I was writing a reply to seawasp
's post about this matter and realized it had become long enough it ought to be a post here instead...
I think that the important question for publishers and authors is not, "Oh hell, how do we stop people from people from pirating our books," but, "Oh wow, people who are interested in us, how do we get them to willingly
send money our direction?" (to give a short version of haikujaguar
's post yesterday on this matter)
Emphasis on the word willingly because no matter how many layers of DRM and DMCA style law are used, short of a total collapse of society and loss of technology, it is only going to get easier for people to copy things. And yes, that includes physical objects as well as digital data. Ten years from now (if that long) we'll get to see if companies that have invested in design patents on household items will react to tomorrows version of the Rep-Rap any more intelligently than the RIAA did to Napster.
(Which they are still in denial about screwing up. I read an article at some point in the past month where one former RIAA person insisted that the fault in Napster going away was entirely due to Napster refusing to come to the bargaining table and that the RIAA would have been willing to make a deal if Napster had... That's funny, if I recall correctly Napster offered a billion
dollars and potentially partial ownership, plus a percentage of profits, plus unfettered access to usage statistics, as a settlement deal, and as I recall the RIAA's response was, 'We'll be more than happy to talk to you once you are dead, dead, dead, you [the following five minutes of ranting censored to protect children, pregnant women, and those of delicate disposition] so we hope you have good lawyers, no settlement! See you in court!')
I won't claim to know what the final answers will be (I don't believe it is going to be one single model), but I do know what the publishers and authors that don't ask that second question will be called. Forgotten. I do suspect part of it will involve relaxing control, because trying to maximize control will simply annoy potential readers (aka customers, aka patrons, aka your source of money) at a time when it will be even easier for them to find alternatives.
Additional note: Publisher's take note, this issue is even more important for you to figure out than for the authors. If the three sides in this issue, the authors, the readers, and the publishers, you the publisher are the most replaceable. The money flows from the reader towards the publisher (and we hope at least some of it makes its way on to the writer). The books flow from the writer towards the readers. We have publishing houses because so far the combination of publishers and book stores has proven to be the most successful in bringing the two together. But that doesn't mean any one publisher or bookstore, or even the two as concepts are not replaceable.
Yes, readers can like publishers, I personally have a liking for Baen when it comes to fiction. But why do I have a liking for Baen that gets me to regularly check their list of upcoming books? Part of it is Baen's company personality. They don't screw the reader. Their website is more than than a collection of blatant advertising, their forum has actual conversations on it (perish the thought!), samples of upcoming books are available to read (whoa, you mean they are confident enough in the books they thing I'll still be interested after the first five chapters?), ebooks aren't delayed (and are not made defective with DRM, and are made available in multiple formats, and are even given a sliding with increasing amounts available prior to the print release).
But you know what? If Baen did something that ticked off the authors and they all jumped ship for someone else, that past good will wouldn't mean all that much if I wasn't seeing authors I liked sending books in for Baen to publish. I would be checking to see where they went and heading in that direction. Fortunately I doubt I'll have to worry about Baen. They seem to be one of the few publishers in any genre to be reacting with anything other than, "Quick, grab some sandbags, guns, and a phone with our lawyers on speed dial!"