite.

So, another point of my marketing strategy with iktaPOP: No DRM, ever, unless I’m publishing through a platform that gives no other choice — and then, there will always be alternative sources that are DRM-free. I don’t think that you are a thief, and I do want you to pass along my stuff to anyone and everyone who you think may enjoy it, no strings attached. (If they like it, they can buy a “guilt” copy, or just buy everything else I’ve got that looks interesting to them.)


2 responses to “Against DRM

  1. Lisa Buchan 15 April 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Hooray! excellent post. How about posting it in a forum on our community sparkabook and seeing what the publishers respond?
    I presume you have read the Baen manifesto then?

    • D. Jason Fleming 16 April 2011 at 6:35 pm


      I’ll look at your forums when I’m a bit less inundated with the novel I’m writing. πŸ™‚

      As for Baen’s manifesto, by Eric Flint, yes, I read it some years ago. Flint and I are worlds apart philosophically and politically, but a) he tells one hell of a story, and b) I’ve got nothing but respect for the way he put his own work out into the wild for free to back up his beliefs. He turned out to be right, and profited handsomely in doing so! πŸ˜€

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