Sales jumped 54% when this publisher went DRM-free

Unlocking your ebooks can deliver unexpected benefits

In 2019 we asked a major STM publisher if we might sell their ebooks DRM-free from They were already selling unencrypted (watermarked) ebooks from their own website direct to consumers, so clearly they had a reasonable appetite for this. The results were remarkable.

In 2018 (the last full year when we sold their ebooks with encryption) this publisher accounted for 1.35% of our total sales. In the year to June 2022, they represent 2.09% of our sales.

That’s a 54% increase

So I’m just curious – what’s your problem with selling DRM-free? Why would you forego an opportunity to nudge your sales up by a meaningful percentage, effortlessly?

Certainly DRM-free isn’t for every publisher. Core textbooks and mass market fiction come to mind as categories that might be best be protected. But there’s a huge array of titles that are just better if they’re not wrapped in proprietary DRM. A researcher, scientist, academic — anyone who wants to really use your ebook — would much prefer to be able to print whatever, copy-paste stuff.

And it’s so much simpler for the consumer. No software to install. They just download your PDF or EPUB and start reading — even on their Kindle.

You have to wonder what happened to all those sales that we missed, before going DRM-free with this publisher. Did the user come to, see that the book is DRM’d, and then go off to the worst place imaginable, where they can get it free of charge and DRM free? I fear that’s what was going on.

Is this where those (otherwise decent) people who can’t abide DRM are going for your ebooks:

Authors, Publishers & Booksellers Face Their Dark Nemesis
22 September 2022 (FinTech Zoom)
Here’s why you should be freaked out about ebook piracy. A nice, glowing description of how people can just download any of 4 million DRM-free ebooks at no cost. Z-Library is a free, elegant, easy interface. It’s highly likely that much, if not all, of your list is available via this site.

If you’d like to give it a try, just let us know and we’ll be glad to set up your titles as DRM-free. If you change your mind later, it just needs a nod from you and we’ll revert. If you’d prefer, we can add “social DRM” which involves imprinting a watermark onto random pages through the book. Just let us know.

[email protected]

Read more about selling DRM-free:

Should we sell your ebooks without DRM?

DRM-free O’Reilly ebooks available from

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