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Escaping the Kindle lock-box is now easier for authors and publishers

Purchasing books on the Kindle has always struck me as a bit of a Faustian bargain: once you enter the Kindle ecosystem and purchase some books, those books are forever locked to Amazon’s e-reader. Now Amazon has made it easier for small-scale publishers and authors to opt-out.

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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APR092009 Purchasing books on the Kindle has always struck me as a bit of a Faustian bargain (although not quite on the scale of selling your soul for immortality): once you enter the Kindle ecosystem and purchase some books, those books are forever locked to Amazon’s e-reader. You cannot switch platforms, since the Digital Rights Management (DRM) that “protects” your books won’t work on other e-readers.

While this generally irks mostly customers — and not very many customers have even experienced this as yet, since the e-reader market is new — some publishers and authors feel this negatively impacts their customer relationship.

Now Amazon has made it easier — or at least made the choice more explicit — for small-scale publishers to decide what kind of relationship with their readers they would like to have:

Without a formal announcement, Amazon.com has started allowing authors to publish their ebooks for the Kindle without digital rights management (DRM), the technology that limits how consumers can use the ebooks they’ve bought.

via Amazon quietly lets publishers remove DRM from Kindle ebooks » Nieman Journalism Lab.

While this doesn’t impact the larger ecosystem, it’s a step that takes e-readers closer to where the behemoth of music sellers has already gone: last year Apple switched off DRM for music tracks purchased through iTunes.

Many publishers and authors fear the results of rampant copying and eagerly embrace DRM as a solution. I personally feel this is the wrong choice, and there is some limited data to back me up. Nonetheless, the real story here is that Amazon is making it easier for authors and publishers — at least small-scale ones — to choose, and putting that choice up front. At the very least, this forces a brief moment of thought, and hopefully it will generate additional data about whether DRM benefits or harms sales and customer relations.