Locked things …

On Monday, Joe Wikert built on recent work by Charlie Stross, Joe Esposito and the New York Times to plot a path that would help Barnes & Noble disrupt Amazon.

Wikert suggests that publishers heed Charlie Stross and stop insisting on device-specific DRM, the option that effectively handed Amazon permanent status as the dominant eBook player in the United States. It would be a bold move, and I’d love to see it tested.

Although publishers of all sizes lament Amazon’s dominant position in eBook sales, the largest continue to insist on using device-specific DRM as their defense against piracy. Preserving a closed system only works to the advantage of the largest player.

It also has no impact on piracy. Device-specific DRM may cut down on unauthorized, casual lending, but it seems just as likely that it also lowers the price consumers are willing to pay for a digital license.

People like Kirk Biglione have been saying as much for several years. In a comment to Wikert’s excellent post, I note that Biglione presented a comprehensive overview of “lessons learned from the music industry” at both the 2008 and 2010 Tools of Change conferences in New York. Chief among those lessons: DRM restricts markets.

In November, the comment thread on one of my posts evolved into a discussion of how IDPF might develop interoperable DRM akin to Blue-Ray. That prospect may appeal to a content provider, but it is unlikely to bring Amazon to the table until it has locked up the market.

As for consumers: I’ve yet to find one who sees the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as a triumph of innovation. It’s just another iteration of device-specific locks.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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