Today, I saw somebody tweeting about signing a petition to get DRM off of the Kindle. I tweeted that the best way to "vote" on something like that is with your dollars. If you buy a Kindle and then sign a petition about the DRM on it, you haven't really given Amazon much motivation to stop using DRM. Since you bought it, you obviously didn't care enough about DRM to not purchase it, so if Amazon doesn't stop using DRM… well, they've already got your money and probably will continue getting your money in the future. At least from the point of view of an MBA, such a petition is essentially meaningless; it has about as much significance as the mewling of kittens. Money talks more loudly than petitions.
Now, I consider what I tweeted to be a truism. I wasn't particularly intending to take a stand on DRM by posting it. I was just stating a simple fact: If you feel strongly about DRM (or anything else), you shouldn't buy a product that uses it because your dollars are the only meaningful way of voting when it comes to for-profit corporations. If you want a DRM-free Kindle, you should refuse to buy a Kindle until Amazon stops using DRM.
Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of DRM, but I'm not much of an ideologue, either. I'm practical about the whole thing. With some products, the benefits outweigh the potential harm of DRM, with others, they don't. With the iPhone, for example, the convenience and benefits outweigh the negatives by a long shot. Sure, I would rather the iPhone didn't have DRM, but I'm not going to stop using it because it has it (although it is almost certainly true that I buy less music and movies as a result of the fact that they are delivered with DRM). And, yes, the threat of having purchased apps deleted by an un-appealable decision by some unnamed person at Apple is a fear but, in reality, it's not enough of a threat to make me give up my iPhone. Maybe someday it will be, but today it's not even close.
There are other products, like the Kindle where, for me, the DRM tips the scales enough in the other direction that I don't buy the product. They don't offer enough of a benefit for me personally to offset the threat of having my books deleted behind my back, for example. Obviously, based on how well the Kindle has sold, the value proposition of the Kindle is different for me than it is for a lot of other people.
The long and short of it is that DRM is just one factor among many that I consider when making a purchase decision. Or, in other words, I'm pretty standard geek consumer.
Anyway… a little while after I tweeted that, I was basically called out as a hypocrite for making that statement because my publisher puts DRM on the electronic versions of my book. The implication being, it would seem, that you can't say anything about DRM unless you give away all of your creative output for free? Yeah, that makes sense.
Frankly, I do not like being called a hypocrite. Over the last two years, I have probably given away the equivalent of at least a thousand hours worth of my time (and probably much more) writing tutorials and sample code for my blog. Additionally, I spend at least an hour a day helping other people with programming problems over e-mail, IM and Twitter, none of which I get paid for. Now, I enjoy doing all that, but idiots like this "John Doe" sometimes make me really regret the time I've spent in that way. If I had used all that time doing contracting work or writing an additional book, I would be considerably wealthier right now.
Here's the simple truth of the matter: I have no input into how Apress delivers their eBooks. I have no contractual right to control that part of the process. I wouldn't be tempted to do so, but if if I did decide to make some ideological stand on DRM by, say, refusing to finish my current writing obligations unless Apress stopped using DRM, Apress would likely (and rightly) hold me in breach of contract. It's unlikely to the point of being ridiculous that they would stop using DRM as a result of one author being an asshole.
To state it simply, I'm an author, not a publisher, and just one of literally dozens (maybe hundreds) of Apress authors. Heck, I'm not even the only author on the books I work on! I have a great relationship with Apress and I very much like the people there that I interact with there. But I'm not them. And yet I still have opinions. Fancy that.