To Be or Not to Be . . . DRM-Free

Posted: July 11, 2009 in ala2009, conferences, e-book, ebook, ebrary, netlibrary
Tags: , , ,

To Be or Not to Be . . . DRM-Free
McCormick Place West, Room W470b
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Opening statements from speakers

DRM – Digital management of digital objects; the policies and practices that surround the delivery; creator -> resource -> end-user. At the University of South Florida we currently have about 300,000 e-books: NetLibrary, eBrarary, Early English Books Online, etc. If the books are DRM-free, we buy those wholesale. We are buying fewer and fewer books that have barriers to use.

Question from audience: Can you currently buy just certain chapters of a book?
Answer: No

Some Problems with current eBooks
Visual verification
Printing
Having to login after you’ve already been "authenticated"
Software installations

Publishers frequently don’t own the copyright to the material that they’re making available. The author may license the content to the publisher. The publisher may have some control, but they have responsibility for protecting the content as well. For books that run through many editions, authors may not be willing to update the contract to accommodate new technologies.

Many libraries are seeing e-use up and print-use down. An audience comment notes that ease-of-use is a key factor driving this. Panelist notes that some libraries in underprivileged areas continue buying print simply because their clientele don’t have computers at home.

Vendor perspective: There are no standards for DRM. Some publishers are offering DRM-free content on their site, but they’re requiring the vendors to use it! Double standards from publishers.

 

Vendor perspective: There are no standards for DRM. Some publishers are offering DRM-free content on their site, but they’re requiring the vendors to use it! Double standards from publishers.

 

Publisher response: I let my kids do more in my own house than when they go to a friend’s house. When we control the content on our site, we can be a little more relaxed. When we license content to a vendor, we have a responsibility to copyright owners, too.

 

Publisher: If our books are so encumbered with DRM that they can’t be used, libraries will stop using our product. It behooves us to let our decisions be informed by the issues that libraries are facing.

 

Vendor perspective: Quality content still needs DRM. Publishers provide a service that blogging doesn’t really replace. Libraries select and purchase content that has value to their readers. Publishers are still struggling with ebook revenues. Print revenues are shrinking, and ebook revenues are miniscule. The new revenue models are not making up for falling revenues in the traditional models. Although publishers are embracing ebooks, they still have to find a way to survive. Piracy is still a significant problem for publishers. What is the appropriate level of DRM? There is a huge social cost when we lose quality content.

 

Audience comment: When technology comes on board without standards, there are always problems. This needs to be addressed as a joint effort between libraries, publishers, and vendors.

 

Will the market define the standards?

 

Publisher: As a publisher, I can’t see much plausibility in all publishers coming to an agreement on how to implement DRM.

 

Vendor: Springer Publishing is often cited as a positive example in the DRM arena. However, they’re currently up for sale. The argument was made that Springer’s model focused on short-term revenues where other publishers are focusing on long-term survival.

Audience comment: Some countries essentially don’t have copyright laws. They don’t understand the concept of copyright, and they don’t see why they can’t just share everything they find on the Internet.

Audience question: What are some of the different forms of DRM?

Visual verification

Login name and password

File tethering to a certain device

File encryption

Limiting access (viewing, printing, copy/paste)

Watermarking (doesn’t prevent anything, but it serves as an identification)

 

This watermarking approach sometimes links files to specific institutions. If a publisher suddenly sees dozens of files watermarked for a particular institution appearing on freely available websites, they can address security/DRM issues with that particular institution.

 

Problem for publishers with Google Books

The Google Book project requires publishers to make 20% of the content available through the site. This amount is non-negotiable. For publishers of reference works, this is practically untenable because the nature of the work lends itself to snatch-and-grab use. People just need a quick fact and then they move on. If 20% of a reference work is available, this significantly impacts the publisher’s revenue stream.

 

For publishers what is the final measure? Do you get more or less revenue from DRM-free content? Once you have the numbers, then you have a basis for comparison and can make intelligent decisions.

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