Author Services Site Lulu Moves Toward DRM-Free; But Is It What Authors Want?
Self-publishing site Lulu has announced that it will no longer offer digital rights management (DRM) as an option for its authors for books created and sold on Lulu (for books created on Lulu and sold elsewhere, they will still be subject to DRM; also, hat-tip to Laura Owen at paidContent).
While well-informed readers and much of the digerati in the book publishing world are anti-DRM and may be lauding this move as another chink in the armor of DRM. Add it to other recent developments:
— June: Macmillan announced it would sell DRM-free books directly to readers through its store at Tor.com
— June: IPG-distributed publishers decide to sell DRM-free in the wake of an Amazon lockout
— Oct.: HarperCollins dabbles in DRM-free ebooks through a social reading experiment
— Oct.: A wave of anti-DRM sentiment briefly sweeps readers in the wake of a story (that turned out to be a bit overblown) about an Amazon customer who lost her library
— Nov.: Wiley decides to sell 3,000 of its titles DRM-free through the O’Reilly DRM-free ebook store
But what do authors — Lulu’s customers — think?
According to a recent survey conducted by Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest (also owned by F+W Media) of nearly 5,000 authors, Lulu might have made a mistake. More than any other position, authors are generally in favor of DRM.
We asked them the following question:
What should be done about Digital Rights Management (DRM) software? [DRM is technology that limits access to files and is used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, and other copyright holders to limit the use of digital content. DRM prevents consumers from making as many copies of an ebook as they want and then giving them away.]
And gave them the following choices (% for each answer in parentheses):
— DRM should be strengthened — ebook piracy is a problem that should be combated aggressively (32%)
— DRM should be left alone — it’s fine the way it is (11%)
— DRM should be changed — it needs to be more flexible to allow more readers to share ebooks (16%)
— DRM should be abolished — it prevents readers from sharing books and it doesn’t prevent piracy (11%)
— No opinion (30%)
About a third of authors are for actually strengthening DRM (red bar) and a total of 43% want it either strengthened or left alone. Only 11% want what Lulu has given them.
When you look at which kinds of authors (aspiring, self-published, traditionally published, both self- and traditionally published and all published [meaning adding up the latter three categories]) have what position, “aspiring” authors (those who haven’t published a book in any form) are least in favor of strengthening DRM at 29%. Of all published authors, 35% want it strengthened, with 39% of traditionally published authors holding that view.
That said, outside of the view that it should be strengthened (or no opinion at all), the second most-popular view was that it should be changed to be more flexible. Abolishing DRM was among the least popular views — except, surprisingly, among authors who have been both self-published and traditionally published. Nearly a quarter of them wanted it abolished.
At Digital Book World Conference + Expo next week, in a session entitled The Authors’ View of the Industry we will be presenting the findings of our author survey, including the answer to questions about how much authors blog and use social media, what their goals are in writing, what they think of agents, ebooks in libraries, publishers and more! Register here.