Linked: Tim O’Reilly on Piracy, Tinkering, and the Future of the Book

Tim O’Reilly on Piracy, Tinkering, and the Future of the Book:

Let’s say my goal is to sell 10,000 copies of something. And let’s say that if by putting DRM in it I sell 10,000 copies and I make my money, and if by having no DRM 100,000 copies go into circulation and I still sell 10,000 copies. Which of those is the better outcome? I think having 100,000 in circulation and selling 10,000 is way better than having just the 10,000 that are paid for and nobody else benefits. […] People who don’t pay you generally wouldn’t have paid you anyway.

This is the kind of clear thinking that I wish we had more of.

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  • MeiLin Miranda

    “People who don’t pay you generally wouldn’t have paid you anyway.” This. Exactly this. And I’d say a good 70% of them never get around to reading it anyway.

  • AdamGurri

    Not that I disagree with the sentiment, but I’m not sure the logic is entirely sound. Competition always happens at the margin–as you note with your post on how “good enough” is where disruption begins.

    It may be true that 90,000 isn’t the number of sales lost in that scenario. But it maybe 1,000 or 2,000, or 500. In short, there is probably some overlap between people who would pay if that was the only option and people who won’t pay if there’s a free/pirated option.

    Just like how netbooks would never stop every consumer from buying a full on laptop, but may eat away at those for whom a netbook is “good enough”. Some people who wouldn’t pay when given the choice not to would pay if that was the only way to get something.

    But of course, the opposite is also true–the word of mouth generated by free copies may encourage more people to pay than would have otherwise.

    The net effect, in short (too late), could go either way.

  • Dream Fantastic

    Having DRM on the book limits a persons use of the book in such a way as to also remove purchases. I have a sony ereader. it doesn’t handle amazon drm books, but DOES handle non drm books. I check online if the book is drmed or not. If it is, I won’t buy it on amazon, because I can’t use it on my reading device.

  • V. J. Chambers

    This. Me too. My ebook reader also will not support DRMed Amazon books.

  • Greg Bulmash

    I don’t know. Often I’ll try a lot of the free samplers available on Amazon’s MP3 store. If I really like a song, I’ll either buy the song at full price or buy something more by the band.

    The logic of not using DRM because “people who don’t pay you generally wouldn’t have paid you anyway” is like figuring you might as well leave your car unlocked because professional thieves aren’t going to be stopped by a simple locked door.

    Well, that locked door is still going to discourage casual thieves, so you’re going to experience less theft.

    As others have pointed out, there are some who would pay, but who don’t if there’s a free option available. When you lose those sales, does the added word of mouth make up for them?

  • Eli James

    I think one thing that’s been left out of the discussion so far is that DRM, as a technology, really sucks. More often than not it punishes the people who do buy, as opposed to merely blocking those who don’t. There’s no good way of doing DRM right today, and I’m not convinced there ever will be.