Why DRM is worth fighting over

Much to my chagrin, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with Neil Gaiman over the Kindle’s DRM.

DRM isn’t about lending books out (though that would be nice to still do), and it isn’t about trying to get stuff for free. I don’t have any problems paying for music and books (one look at my credit card statements would prove that to anyone), and I don’t want to broadcast copyrighted works over the Internet.

What I do want to do is to be able to move my music and books from place to place and from device to device.

I’ve already posted on how the DRM in iTunes means I’ve lost more than 3 Gigs of music just because I decided to stop using OS X. Now, if I were to get a Kindle and buy several books that I later want to move to a different device (say, a Sony Reader released in a year or two that’s much, much better), I’ll be screwed. If the books are DRM’d, they’ll be attached to just one device: the Kindle. If I want to move them, I’ll have to buy another copy. If that new copy is also DRM’d, I’ll have to buy another copy if I ever want to move it to a different ebook reader.

I’m already dealing with this with the Adobe eBooks I bought before switching to Ubuntu. Because the books are DRM’d, I can read them on my Palm–which supports the DRM–but not on my computer, or any other electronic device I own. The PDA I wanted to buy–a Nokia N800 internet tablet–I didn’t, because it wouldn’t be able to read any of my DRM’d ebooks.

So if you don’t mind being locked into one product, one company’s way of doing things, forever, then DRM is not a problem. But if you ever want to exercise your buyer’s right to choose–a key component of a free market–DRM will bite you in the ass.

Ron Toland @mindbat