Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
O’Reilly Media has stopped retailing books directly on its ecommerce store (oreilly.com)
233 points by stock_toaster on June 28, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 253 comments

Sent this to Support at O'Reilly after reading their (to me, insane) e-mail.

Hi O'Reilly,

Just so you know - you've completely lost a customer. After years - decades really - of a highly dedicated customer (whose friends have written books you have published) you threw it all down the drain in one e-mail.

I will never purchase another book published by O'Reilly, or any company associated with O'Reilly, or associated with O'Reilly himself or any of the executives at O'Reilly. I sure as heck am not going to buy any technical books from O'Reilly by Amazon.

The things I liked from O'Reilly, now gone, are:

1. PDF, ePub and Mobi formats, all DRM free, so I could read them in the ideal format for each device I read them on. And, I have a lot of devices: several Macs and PCs, several iPads, several Kindles (used almost exclusively for fiction as technical works are horrible in non-PDF), several phones of various kinds. I could put both the ePub and PDF into iBooks (not my favorite app, but it does sync) and read the ePub on the subway if I wanted, and the PDF on the desktop and iPad (cause, as I said, ePub is terrible for technical books). I like my fully properly typeset color, indexed PDFs!

2. Buy it once, own it. Did you ever see me subscribe to Safari? No? Ever wonder why not? For the same reason that I don't use Adobe products anymore except Lightroom (which is still a purchase not a subscription), and why I dropped JetBrains when they moved to their subscription model and then re-joined them when they went to "Subscription + keep your start of subscription version forever". I don't rent stuff. I buy it and own it. Plain and simple.

I'm glad that there are other publishers out there like Pragmatic Press and Apress that have been publishing good content, because you just lost a highly dedicated customer who always shopped O'Reilly first even for non-O'Reilly books. Congratulations, and shame on you.

> Buy it once, own it. Did you ever see me subscribe to Safari? No? Ever wonder why not? For the same reason that I don't use Adobe products anymore except Lightroom...

I like subscriptions, to be honest. I don't need to "own" all this stuff (whatever "own" might mean) -- tech books and specific versions of software tend to have a relatively short shelf-life and I like both O'Reilly's, Adobe's, and JetBrain's models of paying a predictable fee every month and having access to everything they provide. To me it's very freeing.

The last time I purchased an O'Reilly book, digital or physical, was probably... 2002?

I find subscriptions to be a mixed bag. For something like TV/Movies subscription makes sense in general. Most consumers will watch once and then watch something else and this subscription rental service is cheaper than direct buying what you would use.

With technical books, this is a pretty hard sell at the Safari prices. The lowest cost option is $39/month for one user. It's pretty difficult to justify that as I need to read a minimum of one technical book per month, and all of those books would have to be ones available in Safari.

I've used Safaribooks in the past because an employer paid for the team, and I thought it was quite good, but it isn't good enough to replace all of my technical book needs, nor is it worth $39/month.

I, like the parent, have directly purchased quite a few books directly from O'Reilly online in the past. The nice thing was that unlike Amazon I could count on updates if there were corrections and such. Now I will just look elsewhere for books and O'Reilly just loses my money.

Also; IMHO, the O'Reilly article is nothing but PR spin. How is this reinventing anything? Safaribooks has been around for 16 years as a subscription service. There is nothing new here; all they did was kill off a sales channel. That's pretty much the opposite of invention.

I don't mind subscriptions, but a key difference between O'Reilly's subscription model and Adobe/Jetbrains is that my Jetbrains and Adobe subscriptions (both of which I'm happy with!) get me access to the exact same thing I used to pay hundreds of dollars a year for, just on different terms.

Safari is quite radically different from the O'Reilly products I used to pay for. I'm forced to use a browser or their proprietary mobile app to read the books. Only the mobile app support offline reading. It's a completely different value proposition - it costs much more than I would normally spend on O'Reilly ebooks each year, but it would get me access to many more tech books than I'd normally buy or read. Unlike ebook purchases, if I stop subscribing I lose access to everything.

