Would you like a digital copy to go with that?

I was reading Matt Mason’s book titled The Pirate’s Dilemma which, broadly speaking, narrates how pirates have changed our world in more than one way by their own altruistic ways (we’ll come back to that later). A while after I remembered reading a quote by Machiavelli in the book but couldn’t find a reference to it in the index. That’s when I realised how useful it would be to be able to search through a book much like the way we search through a virtual document everyday with our Ctrl + F. This got me thinking and I thought it would be quite easy to do that if I had the electronic version of the book.

I decided to search for a pirated version of the book (oh the irony) as soon as I was done with the chapter. When it came to it, I decided to look at the author’s website wondering if did actually practise as he preached and offered a digital copy of the download. And surely enough he did. The way Matt set it up was any website visitor is able to click on the link and download the book. In doing so the user is presented with an option to enter an amount he would like to pay the publisher. I of course selected zero because I had already paid for the book.

Later it got me thinking that what did in a way impress me (the digital download on the author’s website) should in fact become what Herzberg describes as Hygiene Factor, in the non business sense of course. Each purchase of a hardcopy of the book should be accompanied with a digital version of the book so the buyer is able to consumer the product wherever, however and whenever he chooses to. For those concerned with the issue of file sharing and distribution let me point you to Music Industry who has already, for most part of it, abandoned DRM and is still doing fine. The fact of the matter is those who wish who pirate, will pirate. I was going to have no qualms or difficulties in obtaining a pdf ebook version from one of many websites. But the fact that Matt and his publishers made it available to me was nice and got me thinking, why aren’t we given a digital copy with our purchases.


  1. Interesting. I was trying to think of examples where the same product is essentially sold twice, in different media. I think it is quite common – for instance you can buy an audio book version of the written one, or you can buy a CD of a live concert, or the DVD. In those cases there is typically some additional work that is done to create the additional media, however in your example, the pdf surely is already created by the publisher.

    I think part of the problem with the whole DRM thing is that it started out as a knee jerk reaction “How DARE they pirate this???” and then the whole thing just turned into a war. Nobody ever really thought it through the way some are now, wondering, “Does it make business sense to provide this to the consumer free of charge?” Many businesses provide the strangest things for free you’d expect to pay for, but it makes business sense for them.

    I think the most successful artists etc of the next decade will be the ones whose business managers actually grasp this, and find a way to make it work.

  2. I believe it was NIN that released a CD which when heated up because of playing would change colour and reveal a code which was a link to a website with an extra track. It is stuff like this which makes users want to buy the original copy instead of pirating it.

    As for the point about books, an electronic version is most certainly created so reproduction and distribution of that costs close to nothing. Only costs we are looking at are for bandwidth, but when we’re talking about a few megabytes per file, those are next to nothing. In fact if it gets the user to get onto the author’s or publisher’s website, it could just as easily serve as a means to either advertise more books or even sell the books online. This being a user who might not have logged on otherwise.

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