skip to Main Content
Self-publishing News: DRM – For Or Against?

Self-publishing News: DRM – for or against?

Dan Holloway head and shoulders photo

ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway

In this week's Self-Publishing News, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway fills us in on the latest with a report on International Day Against DRM and the expansion of Youscribe in Africa and Storytel. 

Where I am it’s the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and, of course, whopping great literary prizes. This week we saw not one but two Nobel Prizes given, to Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke – to account for the fact that last year the prize was on hiatus while the academy tried to get its house in order. Each receives more than three quarters of a million dollars. However open our indie bubble feels, it’s very clear there’s still an establishment.

International Day Against DRM

Whether we pay it much attention or not, DRM (Digital Rights Management) is something that affects almost all indies. If your ebooks are available on Amazon, for example, you will have had to decide whether or not to enable DRM. May indies do not. You can read Joanna Penn on why she doesn’t enable DRM here.

DRM is a system that allows an ebook’s publisher to retain control over the book even once it has been published. It serves several functions. First and foremost it is a security mechanism, preventing piracy. Second, it can enable updates and other features to be pushed out to people who have a copy of a book. In some circumstances, it can even be used to delete a book from your account even when you have paid for it. This is why, in general, you do not buy ebooks, you license them.

DRM is a controversial technology. Many readers dislike it because it can stop you reading a book on multiple devices unless they are compatible. Others don’t like that you can’t lend a book. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has pointed out that the fact every device with a DRM-enabled file is connected creates a huge vulnerability to hacking.

It turns out lots of people REALLY don’t like DRM. Last Saturday was International Day Against DRM. It is worth reading what EFF had to say about its reasons for taking part. Also of note was Backmatter’s Len Epp’s contribution on the way the misunderstanding of digital drives fear of DRM.


We are still waiting for further salvos in the battle between libraries and publishers. The cause of conflict, of course, is publishers restricting libraries’ access to new ebooks. If you are still not quite sure what the argument is about, this excellent summary of where we are so far should help.

And on the subject of libraries, this week the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) announced the results of its Library of the Future competition. The winning entry, which combines knowledge hub and community wellbeing, will be – for now at least – built in lego. Working in a university, I spend a lot of time in libraries and with librarians. I’m a regular speaker at CILIP’s events as well as our more local libraries. And I have to say I have rarely met a group with its finger more on the pulse of the future than librarians. Another reason we might think carefully about the current battle with publishers.

Storytel and Youscribe on the march

We’ve been following the expansion of Swedish audiobook subscription service Storytel with interest. Recently they passed their first million subscribers. So far Storytel’s journey has been a step by step series of new markets (studiously avoiding markets where Audible has a foothold) and partnerships with national distributors. Now they look set to ramp things up. Storytel has just secured $50m in new credit for a series of aggressive expansions and acquisitions.

Equally of note, as Mark Williams points out, is the growth of ebook platform Youscribe in Africa. Youscribe is set to explode its way to 300,000 subscribers by the end of the year in French-speaking markets across Africa. Another reminder we ignore global opportunities at our peril.

Audio Dominates Frankfurt

This week sees the year’s last big beast of a Book Fair, Frankfurt. Somewhat predictably, audio dominates the schedule. Key speakers come from Audible, Spotify, and Storytel. And while sessions include marketing audiobooks and other standard stuff, there’s one interesting discussion of voice first technology. We will, of course, report back, but we don’t expect to be overwhelmed.

International Day Against DRM, the growth of Storytel & other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Over to You

Do you enable DRM on your ebooks? If so why, and if not, why not? Let us know in the comments below.

Upcoming Conferences and Events


Frankfurt Book Fair, 16-19 Oct [Frankfurt] Historical Novel Society Australasia, 25-27 Oct [Parramatta]


Independent Self-publishing Authors Fair, 17 Nov [Henley-in-Arden] Writerfest, 22-23 Nov [Nashville] – Early bird until 31 August!
Futurebook, 25 Nov [London]

APRIL 2020

London Book Fair, 16-18 Apr [London] Self-publishing Conference, 25 Apr [University of Leicester]

Author: Sacha Black

Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition-winning author. She writes the popular YA Fantasy Eden East novels and a series of non-fiction books that are designed to help writers develop their craft. Sacha is also a developmental editor, wife and mum. Website: www.sachablack.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search