DRM-free book publishing

If you “buy” a book with DRM, you aren’t really buying it. You’re leasing it for as long as the vendor chooses to support it. Eventually you’ll have to replace your computer or reader with a newer one, and it may or may not still be possible to get one that will read what you thought were your books. Eventually it won’t be. Just crossing a national border may result in your being denied access to “your” books. Many sources do sell unencumbered books; here’s a useful-looking guide to DRM-free living.

How do you sell a book if anyone can copy it for free? By relying on people’s honesty and willingness to support you. Users successfully rejected DRM in the downloadable music business, and the vendors haven’t starved to death.

With Tomorrow’s Songs Today, I’m approaching the problem by putting my trust in the filk community’s support. I’m asking people to fund the book in advance so it can get professional editing and cover illustration and be distributed for free. This model wouldn’t work for most books; it depends on the fact that filkers are a close-knit community and will, I think, want their history recorded and made publicly available.

There are people who might think there’s something “socialist” about this. There isn’t. No one is being forced to contribute, and I’m not seeking a cent in government money. It’s a free-market transaction where what I’m selling isn’t just a copy of the book, but a role in bringing the book into existence. Enthusiasm is a market value too, and it’s one which filkers have a lot of.

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