Just say no to DRM

Microsoft has announced that it will be closing its DRM-encumbered ebook store, with the consequence that its customers’ ebooks will “no longer be available to read”.

I don’t buy ebooks with DRM (nor anything else with DRM, for that matter), but apparently lots of people do, and many seem to be content - even proud - to buy ebooks with weak DRM, which they expect to be able to remove.

I don’t do that, and I’d urge anyone that does to reconsider.

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely believe I should have the right to remove any DRM from my ebooks. Just as, if I purchased a physical book and found a tracking device or self-destruct mechanism inside it, I should have the right to remove it. But I’d rather just buy an ordinary book, and it would be nice if I could also recommend it to my friends without worrying that they might not have the skills to find and remove the booby-traps.

Further, if I were to buy an ebook with DRM, even if I planned to remove the DRM, the message I would be sending to the ebook retailer would be: I’m happy to buy ebooks with DRM, and it’s fine for you to continue offering them for sale.

This is not the message I want to send.

I’m not happy to buy ebooks with DRM, I don’t think it’s acceptable to sell them, and I want retailers and publishers to know that. So I buy DRM-free ebooks exclusively. If a book I want to read isn’t available DRM-free, I buy it on paper, or not at all.

Often, a retailer using DRM threatens to deny its customers access to their purchases, but backs down later in the face of public backlash. For the sake of those customers, I hope that happens here. But even if Microsoft does the right thing in this case, that won’t excuse its having the ability to deny its customers access to their purchases in the first place.

Don’t reward retailers that do this.