Monday, May 31, 2010

eBook Piracy and DRM Headaches

From Robert McGarvey writing on Internet Evolution:

... On Wednesday last week, at the huge Book Expo America (BEA) tradeshow in New York, RR Bowker vice president Kelly Gallagher previewed the latest round of comprehensive e-book data arising from the Book Industry Study Group's ongoing research into consumer e-book behavior.

The data is fascinating: E-book purchasing definitely ticked up hugely in the first quarter of 2010 (it now represents 5 percent of book sales dollars, a leap from the 1.5 percent registered in 2009). Even more telling is that a surprising 49 percent of book buyers "strongly" or "exclusively" prefer e-books, per BISG research. An unavoidable conclusion is that e-books are on the fast track to becoming the preferred medium.

But when asked by a reporter if the study had generated insights into piracy of e-books, Gallagher indicated that nothing meaningful had surfaced -- which is another way of saying publishers just don't want to look under that particular rock.

Another reality: The DRM (digital rights management) slapped on e-books does not work. "DRM has never worked, pirates have plenty of tools to get around it," wrote Ernesto in an email.

What DRM does do, incidentally, is annoy consumers, per the BISG study. More than one third of the hundreds polled said DRM upsets them, noted Gallagher, and that is up from 28 percent in polling last year. Only 30 percent said DRM does not bother them. Gallagher summed up the findings: "Consumers are increasingly frustrated with the DRM they encounter with e-books."

Is the frustration with DRM enough to prod consumers to pirate e-books? That's the other question of the moment, and when piracy expert Brian O'Leary, a principal at Magellan Media Partners, was asked about this at BEA, he said that as long as legal e-books are convenient to purchase at prices consumers deem fair, he does not envision a rampage of piracy. ...

More about the eBook trends and above research as discussed at BookExpo can by found in this report from Publishers Weekly's Jim Milliot.