Does the Fast-Evolving E-book Device/Platform Landscape Ultimately Benefit DRM-Happy Publishers?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

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By Edward Nawotka

Have you been loyal to a single e-book device and platform or do you graze? I’ll admit, I’m neither device agnostic nor platform or retailer agnostic. I think of all the e-reading devices I own or have owned, including a Kindle (Gens 1 & 2), an iPad, a NookColor, a Franklin Reader, a Rocket E-book, and various smartphones, PCs (tablets, desktops and laptops) and Macs. At the same time, I’ve bought e-books and e-magazines from seemingly dozens of e-book vendors, dating back to the copy of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections that I bought for my Palm Pilot up to the copy of Bloomberg BusinessWeek I downloaded yesterday. Precious few of these titles are DRM-free and are tied to the various devices, some of which I no longer own and/or simply no longer exist (Rocket e-book, anyone?).

As digital platforms evolve, readers may be led to eventually buy multiple copies of the same e-book.

I’m curious though, if you have deliberately stayed loyal to a single device and platform — such as the Kindle or Feedbooks (discussed in today’s lead story) — or do you graze? Certainly, with the ability to load “reading apps” on a variety of platforms, Kindle, Nook, Kobo and others make it easy to change devices, but what about the earlier proprietary platforms? Have you given up on those entirely?

I suppose I have. Last year, had I been motivated to re-read The Corrections — which I did originally read as an e-book — I would have not been able to retrieve my old Palm-compatible copy of the book without jumping through several hoops. (I have sent Peanut Press, now, which is owned by Barnes & Noble, an email to see if I can indeed get those books back. I’ll let you know what happens later in the comments). But if I wanted to read the book immediately, say in order to reference it for a review of Freedom, it might have been easier to simply pay the $10+ and buy a new copy — much the same as I do with books I sometimes already own, but can’t find in my cascading pile of books.

In this sense, the churn and turnover of various devices and proprietary formats may ultimately benefit publishers, as readers return to buy multiple copies of the same book over the course of several years. Could this be one of the myriad of reasons why publishers are so enamored of DRM?

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.