A good place to start

In book publishing, a small number of companies have released digital versions of titles without any digital rights management schemes attached. A few publishers (O'Reilly and Baen are examples) feel that the use of DRM is antithetical to their readers' needs, while a small but possibly growing cohort are testing the impact of releasing titles without using DRM.

In the United States, the overwhelming majority of publishers continue to use some sort of DRM, typically the kind that locks a reader into a single retail platform. I've written about this before, often enough that the arguments seem pretty well played out at this point.

Still, I was interested to read "Why DRM-free comic books are a big deal, even if you don't read comics". Written by Aurich Lawson, the arstechnica piece argues that "When publishers address piracy like rational human beings, we all win".

The post was prompted by an announcement that Image Comics, the third-largest publisher of comic-book content in the United States, has decided that direct sales of its digital comics would be released without DRM. Lawson writes that this decision greatly improves the user experience. It also saves the publisher the production cost for DRM support.

Lawson also picks up on a Wired interview with Eric Stephenson, the publisher at Image Comics, who said:

If you put out a good comic book—even if somebody does download it illegally—if they enjoy it, then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.

This gives Lawson a basis for explaining what he means by "rational": focused on the consumer, with a commitment to providing a digital product that has equal or greater value than any pirated version. Given how prevalent comic book piracy is said to be (particularly when translations are delayed), "rational" sounds like a pretty good place to start.

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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