I think it ends up being a good value if you reference a wide variety of books and a very poor one if you have narrower interests. I'd be more interested if they offered a plan that fit my usage profile. I don't care about access to thousands of books with no restrictions, I'd be happy to have access to maybe two to four full books (of my choosing) at a time for a more modest monthly fee. Maybe a credits system like Audible? I think there's a lot of ways to design an ebook subscription service that are more customer-friendly than forcing everyone into an expensive all-or-nothing choice.

For me it was even worse, their mobile app's cache would bork fairly frequently, and the app would misbehave until I cleared it, and on android, it isn't exactly an accessible option, you have to go through layers of settings menus, scroll forever for the app you're looking for to finally clear it. Third time it happened, I cancelled my Safari account.

I want to like Safari as an option, but it's way too limited for me. Frankly I'm only buying 2-3 books a year now, mostly relying on technical articles or online documentation (bad as that may be). I may go through another burst reading 8-10 books over a summer again, but not at the moment.

Although this change doesn't affect me, I mostly bought print books via Amazon anyway, because I find digital copies harder to recall/work through.

I agree with you. I have a Safari subscription and I have mostly stopped buying computer science text books (I buy only 7 or 8 a year now). Now instead of looking on stack overflow or doing a web search, I login to Safari, find a recent book, and read the parts that are useful/interesting.

Same. When I got an email yesterday saying that my ACM membership now gives me complete access to the entire Safari platform and all its content, it was like the last several Christmases all wrapped up in one. Just extraordinary how much useful content just became available to me, and all searchable too. Amazing.

The subscription model makes sense for the vendors--I get that it costs money to put out new versions and support things.

For me, it depends on the "stuff" and its longevity. E.G. for JetBrains, I'd rather pay ~$600 once and for all, since I doubt I'll move off of it any time soon. Instead, to get updates, I'll now pay $299 per year in perpetuity (after yr 2). So if I use it 10 more years, I plunk out almost $3000.

Even all the little junk adds up. $10 for Zoom, $12.50 for Slack, etc. etc. As a developer / consultant working in many different languages on a few platforms, I'm spending close to $2000 for subscriptions each year. It's a bit much.

Out of curiosity, do you use many pieces of software regularly that you last updated in 2007? Would you use IntelliJ 2007 for work today?

I don't know: $3k for ten years of updates to a key tool I use for work -- that seems low. Like, well below my budget for coffee.

$2k/yr total does seem high. That's higher than my costs for my various work-related subscriptions. But if that $2k provides tools you convert into 50x or 100x that in income... I mean, it seems like money well spent.

I too have an IntelliJ IDEA subscription and I'm happy to pay money for it BECAUSE if I stopped paying, in my case, the community edition is open source and good enough. I basically could do all of my work with the free version, yet I pay them because I want to see Jetbrains thriving. But if they'd drop the community edition, I'd drop IntelliJ IDEA like a hot potato.

As a developer I got the best value from open source tools. I like the feeling of control that gives.

I do pay for Fastmail and for Dropbox, because my email and data are very important. And a good laptop is a must and I like MacBooks.

But my general rule of thumb is that subscriptions have to give a 10x return of investment to be worth it. And I'm sorry, but most tools don't deliver. You're claiming a 50x-100x return, but that's ridiculous.

As a dev I could do all of my work on Linux, using completely open source tools and I can get by with completely free documentation or by reading source code. I know that because I've been doing it for the better part of my career.

Basically productivity has more to do with knowledge than with tools and I'm not talking of the superficial knowledge that you get from beginner books, but the kind that you get by working on hard problems, reading academic papers and doing deep dives in source code that isn't yours.

So seeing OReilly change their business model, after years of recommending them, well, I'm not a cow to be milked or their personal ATM.

It's honestly just a personal preference which model you prefer more. I can respect a business choosing either model, but ideally having both options is the best.

I won't buy another Pragmatic Press book after buying the Practical Vim second edition Kindle book only to find that the cursor positions are missing throughout the entire book. I posted on their forums about it only to be told that they had submitted the update and it was out of their hands. It's now been a year and a half and the update still hasn't appeared, and as I waited for the non-existent update to appear, I couldn't get a refund.

