DRM-free indie ebooks outsell DRM-locked ones 2:1

Author Earnings has published its latest eye-popping data-analysis of ebook sales and rankings on Amazon.

Amid the general growth of indie books (indie authors now make more as a group than Big 5 authors, though there are a lot more indies sharing that pie), there's this amazing fact:

It wasn’t surprising to see that most Big 5 books employ DRM, but we were shocked to see that it is practically 100% of them. Indies, on the other hand, locked down roughly 50% of their titles. Since there isn’t any variation in the Big 5 books, we are forced to look at the self-published titles for any effect on sales, and indeed there is one. The 50% of non-DRM ebooks account for 64% of total unit sales.

Indie titles without DRM sell twice as many copies each, on average, as those with DRM.

To confirm that this finding didn’t simply reflect a correlation between ebook pricing and DRM election, rather than a consequence of DRM itself, we compared the average daily earnings of non-DRM titles to DRM titles at each pricing cohort. ,p> At almost every price point, we see the thousands of titles without DRM significantly out-earning the thousands of titles with DRM. In fact, at the only two price points that appear to buck the general trend and which show DRM titles outselling non-DRM ones, we found that the reversal was due to 3 outlier DRM titles published by only two authors.

July 2014 Author Earnings Report (Thanks, Chris!)

Notable Replies

  1. Who cares if the unlocked version sells an extra million copies... if one pirate copy gets out into the wild, all is lost! A mere sample chapter can bring down the mighty Harry Potter, and Jack Ryan and Jason Bourne all at once!

  2. eBooks should be cheaper -- no expensive overhead of paper -- but publishers do take a huge share and it is frustrating getting a royalty statement -- plus, these days, authors are expected to do all or most of the promotion, and there are a lot of expenses that fall's on an author's shoulders, that should, technically, be the publisher's job.

    eBooks liberate authors from the skewed system if they decide to go the independent route, and even though there are still a lot of hurdles one must overcome, they are not insurmountable.

    It pretty much is a no-brainer that DRM is not selling as well -- people do lend their print books to others without the publisher meddling, and the restrictions of ownership of a product you bought is not very appealing.

    Publishing is already in a mess and DRM just makes things worse for everyone...

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