Making Content Convenient Creates More Value Than Locking It Up
from the time-is-money dept
Megan McArdle sings the praises of Amazon's digital media strategy, noting that she can now get her music, movies, TV shows, and books all from one company and have them all neatly organized and made available to her. Amazon's digital store is convenient because it remembers which content she's purchased and allows her to re-download any of it on demand from anywhere (Update: Some readers are pointing that while you can re-download Unbox movies and Kindle e-Books, you can't re-download music from Amazon's music store. My apologies for the error.). That means that she doesn't have to worry too much about preserving individual media files; she just needs to remember her Amazon ID and Amazon takes care of the rest. One thing she doesn't note, though, is that while the MP3s are DRM-free, the Kindle books and Unbox videos are still crippled with DRM. That means that if she ever decides she dissatisfied with Amazon's service, there may not be an easy (or legal) way to take her content with her. And precisely because she's putting all of her digital eggs in one basket, it will be particularly painful if she ever needs to switch services. As nice as some of Amazon's services are, I'm not personally willing to subject myself to that degree of lock-in.
Megan's observation also illustrates what's wrong with the common argument that DRM is required for subscription services. It is often claimed that without DRM people would just subscribe to a service for one month, download all the content they wanted, and then cancel. But this ignores the fact that people's time is valuable. Most people don't want to waste a lot of time organizing, transferring and backing up their content. I think Megan is pretty typical in wanting a single place in the cloud to store all of their media. If the price of a subscription service is reasonable, most people will find it more convenient to just stay subscribed and download content as they need it. Of course, you'll have a few people who play the download-and-cancel game, but a lot of those people would probably have downloaded their files from BitTorrent anyway, so it's no great loss. And at the same time, ditching DRM creates a lot of new value because it eliminates compatibility headaches and gives customers the peace of mind of knowing they can switch if they ever need to.