David Pogue tries DRM-free ebooks, sells more books than with DRM-crippled ventures

Tech writing superstar David Pogue writes about his experiment with DRM-free ebook publishing. He concludes that even though his DRM-free book was pirated all over the net, the sales were as high as he expected them to be, based on his previous books' sales. Pogue goes on to talk about what he's learned here — that DRM-free isn't necessarily bad for sales — and invites other publishers to try it out. One thing he badly misses, though, is the technical failure of DRM to prevent piracy. Pogue's previous, DRM-crippled ebooks were also pirated, after all, because DRM isn't hard to break (ebooks are vulnerable to a particularly fiendish technical attack called "re-typing"). So when Pogue puts DRM on his books, he only locks down the readers who are honest enough to pay for his stuff in the first place. The people who cheat and download without paying get the copies that the DRM has been removed from.

My publisher, O'Reilly, decided to try an experiment, offering one of my Windows books for sale as an unprotected PDF file.

After a year, we could compare the results with the previous year's sales.

The results? It was true. The thing was pirated to the skies. It's all over the Web now, ridiculously easy to download without paying.

The crazy thing was, sales of the book did not fall. In fact, sales rose slightly during that year.

That's not a perfect, all-variables-equal experiment, of course; any number of factors could explain the results. But for sure, it wasn't the disaster I'd feared.

Should e-Books Be Copy Protected?

(Thanks, Hugh!)