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.