Identifying DRM-free ebooks

Customers deserve to know the restrictions they're buying into

One of my colleagues, Edd Dumbill, asked me a simple question over the holidays that I thought I’d share with the TOC community:

Is there any way to quickly tell whether an ebook on a retailer’s site is DRM-free?

I’m pretty sure the answer is “no” but please tell me if I’m wrong. Sure, it would be possible for a publisher to mention “DRM-free” in the ebook’s description so that it appears somewhere on the product page but will any customers even notice that?

If you’re waiting for a retailer to come up with a solution you’re dreaming because, well, DRM is the mortar that helps retailers build their walled gardens. So what’s the solution? When you walk through the grocery store you can quickly tell which produce is organic, which foods are gluten-free, and which eggs are free-range. Why not come up with a way to easily identify which ebooks are DRM-free as well?

How about creating a simple banner that can be placed on the cover of all DRM-free ebooks telling the customer their purchase won’t lock them into any one platform? Yes, ebook cover images are generally pretty small but I’ll bet we could come up with something effective that doesn’t take up a lot of space. And if it gets used across the industry, customers will start to look for it on future purchases. That would be a great thing for everyone except the walled-garden owners, of course.

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