by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
content, convenience, drm

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    some old gy, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    but... wrong on so many levels

    I don't get why you chose to give volume to Megan's wrong voice, Tim. Is she like.. famous or... something?

    It just looks like a rather generic nothing special misguided blog post.

    (Also, I cannot "re-download" the music I have previously purchased from Amazon..)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 26th, 2008 @ 7:01pm

    Re: but... wrong on so many levels

    I don't get why you chose to give volume to Megan's wrong voice, Tim. Is she like.. famous or... something?

    What does it matter who the person is? The importance is the message, which is what Tim discusses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Bill G, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 7:04pm

    re download....

    yeah amazon does not appear to offer a way to download more than once.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    ExistenZ, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 8:40pm


    I know Steam offers a fairly similar offering, in the sense that it is DRM locked, but still easily accessible as long as you know your login. By adding extra services to the DRM, people start to not mind the DRM.


    Just curious, I am kind of on the fence of the issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Lucretious, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 9:00pm


    One mistake I think Amazon is making is pricing the Kindle so high. They could essentially have the electronic book market in their pocket(npi)if they sold it at cost (or even a loss in much the same way the videogame market does with consoles).

    If the price got dropped to under a hundred bucks I'd jump on it in a heartbeat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 9:01pm

    No Re-Downloads

    I can't redownload music I've previously purchased. Believe me, I tried...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Don, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 11:28pm

    I agree that DRM is a lost cause. Not to mention totally unnecessary. I subscribe to eMusic for the very fact that it doesn't come with any DRM (not to mention it's better quality MP3s than iTunes or most other "mainstream" music sources), and I've found so much new music on there that even with the top of the line subscription I can't download all the music I like in a month. My wife is thinking about getting her own account so we can double our music collection. We're even considering joining there new audio book service as well. DRM is NOT in any way shape or form necessary to run a highly successful digital service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    dKP, Jun 27th, 2008 @ 6:41am

    Re: Kindle

    It is very clouse to cost or at cost the E ink screen that is being used costs a lot to make.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Yakko Warner, Jun 27th, 2008 @ 9:59am has the same kind of scheme. Buy a book once, and it's on your bookshelf forever. The added bonus is that, allegedly (I don't have first-hand or even second-hand confirmation of how well this works), even if you cancel your monthly subscription, any books that you paid for, you still have.

    The down side, however, is their files are DRMed, and you have to have a player that supports their particular file format. Admittedly, it's a huge drawback (unless you have a means for converting the files to a different format *cough*).

    The fact that every file you've purchased is always there is nice; now if they could just improve the performance of their site so it's not painfully slow with a couple hundred files...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Duodave, Jun 27th, 2008 @ 3:06pm

    See, I don't get this argument

    If a site is well done and has good content that is available on a per-purchase basis instead of a monthly membership, there should be no issue about how many items a customer buys. So they want to subscribe for a month and download 100 items? Let them. But I can see if it's an unlimited download subscription setup, I suppose there will always be people who download tons of stuff then cancel. On the other hand though, I sometimes go for months without buying a single product from Amazon - why would I want a subscription service if I wasn't using it? I'd much prefer a service where it was a per-use basis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.