I'm very sorry to hear that. But unfortunately, support was correct. We can't control when -- or IF -- Amazon ever ships an update that we provide. If you buy from us directly, we ship out updates to books regularly.

In this case, if you email me directly, I'll email you the latest version of that book by hand.

Also, for anyone who wants to own individual ebooks, please help yourself to this coupon: iLoveEbooks, good for 30% off at pragprog.com.



Yeah, this is why I always buy direct from you guys. You do a bang up job of rolling out updates.

This is why I also love Pragmatic Press and have also purchased from you in the past. Thank you for being awesome!

Strongly recommend buying PragProg books directly from them rather than through Amazon. They update their books much more often than other publishers and (as you experienced) Amazon really drags their feet on pushing out those updates, even when they're critically important.

There's other benefits too, like coupons for free or heavily discounted upgrades when new editions of the book are published. I bought the first edition of "Practical Vim" back in 2012 and I've gotten five years of free updates including the second edition.

that is unacceptable, there is an entire chapter on cursor positioning, must be pretty boring without the cursor.

Oh that's terrible! I bought the 1st edition in print, and I can't imagine who ridiculous it would be without the cursor.

Kindles are horrible for tech books. I buy books directly the the pragprog website and they automatically appear in my Dropbox as PDF (there is a choice of format). My books auto-update with typo fixes, etc. automatically.

It is worth noting JetBrains still offer buy it once and own it licenses, and even their subscription grants you an eternal license to the particular version you were on when you stopped subscribing.

> then re-joined them when they went to "Subscription + keep your start of subscription version forever".

Oh, yeah I missed that. Cheers!

I'm pretty sure it's to the version that is 12 months behind when you stopped subscribing. You have to subscribe for an entire year to own the version when you started.

So if you subscribe for 12 months, and then cancel, you actually have to revert back to a version 1 year old. It's pretty messed up.

Plus the updates have REALLY been lacking. They have missed the quarterly releases regularly and it just feels like very little has actually been added.

Your essentially paying for the product at the time of your payment and a 12 month subscription to updates. From that point of view it makes some sense that once your subscription is finished you revert back to the original product you bought you when subscribed. It does seem unnecessarily punitive though.

I prefer the model with Matlab, where you pay once, get a year of updates, and keep the last version.

> So if you subscribe for 12 months, and then cancel, you actually have to revert back to a version 1 year old. It's pretty messed up.

It would be, but that's not how it works.

I believe you just get to keep using whatever you were using when you stopped payments. You have access to minors updates to that version, but not to major updates from version to version.

I think it's a smart balance.


Read that again. It's exactly how it works.

You are correct! Sorry for the bad info.

As a Lightroom user myself, I'm a bit worried about that. Since the subscription model began, Lightroom seems to have languished a bit - and its been years since a standalone release.

Lets hope Affinity can put out a competitive DAM tool.

In all fairness, for me at least, Lightroom seems to have gotten to a place where it does what it needs to do with acceptable performance. It doesn't seem to have a lot of obvious functionality holes.Of course, it also doesn't have a lot of competition which may partially explain the pace of change too.

If I had to guess, I suspect Lightroom will end up as only a subscription offering at some point. It's hard to see why it would remain an outlier. I'm sure there would be great hue and cry but I actually use it enough that I wouldn't be all that bothered.

Random question: What did you switch to when you dropped JetBrains, and did you notice a productivity drop?

Former user of Eclipse an IntelliJ, now Netbeans:

For some people (like me) Netbeans is awesome. I love the fact that it can use pom as its own project model and IMO it aligns better with OS keyboard shortcuts (Win and Linux at least) than VS, eclipse and IntelliJ).

Be prepared for weird reactions though: it seems everyone "knows" it is awful.

This is devastating ... I don't have the income to justify $399/yr for Safari subscription.

"the growth of membership on Safari far exceeds the individual units previously purchased on oreilly.com"

... that doesn't explain why the two options couldn't co-exist.

"In addition to giving our customers the choice and convenience they expect"

... no, they just took away the choice and convenience I expect.

