Friday, April 29, 2011

CAMEX questions answered: DRM

Sorry for no posting of store questions last week, it has been a bit hectic here lately. Some exciting announcements are coming though!

This week's question from CAMEX relates to DRM or digital rights management.

Q. When is the contention about DRM going to be over, so more publishers will allow educational books in more digital devices, not just proprietary or computers?

Some publishers are already DRM friendly -- meaning they have done away with DRM. Look at the open source community, or O'Reilly Publishers as two great examples. This move among traditional publishers to "DRM free" is likely to be quite slow.

Some the constraints are not on the publisher side, but the device side, with proprietary content formats -- or expecting content to be optimized for the particular device. Such formats require publishers to put out content in "yet another format" which becomes increasingly difficult to manage, and has a number of costs. The move to common standards, like .epub3, will help with this problem.

Another approach we are seeing is a shift to more interactive content where "screen-scraping" and other approaches to lifting content result in content which is meaningless from the original. Such approaches changes the need for DRM. I have read or seen content and interesting approaches to this type of content distribution going on in Africa and other locations outside the US, so it is only a matter of time we see it here too.

DRM, however, is likely to be part of the landscape for a while. I would not expect the contention to die down much in the next few years. Maybe one day publishers will offer their textbooks for free, and generate revenue from all the value-added components and ancillaries that help with self-assessment, tutoring, or make the content come alive.

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