Author John Birmingham quits eBook DRM


blog At Delimiter we’ve long been fans of the Brisbane Times Blunt Instrument blog run by local author John Birmingham, perhaps best known for his 1994 novel He Died With A Felafel In His Hand and the 1997 follow-up The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco. Birmingham tells it like it is — a habit we try to be in ourselves — and he tells it loud and strong, often on issues which touch on video gaming, Internet piracy and so on.

That’s why we’re so impressed with the rant Birmingham posted today with regards to his attitudes about eBook piracy. Birmingham has decided to take the revolutionary approach of abolishing DRM-style protection solutions on his books and setting a uniform global price on them. Crazy, we know. A sample paragraph:

“I’ve thrown my hands up and admitted defeat on DRM and pricing. I’m going to try give the punters what they say they want with ebooks. It’s almost the exact opposite approach to those businesses which are busy locking in exclusive distribution licenses with their overseas suppliers to make sure you keep paying the same price as you’ve always paid and have no option but to source whatever you’re after from one or two nominated suppliers.”

We’re also impressed with the courage of the comments Birmingham delivered about Amazon, which he described as “the most predatory of bottom-feeding predators”. Many of us are also ambivalent about Amazon’s long-term intentions in terms of eBook DRM. Of course, it’s not true that Amazon is wholly evil — the company has, after all, revitalised independent publishing and appears to have its hand around the throat of the book publishing industry in general, whose middlemen have been one of the driving forces in setting geographical restrictions on books being sold globally.

In general, we need more authors like Birmingham in Australia. Maybe if enough authors take a stand on this issue, the issue of geographic and pricing restrictions on digital content will eventually disappear entirely.

Image credit: CraigPRichmond, Creative Commons


  1. Just goes to show that copyright DOESNT have the creator in mind….or for that matter the consumer at the other end of the chain.

    “the monopoly over who owns the content and how it is experienced belongs to the publishers and distributors, not the artists and creatives.” Wendy Cockcroft.

  2. Good to hear more authors decrying the state of affairs with restrictive publishing.

    I love reading & collecting books, but I gave up buying them locally a few years back, when it became painfully obvious I could buy them from overseas for less than half the price (including shipping). I very much doubt the authors get any more royalties from the 100-200% mark-up on books in Australia.

    The comments to that blog post make interesting reading, too. John Birmingham makes the very valid point in one that publishers do, actually, add quite a bit of value to books with their editing & proofing processes. On that basis, I’m quite willing to pay a price that not only includes a fair return for the author, but includes a fair return for the work done by the publisher. International price discrimination has nothing to do with that, however, particularly in the case of ebooks, where the publisher’s cost to deliver the product to the end customer is unchanged, whether that customer is in the US, Europe, Australia, or outer Mongolia.

    Good to see Mr Birmingham’s works will soon be available as ebooks – I look forward to buying them, as I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of hard copy novels of his I picked up a few years back.

  3. Just FYI, it’s not just Birmo’ that is dropping DRM on his e-books. The publishing house that his e-books are published by is dropping it for all their publications. Here’s the linky:

    So I think this article could have done with a little more research as to where the push for dropped DRM is coming from – Did Birmo’ tell his label he was dropping DRM and they agreed? Or did the label tell Birmo’ they were dropping DRM and he agreed? Or was it a mutual decision?

    Either way, kudos to Birmo’ and Momentum Books for this move…

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