Verso Books Shows That it is Possible to Use Customer-Friendly DRM While Still Calling Customers Pirates
I have long been a supporter of milder types of DRM like digital watermarks. This DRM is more customer-friendly than encryption DRM schemes like Adobe Adept while still being equally effective at stopping piracy.
I used to see digital watermarks as a way for publishers to show that they don’t see all of their customers as potential ebook pirates, but apparently some are using the DRM and still regarding their paying customers as untrustworthy.
Verso Books, which opened their own ebookstore in March, is one such publisher.
As you may know, digital watermark is a term for a type of DRM which (usually) involves subtle additions to a file in order to mark it with identifiable info which can be traced back to the original owner. Verso Books uses a digital watermark platform provided by Booxtream, a Dutch company which also provides DRM to the Pottermore eboosktore, the official Harry Potter site.
Yesterday a reader (who for obvious reasons will not be named) forwarded a copy of an ebook purchased from Verso Books. This ebook is so full of notices that it contains DRM that it implies that the customer is needs to be constantly reminded not to pirate the ebook.
In addition to a notice at the back of the ebook (which claims there is no DRM, LOL), Verso Books also defaced the ebook with a huge splash image right after the cover that includes the buyers name and email. Also, the end of each chapter includes a footer which identifies the email of the buyer.
And that’s not all.
That footnote is also present on the title page, copyright page, TOC, bibliography, forward, the about page, and every other page in the ebook. That footnote is so prevalent that it is a slap in the face of legitimate customers. It says that customers are too stupid to be honest and have to be constantly reminded that the ebook has DRM.
Or as my source put it:
Personally, I felt like I was constantly being sent a stalker’s note saying, "I know where you live." It put me off reading the books entirely.
What I find sickening is that while they do state their use innocuous sounding and (sadly for me) not as eye-catching "watermarking," Verso’s site repeatedly makes statements such as, "Verso ebooks are free of Digital Rights Management (DRM-free)." That sample is from their ebook license.
It very much reminds me of listening to an NSA official saying that data is only "collected" when they decide to officially look in the vast collection they’ve made, that they didn’t "collect" data when they collected all our data and stored it vast digital data storage centers.
Verso Books stands as an example of how not to use DRM and how not to treat their customers. This publisher is so fearful of piracy that they have harmed the reading experience. No matter whether you are for or against the use of DRM, I am sure that we can all agree that this is not a good outcome.
image by Kris Krug