Charlie Stross has posted a long essay making the case for ebook publishers going DRM-free. It's a good, comprehensive look. I'll be writing something more on this subject later this week, too.
1. The rapid current pace of change in the electronic publishing sector is driven by the consumer electronics and internet industry. It's impossible to make long term publishing plans (3-10 years) without understanding these other industries and the priorities of their players. It is important to note that the CE industry relies on selling consumers new gadgets every 1-3 years. And it is through their gadgets that readers experience the books we sell them. Where is the CE industry taking us?
2. Dropping DRM across all of Macmillans products will not have immediate, global, positive effects on revenue in the same way that introducing the agency model did ...
3. However, relaxing the requirement for DRM across some of Macmillans brands will have very positive public relations consequences among certain customer demographics, notably genre readers who buy large numbers of books (and who, while a minority in absolute numbers, are a disproportionate source of support for the midlist).
4. Longer term, removing the requirement for DRM will lower the barrier to entry in ebook retail, allowing smaller retailers (such as Powells) to compete effectively with the current major incumbents. This will encourage diversity in the retail sector, force the current incumbents to interoperate with other supply sources (or face an exodus of consumers), and undermine the tendency towards oligopoly. This will, in the long term, undermine the leverage the large vendors currently have in negotiating discount terms with publishers while improving the state of midlist sales.