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Self-publishing site Lulu drops DRM on ebooks, sort of

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Self-publishing site Lulu will stop offering DRM as an option on ebooks created through its site — though ebooks created on Lulu and sold through other retailers, like Amazon (s AMZN), will still be subject to DRM.

Lulu had offered authors the option to apply Adobe (s ADBE) Digital Editions DRM to their EPUB and PDF files before publishing, for an additional fee. Now the company is dropping that option (and also dropping the hefty fee that Adobe charges for DRM). That means readers who download ebooks directly from Lulu will no longer have to “create an Adobe account, authorize the purchase in Digital Editions or install a third-party application,” Lulu writes in a blog post. “This creates possibilities for the growing number of readers who want to shop, purchase and download books to their e-readers from sites other than large corporate providers.”

As for those larger corporate providers like Amazon (s AMZN) and Apple (s AAPL), Lulu’s not exactly claiming those retailers should drop DRM too. “DRM works best when administered by those who control how content is purchased and viewed,” the company writes. “Companies like Amazon, Apple (s AAPL) and Barnes & Noble (s BKS) integrate a reader’s experience from purchasing to downloading and finally to reading. These companies do a fantastic job in this area, and ebooks published through Lulu and distributed through these retail sites will continue to have the same rights management applied as they do today.”

Amazon actually doesn’t require Kindle books to be sold with DRM — sci-fi publisher Baen, for example, recently started selling DRM-free Kindle books. Brian Matthews, Lulu’s EVP of marketing, strategy and corporate development, told me that “in the first half of 2013 it’s possible we could make changes to allow authors to automatically choose DRM or not when in distribution.”

10 Responses to “Self-publishing site Lulu drops DRM on ebooks, sort of”

  1. Lulu ebooks will automatically become “private” (unlisted) if authors do not authorize a new edition without DRM, so they’re giving their authors a choice. And, Ken, uncrackable DRM is a fantasy. History proves again and again that any media that can be displayed can be copied. That said, I am not going to authorize my Lulu publishes nonfiction book. It will continue to be available on Amazon and other online bookstores with DRM, and that’s enough. Actualy sales from Lulu’s online store are miniscule anyway. I suspect Lulu’s line about “a step towards helping authors reach the broadest audience possible” is just corporate spin, that they actually want to stop paying Adobe for DRM software licensing.

  2. Well, the available statistically valid data does not support the paranoia about piracy. The truth is the evidence highly suggests piracy increases sales for all but the NYT bestselling authors. Further, I find it fascinating that Harlequin is expanding its DRM-free offerings. (Its digital arm, Carina Press, has always been DRM free.) TOR books is now going DRM free.

    And yes, I am a traditionally published author of going on 20 books, but I’m also self-pubbing backlist and front-list so I see this from both sides of the fence. DRM does not prevent piracy. Period. Currently, a far bigger problem than piracy is geo-restrictions and, (I am quite serious) DRM. These two things are far more responsible for preventing purchases by readers that books sitting on torrent servers. In the current environment, there’s more benefit (sales) to be had from making it easier and possible for readers to buy than from applying DRM that takes less than 5 minutes to crack.

    • Ken Bloomfield

      Maybe the answer is to make DRM impossible or at least very difficult to crack. Similar to when an iphone is locked to a particular service supplier for a period of time. Snippets of a book free online to tempt buyers might be a good thing but if they can download the whole book free, why would they buy? Its not the same as movies where the original is better quality. With a book text is text.

  3. Richard Hartzell

    I’d be curious to know what portion of sales a Lulu-published author gets from Lulu as opposed to Amazon, B&N, et al. Clearly from a book *reader’s* standpoint those e-tailer sites get way more traffic. Granted, if Lulu took its decision without any regard for its content creators’ preferences we might be justified in considering it “retrograde” — or at least insensitive. Practically, though, I’d guess a Lulu author who actually makes a living with her content is making that living mostly through high-profile e-tailer sites and not through Lulu itself.

  4. Ken Bloomfield

    From the first two comments it is abundantly clear that an author publishing on Lulu is more than likely to have his work stolen and distributed without recompense for his/her efforts.
    Writers write because they love to write but like everybody they also need to eat. If this trend continues fewer people will write and that will be sad for prosperity and up and coming authors will be joining the ever growing dole queues.

  5. I’ve got copies of my non-DRM ebooks all over the torrent sites and thousands of downloads registered, for which I haven’t received a cent. As soon as you push for them to be taken down, they’re posted up again.

    This is a seriously retrograde step by Lulu, which clearly seems to value only its own profile, displaying no concern whatsoever for its content creators. Lulu should be aware that professional authors don’t write to satisfy their egos – they need money to make a living, and develop a career.

    At the very least, Lulu should have canvassed the views of those most affected – ie its content creators – before taking this step, instead of being totally disinterested in our views.

    PLUS they should now give us an option as to whether we want to continue DRM protection or not. After all, it’s our content – and will Lulu be pursuing the torrent sites to protect our non-DRM work? I think not ….

      • Ken Bloomfield

        But how would you feel if, at the end of your month’s work, when you went to collect your salary you’re employer said “oh sorry you’ve worked this month for free and of course you are free to work somewhere else if you don’t like it.”
        I’d put money on it that you wouldn’t be so flippant when it was your income that was being stolen.

  6. Lori Verni-Fogarsi

    Am I understanding correctly that this means e-books from Lulu will no longer be protected from a buyer who might, let’s say, email it to 500 friends for free?