comes this rather interesting calculation of the DRM tax of owning an Amazon Kindle
. It's not a definitive number, as it would differ for different people based on what kinds of books they buy, how often and how many of those books they'd like to keep. But it's a good little thought experiment for those looking to buy a Kindle. The key recognition, of course, is that with a Kindle ebook you're renting, not buying
There is one other problem with DRM protected books. When the reading device reaches its end of life, you have to assume all the content you purchased will be lost. If, for instance, I went with a Kindle, all of the content I purchase can be used only on devices supported by Amazon.
When, several years later, it comes time to replace that Kindle I may get a new Kindle -- but I can't assume that. Maybe somebody else will have a better device at that time. Or, maybe Amazon went bankrupt or evil or stupid and I need to switch to another vendor. There are any number of reasons I might like to switch my e-reader. If I do, I have to assume I won't be able to use any of the content I purchased for the Kindle.
Thanks to DRM, when my e-reader reaches its end of life, I will have to pay to acquire replacement books for the material that's locked out of the new e-reader. I call the amount of that purchase the "DRM tax" -- an added cost imposed by DRM restrictions.
He's quite fair in calculating his own personal DRM tax, noting that he probably wouldn't want to rebuy all the books, but just a portion of them. He also knows that ebooks are cheaper. But, in the end, he realizes that this DRM tax makes the total cost of ownership of a Kindle much higher for him than just buying the physical books -- even if it's more of a pain to have to sometimes lug them around. In his case, he would use it mainly for technical books, which is a different situation than, say, recreational novel reading, where "ownership" may be less important. Still, he feels that the DRM issue is a problem and a serious hidden cost:
Maybe someday Amazon (and publishers) will realize how much harm they are doing with DRM. If the DRM tax was removed, not only would more people get e-readers, but also, thanks to the low friction of e-book purchasing, they'd buy more e-content.
This is actually a key point. Just the fact that he had to run through this calculation to determine if a Kindle made sense is a serious amount of friction. If Amazon made this calculation easy (i.e., no DRM tax) that would lead to more sales.