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Why should your ebook files be watermarked? Your printed books aren't. Watermarks are ugly.

Because it's trivial to turn one ebook into a billion pirated copies, not so much with a physical book. It's a huge difference in logistics.

It's trivial even with a watermark and all other forms of DRM. As demonstrated by the article, DRM only punishes paying customers that don't understand what they're paying for.

DRM always restricts the paying customer. With DVDs they got the unskippable piracy warnings, while people who downloaded the ripped version wouldn't see it ...

The hope publishers have is that it slows distribution a bit and they use it as attempt to manipulate people to allow stronger punishment of infringers.

It's actually not that easy for most books, because most books aren't popular enough to sustain a torrent. A PDF of a book is usually tens or hundreds of megabytes, which is too big to get through most mail servers. Mass-sharing an ebook takes just enough work that it won't happen for anything that's not a best-seller.

Mass sharing a scanned book, particularly one that was not OCRed, indeed usually takes too much work. EBooks, or rather most of them, are tiny epub files with little to no images, 5mb maximum. There are sources distributing ebooks at scale, libgen.io is a prime example, the ebooks channel on IRC highway and myanonamouse, a private ebook and audiobook torrent tracker that some people apparently use also exist. There are rumours of private collections spanning millions of titles that fit on a single, albeit large, hard drive.

Gotcha -- an epub/mobi of a novel is tiny and easy to host. I was thinking of more design-heavy books with figures and images, which tend to be much larger.

Still, if people torrent audiobooks (and they do), then eBooks, even with figures, can't be that bad. I've seen hosted collections of audiobooks ranging in the gigabytes and they were not best sellers. No reason why you couldn't do that for ebooks.

Thanks for the warning. I've published a ~100MB niche ebook, and thought of publishing another. Now I need to reconsider.

What are you talking about? Ebooks are tiny. It's just text.

I'm fine with watermarks. The only downside to them is that they are traceable to the original buyer if someone else gets their hands on your and decides to distribute it online, so lending them to a friend is risky.

But the watermarks really only matter when they get illegally copied around, and don't hurt the owner in the way more restrictive forms of DRM do.

Risky how? Is there some punishment for not perfectly securing bytes? That would be insane because companies aren't punished for sharing your stuff by accident or even selling it on purpose.

Maybe they should be.

in the blind community I'm a part of, there are a lot of ebooks floating as plaintext files, with watermarks either stripped or replaced by something like "there was a watermark here, but it has been stripped. Keep trying".

There will always be hacking. When you sell ebooks without drm and with just reasonable watermarking, you remove all the incentive for ethical hacking. This remains only the unethical hacking (the thieves).

Well, that “downside” is the entire point. Czech publishers call this “social DRM”, which conveys the point well: if the book says it was printed for me, visibly, I won’t be inclined to distribute it illegally. It isn’t about enforcement (see sibling comment). And yes, you can strip visible watermarks, but this still discourages casual pirates well.

Because you can't trivially make identical - down to cuts, paper type, print fidelity - copies of a physical book. But you can trivially make identical copies of a digital one.

Watermarks are an attempt at reproducing rules of physical space in digital space.

By making the owned copy ugly and harder to read yet still trivially copyable? Something does not compute here.

These watermarks only appear a few times in places like beside the page number. You'll have to provide a darn good explanation to convince me it makes the book harder to read.

And yes, it's still trivially copyable, but that makes it better in any way than DRM: it can be traced back to the original owner but doesn't make it unnecessarily hard to read it on multiple devices.

Might be the next revenge vector. Share an ebook with faked watermarks.

Traced back for what purpose? What's the punishment? Any answer, other than "none", would be insane.

If your watermarked version appears online it is an indication that you might have uploaded (or not properly protected) it. This might not be enough to prove this in a court, but enough for the publisher's lawyers to annoy you.

But hardly any uploader would keep watermarks in, which makes them more of a way for faithful users to not give the book I.e. to friends since there is a visible reminder about being your personal copy.

An uploader can easily edit the watermark out of the book, if he is so inclined, and he probably is. It only annoys those who were not bent on uploading it in the first place.

Also, I specifically would not abide to any kind of law saying I cannot give a book I bought to a friend.

Many readers can't (they could learn it though) enough however indeed can.

That's why, from publisher's view, the second point is so important: Remind readers all the time that "it" (without going into details) is illegal so they continue buying.

Its still a legal environment where it is illegal to share or transfer ownership of books

It's not that kind of watermark. Rather, usually at the beginning, there'll be some text saying who bought the book, along with some kind of identifier. The id can also be hidden inside the file.

The books I've investigated had a text saying "This copy belongs to: %s" where %s was an email address at the beginning, and an invisible hex string at the end of every chapter. The string had a width and height of 1px, so most conventional readers didn't show it at all.

> Something does not compute here.

That's right. They are trivially copyable, but the copies are easily traceable. Compute now?

Unless you quite easily remove the watermark.

These aren't visual watermarks like what you'd get on physical paper. They just alter the digital copy so that it can be traced back to the buyer, and people are deterred from sharing it on the web. It's a very elegant solution if the 'watermark' can be made hard enough to remove, and I can see quite a few workable approaches.

> These aren't visual watermarks like what you'd get on physical paper.

Except they often are visual. "Owned by X" and such.

> Why should your ebook files be watermarked?

Because digital things can be copied for free without loss of fidelity.

> Your printed books aren't. Watermarks are ugly.

A digital watermark can be invisible.

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