A year after going DRM-free on eBooks, Tor Books published a piece on why they went DRM-free and the effects. One little tidbit was that
As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year.
Given the wide availability of pirated books and tools to remove DRM from eBooks, this hardly comes as a surprise. However, it is nice to get ones theories verified by experiments. Still, the move was courageous, and also lead to some resentment from other publishers where a letter was sent by the CEO of Little Brown U.K. to authors, as described here explaining
to the author that Hachette has “acquired exclusive publication rights in our territories from you in good faith,” but warns that in other territories, Tor’s no-DRM policy “will make it difficult for the rights granted to us to be properly protected.” Hachette’s proposed solution: that the author insist Tor use DRM on these titles.
These few quotes make it abundantly clear that the reason that publishers insist on DRM on books has little to do with stopping piracy. It has to do with control over where a book is sold and by whom. Fortunately, it seems that the letter has fallen upon deaf ears: Tor does not appear to be changing their stance on DRM-free eBooks. And they are not the only publisher to offer DRM-free eBooks.
Baen Ebooks has been doing so for quite a while, and in November 2012 publishers John Wiley & Sons and O’Reilly Media announced that they would serve their books DRM-free on oreily.com. Other publishers have also dropped DRM from their eBooks, e.g. Independent Publishers Group, Angry Robot Books and Carina Press. I’m sure that there are others out there, so keep your eyes peeled!
Let’s just hope that more publishers go that route – I would love to be able to get a digital library of all the books from my favorite authors!