While trying to choose between several topics for my next blog post, I realized that one stood out as particularly important; eBook DRM. For those who don't know, DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It's basically a technological mechanism that does exactly what it says; it lets you manage who can access your digital content, as well as when and how it can be accessed. By all indications, it currently is and will continue to be a very central component of all digital publishing endeavors around the world.
The importance of DRM mainly stems from the fact that most publishers do not allow their eBooks to be distributed (sold or lent) without DRM due to piracy and control concerns. Since DRM protects eBooks from unauthorized copying and distribution, it has mostly become a requirement for selling eBooks. However, smaller eBook carriers are struggling with this requirement, because the capital investment and technical aptitude needed to setup a DRM system are quite high. For instance, if you look at the most widely used Adobe Content Server 4 DRM solution our EditionGuard service is based on, purchasing the software license alone is in the ten thousand dollar range. It's also a very sophisticated and complicated piece of server software, where a good knowledge of technical mumbo jumbo like Java J2EE, servlet engines, RDBMS, server OS and web development are required. Not to mention setting up server hardware and its management is a job by itself. These technical aspects usually come with high development and deployment costs.
Now, many large eBook carriers like Google Editions or Simon & Schuster have fat wallets and large IT teams of their own perfectly capable of achieving this easily. But how about the online eBook store startups? Or blogging self publishers who want to use DRM? They are out of luck, we realized and so, EditionGuard was born. For those who haven't visited our main site yet, EditionGuard is a web service created to make eBook DRM more affordable for smaller eBook sellers. Our main motivation is to help smaller eBook sellers to break into the market and of course to make a few bucks on the way if at all possible. :)
All that being said, my personal opinion is that DRM is on the way out within the next decade or so due to consumer demand. At the risk of being shot by Adobe and my business partners, I'll go as far as to say that might not be such a bad thing. DRM, by its very nature, is a disruptive mechanism and it makes accessing eBooks less user friendly due to its added security layer. However, it looks like DRM will continue being a requirement for selling eBooks online for a while yet, and the more eBook sellers we can support, the more the market will grow. This can only be a good thing.