Sunday, April 17, 2011

eBook Sharing

Around our house, sharing a favorite book is a long tradition. We have shelves everywhere crammed with paper books, many of which were purchased by someone else and given to us. We have given away literally hundreds of books in return. Naturally, in our embrace of the eBook universe, the idea of sharing a favorite read is a hot topic, especially since it is still open on how or even if eBook sharing will be allowed.

Digital Rights Management or DRM is a fancy way of saying electronic sharing. In eBooks right now, DRM tends toward the extreme. The major publishers and eBook distributors currently favor heavy DRM. This means that eBooks are only allowed for a single user and often a single device (reader, PC, tablet, smart phone, etc.). It has been getting a little easier to share with yourself, say between your Kindle and the Kindle Reader on your laptop, but getting an Amazon purchased book from your Kindle to your neighbor’s Kindle is a trick and highly frowned upon.  The other extreme is DRM-free eBooks. The people who support keeping downloadable files free of electronic encumbrances are often fanatical in their devotion to open media. The problem is that it costs nothing to share DRM-free files with anyone in the world and to keep on sharing the same file over and over again. There is a natural geographic limitation on sharing a paper book. If it costs less to buy it than to mail it, it makes more sense to purchase a local copy (or have it shipped from Amazon).

As authors of future best selling eBooks (oh please… please…please) and avid readers, Lynn Evans believes in the middle ground. We are promoting a 5-50 DRM scheme. We think all eBooks purchased by an individual should be able to be loaded on to five separate devices. That way an eBook can be shared with a few friends anywhere. It will even make those people who love to prowl libraries and garage sales for ten cent paperbacks happy. We think someday we’ll hunt up a one-load-to-go eBook gem for a nickel at someone’s online garage sale. We also believe that libraries deserve a break and should be permitted 50 checkouts on an eBook before it needs to be replaced. Paper books don’t last forever and are repurchased by libraries all the time. The authors of popular eBooks should likewise be compensated for frequent library checkouts.

This summer we are planning a big eBook promotion to raise money for a good cause (the Student Services Office at Poway High School). We intend to release our first eNovel through all the major eBook distribution channels with their heavy DRM and to offer the same eBook on our personal sales page DRM-free. We’ll let you know how both sales channels work for us.

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