Ask an Expert: Digital Rights Management for eBooks

“Ask an Expert” is an occasional feature where we ask ecommerce experts questions from online merchants. For this installment, we address a question about tracking website trends, cost comparisons, competitors products and inventory.

The question comes from Bonnie Leigh, owner of Avante Hands Free, a Greensboro, NC-based retailer of telecommunications products.

For the answer, we turn to Craig Vodnik. He is co-founder and vice president of marketing at cleverbridge AG, a digital product outsourcing provider. Vodnik also authors “Shipping Optional,” a Practical eCommerce blog.

If you’d like to submit a question, email Matt Ferner, contributing editor, at and we’ll attempt to address it.

Bonnie Leigh

Bonnie Leigh

Bonnie Leigh: “I am working on an ebook, but I have heard that it is very easy for people to steal your information and resell it as their own once they make one purchase of the ebook. This worries me on how to prevent this from occurring. Any suggestions?”


Craig Vodnik

Craig Vodnik

Craig Vodnik: “First of all, congratulations on writing a book of any kind! That is a major accomplishment and something to be proud of.

“Now to answer your question about preventing theft of an ebook. It’s important to understand that there isn’t a perfect way to completely prevent digital goods from being stolen. Any copy protection mechanism out there can be (and has been) broken by nefarious individuals; so the idea of a foolproof method of digital goods protection is, well, not very ‘practical.’

“If you can come to terms with that statement, then you need to look at the situation from the other end of the spectrum. Distributing your product without any copy protection mechanism, is an open invitation for your digital good to be passed around without seeing any financial benefit – not a practical solution.

“So where does this leave us? Somewhere in between, naturally. What I mean by that is that there is a sliding scale of copy protection mechanisms for digital goods (and ebooks) that creates a higher hurdle for thieves to jump over in order to steal your product and resell it.

“Conversely, the more difficult that you make it for your customers to install the ebook, the more frustrated your customers may become, potentially resulting in refunds or chargebacks on the purchase of your ebook. Therefore, keep in mind that the more strict your copy protection solution is, the less fraud there will be — but the possibility for unhappy customers grows.

“Now on to the practical answer to your question about ebooks: To sell your ebook directly via your website to customers who want to read it on their computer, you can use DNL DRM, an ebook security and distribution platform, or Digital Content Center, a company that specializes in selling digital content.

“Additionally, you may want to distribute your ebook to the other reader platforms: Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Having your ebook in as many places as possible is smart because your readers won’t have to search specific stores to find it. There are ways to self publish your book to these stores, which have their own digital rights management — referred to as ‘DRM’ — solution. But it’s not trivial to get your book into their formats and their stores, so start early. You can also consider a service provider like Lulu or FastPencil to publish your book.

“Good luck and happy publishing!”

PEC Staff
PEC Staff
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