Things move fast in the technology world.
Just a 2 weeks ago I suggested that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter ebooks might have slain DRM.
Fast forward a few days and it seems almost certain that the US’s Department of Justice will be able to share the credit.
As previously reported, the DoJ is suing Apple and some book publishers over the decision to adopt the agency pricing model for ebooks.
The publishers which settled have to agree new contracts with retailers and for two years allow books to be discounted – the very thing agency was implemented to stop.
So now the settling publishers are back to square one – their biggest customer controls the pricing of their product while they once again fear control of the market by a single retailer.
That retailer control is very real potent because of the vendor lock-in which forms an inherent part of the Kindle and iBooks ecosystems. Buy a book from them and the DRM means you can’t read it on a nook, a Kobo or Sony reader unless you’re a naughty boy or girl and hack the DRM.
For more on this see the Harry Potter article.
But what’s clear from online commentary is that the idea of publishers dropping DRM even on their biggest titles is no longer a flight of fancy.
Suddenly it’s being discussed by serious people as a way of ensuring book readers are free to move their books between devices and brands of devices.
“It is my observation form discussion before and during the London Book fair that no-DRM has suddenly moved from the fringe to the mainstream. The central reason is the DOJ and how the playing field has tilted in Aazon’s favor.
“This does not mean that the end of DRM is necessarily imminent, but it now has become a distinct possibility. If 2 or 3 top tier publishing houses were to drop DRM, then every publisher would follow.”
I can’t claim to have spoken to the same people as Andrew, but the number of people who sense something is about to change is rapidly growing. And while groupthink doesn’t always turn out to be true, I’d be surprised if this year doesn’t see at least one major publisher abandon DRM.