Amazon requires publishers to use Kindle DRM

A leaked Amazon ebook contract [PDF] shows that Amazon's default terms for ebook publishers is that they must use DRM, unless they can convince Amazon to leave it off.

Like most DRM vendors -- Apple and Google, for example -- Amazon spends a lot of time implying and flat-out stating that it only uses DRM because the big dumb media companies require it of them. The reality is that DRM's primary beneficiary is the DRM vendor. Once your book is sold with Amazon's DRM on it, only Amazon can give your readers permission to move them out of the Kindle jail and onto another device of your choosing. Of course Amazon wants to force copyright holders and creators to use its DRM -- it's a one-stop way of converting the writer's customer into Amazon's customer. Forever.

Remember: Any time someone puts a lock on something of yours and won't give you the key, that lock is not there for your benefit.

Please note that this is an Amazon contract and that Amazon is the one who is insisting on the DRM. That makes this an interesting contrast, IMO, with Bezos’ statements that “If the rights owner wants DRM, we do DRM. If the rights owner doesn’t want DRM, we don’t do DRM.”

The contract clause mentioned above is by no means agnostic on the topic of DRM. It unequivocally tells us that Amazon is the one who gets to decide whether the ebooks have DRM. It also tells us that Amazon _will_ be adding DRM to Kindle ebooks unless the other party can talk them out of it.

Amazon’s position (on DRM) in this contract is far from agnostic, and it is in fact much closer to their stated position for audiobook DRM.

A Leaked Contract Reveals that Amazon Insists on DRM [Nate Hoffelder/Amazon]

(Image: DRM PNG 600 2, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from listentomyvoice's photostream)

Notable Replies

  1. If I weren't so young and pure of heart, I might suspect that Amazon knows that they have the biggest walled garden in the business for etexts, and would prefer to take full advantage of that, and everyone in it.

    I'm sure that it's just Amazon helpfully protecting publishers from evil pirates, though. Just their good customer service at work!

  2. Gives me one more reason to NOT purchase a Kindle (I'm pretty much decided on Kobo). This also has me striking Amazon off of my list of ebook vendors.

  3. I think that adding DRM to music failed because people were used to CDs without DRM so they would have no desire to switch to a format that was less usable. Music companies could require digital downloads to come with DRM, but what is the point if they are selling CDs without DRM? It probably did not help that the company selling most of the digital downloads was apparently not supportive of DRM ( ).

    For DVDs and ebooks, however, have they ever been sold without some sort of DRM?

    Don't forget Sony:

  4. KarlS says:

    I suspect that that is exactly what is behind this policy. Amazon and especially the major publishers do not like the prospect of a two-tier market with DRM-free "full" eBooks and protected lesser ones.

    The music industry had the problem that there was a much more established tradition and expectation of DRM-free music, both in the form of legal CDs and often illegal MP3s that were mature and ubiquitous long before online stores became relevant.

  5. Absent says:

    I would quite like to read a book on the history of DRM/copy protection, including interviews with the creators and crackers. I have lots of fond memories of copy protection (as strange as that seems), from black on red printed manuals, Lenslocks, grinding disk drives and Rob Northen copylock through to CSS on DVDs first being cracked.

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