Publisher sells DRM-free ebooks to libraries

German publisher Springer Verlag decided not to infect the 40,000 ebook titles it sells to libraries with DRM -- though the booksellers that carry Springer titles still insist on DRM for their proprietary stores. As a result, "once libraries have paid for the content, the e-books are available without charge to everyone at these institutions, so there's no need to repost or redistribute it online. Once the e-book is downloaded from the library, no return is necessary."
Launched in 2006, Springer's e-book program offers 40,000 titles in the PDF format in the science, technical, and medical category (including some textbooks). The company consulted with its institutional customers when it designed the program back in 2005. "We showed them our original plans and they said, 'Start over,' with no DRM," said Scottie (although national consumer retailers require DRM on Springer e-books). The result, he said, has been "a better user experience leading to increased usage and a better ROI for the libraries." Scottie said that Springer e-book downloads (for books and journals) in 2008 were up 33%, and downloads from 2007 to 2009 more than doubled.
Libraries Say 'No DRM'; Springer Agrees (Thanks, Erisia!)


  1. I’m so excited to see us on BoingBoing!! We’re very proud of our eBooks, and the lack of DRM is a major factor in sales. Librarians site that part of the business model specifically when purchasing. When you lock up an electronic book, only allow one or a few viewers to read it simultaneously, limit the number of pages you can print, disable viewers from loading information to mobile devices, or forbid inter-library loan programs, how is that any different from buying the print book? It’s worse! The line between scientific journals and books is fading, and now we are having discussions about content – specifically about how to help it reach as many researchers and students as possible, which also means heavily investing in Open Access publishing, as we are with the SpringerOpen and OpenChoice programs. All of our content is also submitted to and indexed by Google, GoogleScholar, and GoogleBooks. The funding will come, but not if the industry shoots itself in the foot by crippling access to and discoverability of their eBooks.

    (Disclaimer: I work for Springer, and George is my boss.) (His name is also George Scotti, not Scottie.)

  2. I have become ambivalent about DRM free books recently, thanks to Lois McMaster Bujold. I pre-ordered her new Miles Vorkosigan book, Cryoburn, well, some time ago. When it was finally published and sent to me, I found a CD in the back. On that CD were all of her Miles books in multiple formats. I have all these books in hard copy. Indeed, I think I have all her books. And it was a joy to import them into my kindle, enlarge the font (I’m old), and start reading them again. I don’t plan to give them to anyone, but you know, some people will. And since they are all good books and since it’s a great series, they will end up being passed around and passed around. And she won’t get the money for them, and I think she should. I’m no fan of some publishers but I am a fan of a lot of writers and I want them to be paid for what they write. And if they are great books I want them paid well.

  3. Regarding the Cryoburn CD with back-titles, the author (and publisher?) must have figured that providing access to the older stories would result in more sales – either now, or for future volumes in the series. (After a 10-year hiatus, Bujold has re-started the Vorkosigan series, and during her Cryoburn tour has been reading chapters from a follow-on book.)

    I’ve always wondered why more authors and musicians just don’t set up a donation page on their web sites. This would let anyone who downloaded one of their works for a free-trial to pay the creator directly if they decide they like the work.

    1. “I’ve always wondered why more authors and musicians just don’t set up a donation page on their web sites. This would let anyone who downloaded one of their works for a free-trial to pay the creator directly if they decide they like the work.”

      I assume the contracts most authors sign won’t allow them to do so.

  4. The Springer EBook service is great, I love it since it allows me to look up and search in books digitally through my university account without walking into a library. But it’s quite a hassle to download a whole book, since one has to download chapter by chapter (and then merge them together). It would be great if I could download the books in the .mobi format.

  5. An author may wish to have their works either restricted in distribution, or they can embrace the evangelical fanbase effect.

    Look at the Grateful Dead tape trading ethics for an example of how it can be a win-win situation, where fans drive sales on conventional media.

    The other evidence that CC distribution enhances sale of “dead tree” books is of course, Cory’s comments/experience RE: Obscurity Vs Piracy.

  6. The whole “no return necessary” reinforces my argument that the net is basically a library with infinite shelf space, infinite number of copies if anything on said “shelves” and limitless loan time.

  7. Our great library system here in Albuquerque has no late fees.
    As they say, “we would like the book returned within a reasonable time frame”. In other words, just return the book within the year or we’ll have to revoke your card until you pay the( ridiculously low) fine.

    NM has one of the highest illiterary rates in the country. In our county at least, they REALLY want people to read and use the library.
    We can also download books, but these downloads are considered a kind of ‘loan’. If the library only has 3 copies of a book, there are only 3 downloads.
    This may seem contradictory but I feel it’s also fair to the authors. I don’t know what would hapen to the server if 300 people wanted the newest bestseller simultaneously.

    Libraries are so threatened – funding is tied to usage, bodies in the door who are in the library for more than computer use. I tutor in them. My kids need a hard copy book because they can barely read and associate the computer with playing video games.

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