No Starch Press: a radical approach to the DRM issue

Mark Piesing, who reports for Publishing Perspectives, has recently interviewed the head of a small publishing company with a combative approach towards DRM.

‘We have never used DRM and we never will. It’s just foolish,’ says Bill Pollock of No Starch Press, a small San Francisco publisher. No Starch Press publishes books for geeks on a range of technology-related subjects, from hacking to programming for kids, and specialises particularly in books about Lego.  It has taken a principled stand against DRM, as well as some of the other tenets of contemporary publishing.

‘People should have the same rights in an e-book that they do in a print book,’ says Pollock. ‘I don’t believe in charging people three times for the same information.’

His rationale is that ‘you have to trust your readers, and when you show that you trust them they will respond to you’: therefore, when you buy a physical book from No Starch Press you are given the e-book free to use how you wish, including sharing it with other readers. This approach seems to work: No Starch Press’s new LEGO Neighborhood Book sold 15,000 copies in two weeks and had to be reprinted.  Pollock says that pirate sites offer ‘no real competition’: books from them are typically downloaded only a few hundred times. He also argues that piracy may help ‘build a buzz’ about new books.

No Starch Press is to be admired for its remarkable and innovative publishing achievements.  However, it is worth pointing out that its beautifully-produced books work best in print.  The e-book is, therefore, no substitute for the print version.  Bill Pollock might be a little more reluctant to give away the e-book and allow his customers to pass it on if he was mainly engaged in the fiction publishing segment of the industry.

 Mark Piesing’s article on Bill Pollock’s views on DRM and publishing generally found here.