A novel approach to going DRM-free

What happens when DRM-free only applies to direct sales?

I had a very enlightening conversation today with a small publisher who shall remain nameless for the time being. More on their secrecy in a moment… They’re thinking of going DRM-free but with a couple of twists.

First of all, they’re thinking of only going DRM-free with their direct sales on their website. They’ll instruct Amazon and all the other retailers to keep using their DRM model. This publisher figures they can use this ¬†as a way to make the direct sale more appealing to customers. They’ll also give direct customers all formats. So the selling proposition is, “Buy from Amazon and be stuck with their DRM limitations; buy direct from us to get all formats for all devices and avoid vendor lock-in.”

Secondly, they plan to include a watermark in those direct sale ebooks that says something like “bought from xyz”, where “xyz” is the name of the publisher. I’m no fan of watermarking but I like the logic they’re using on this. By saying the word “bought” they hope to trigger a reaction from pirates the content and serve as a gentle reminder that this content really isn’t being distributed for free. More importantly, since this watermark will only appear in the direct sales copies they’ll be able to determine whether their DRM-free content is what ultimately winds up in the wild.

Since I’m not naming names you can tell they want to keep a low profile on this for now. My contact at this publishing house told me they’ll reassess this in the coming weeks and they might be willing to share some of their results with us here at TOC.

Stay tuned for more…