DRM: To enable or not to enable

When self-publishing your ebook on Kindle, you’ll be asked if you want to enable “Digital Rights Management.” If you enable it, the Kindle version of the book will include coding that makes the copying of it more difficult. The goal is to eliminate piracy.

Authors, publishers and editors hold very different views about the value of DRM, with some recommending it and others advising against it.

The primary benefit of enabling DRM is that it will make piracy more difficult. Any number of shysters outside the reach of your country’s copyright laws have the potential to sell your books without ever paying you any royalties. They even can present your work as their own. In addition, limiting the spread of your book from one ereading device to another theoretically can result in more sales. For example, if my friend and I each own a Kindle, I can’t share a book I purchased for my Kindle device with him unless I lend my entire ereader. Instead, under DRM he must buy a separate copy of the book for his device.

Of course, DRM comes with its downsides. First, you probably won’t be the victim of an info pirate. For your book to be pirated, it must be extremely profitable or it’s simply not worth the effort to steal, especially given that hundreds of books are self-published every day. And if you are profitable, DRM won’t stop all piracy, as the coding can be stripped from your book. So, if someone wants to go through the trouble of ripping you off, they will. Secondly, some authors argue that not being able to pass around free copies of your book actually hurts sales. If the free exchange of a purchased book didn’t benefit sales, then no publisher ever would allow their books in a library to be read by multiple unpaying customers. Indeed, one tried-and-true way to build a fan base and interest in your books is to allow readers to easily access them.

Whichever way you go on enabling DRM, remember that once the decision to enable it is made, it can’t be undone.