Over time, I've favored different formats based on what devices I have owned, and bugs in the apps themselves (OS X 10.11 Preview had terrible PDF rendering for non-retina devices). So there goes my choice on what I want to buy when, and what format to use where.

I hope this doesn't encourage InformIT, Manning, PragProg or RockyNook to go down these roads. Until then, I guess they will get my money.

I pay $99/yr for a professional membership in ACM, and as of yesterday, that membership includes complete access to the entire Safari platform. Get it while it's hot, I guess.

We (Manning) are in the process of diversifying our options :)

Just wanted to add, I absolutely love manning tech book's quality. After buying few books from packt, I'm never going back to them.

Always good to hear positive feedback :) Thanks! Any particular books you've enjoyed recently?

I'm in first few chapters of Relevant search book. So far, great!

Completely agree - but have been several times a tech proofreader I know amount of work that it required

This sounds somewhat ominous ... will Manning keep the option of DRM-free individual book purchases going into the future?

Not at all :) I was responding to the criticism of O'Reilly reducing to just two choices - Safari or Amazon.

We're committed to DRM free options wherever possible. We're coming up with some new stuff, but DRM free pdfs and epubs are pretty much our core business.

> We're coming up with some new stuff, but DRM free pdfs and epubs are pretty much our core business.

We love you for that :)

O'Reilly's decision raise an interesting question tough. I bought many books via O'Reilly shop, they are still accessible but for how long? For users, digital distribution is risky. I like it tough, but after seeing such services closing (loosing all for what i have paid for), i tend to be less confident.

They aren't stopping all retail. Just direct to consumer sales. Amazon and brick and mortar stores will still sell O'Reilly books.

Edit: I am uncertain of the eBook / PDF offering at other retailers.

Amazon selling PDFs? Brick and mortar selling PDFs?

Amazon sells Kindle versions so there's DRM. But, Google Play store offers PDF and ePub versions of O'Reilly books.

There are significant problems with both options.

For Amazon, when you buy an eBook, you are essentially given a license to use it. Amazon can revoke that - we've all heard of people moving to another country to see their entire library disappear, only (hopefully) remedied after enough hell was raised on some website.

As for Play Books, lets imagine you are a Android developer working on the next great thing, and you are an ethical person. Still, you can make a mistake. Suspension of an app is considered a strike against the good standing of your developer account: “Additional suspensions of any nature may result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts.”

You would lose everything, eMail, books, etc. So while I don't expect these problems, knowing there is a small possibility, with almost no chance of remedy by a human on the other end, dissuades me from investing lots of money in that ecosystem.

If you are an Android developer it seems like it may be a good idea to use a dedicated Google account for Android development and keeping that separate from your personal email account that you use for Gmail, etc.

Google is very good at linking those and it sounds like people have had their non-developer accounts suspended before.

Correct, I've had a Google account suspension result in 4 linked accounts being suspended. The others were restored after an appeal though.

> we've all heard of people moving to another country to see their entire library disappear

Have we? I've moved between countries and updated my Amazon account a couple of times, and still have everything. It sounds like you're taking about a bug, not licensing.

It's trivial to remove the DRM from Amazon books and save a copy.

It's no longer so trivial since Amazon moved to the KFX format.

It doesn't. O'Reilly customer support just confirmed:

> We do not currently have the DRM free PDF versions available from any online re-sellers.

Whether there is DRM on a kindle book is the publishers decision. For example, none of Tor Books' titles have DRM which means you can extract the beautiful screen resolution illustrations from Brandon Sanderson's books.

Disclaimer: I work for Amazon, but not on anything Kindle related

Is there a way to know which Kindle books have DRM, and which don't, before purchase?

There's no easy way to tell, as far as I know. Some books will mention they're DRM-free in the description, but that's not always the case. There are DRM-free books with no such indication until you've actually purchased them.

It seems more difficult to read programming books on a Kindle than as PDFs. I don't know if it's the lack of scrolling on Kindle or something else. I don't think that I would buy another programming book on Kindle.

> Google Play store offers PDF and ePub versions of O'Reilly books.

Oh, interesting, I wasn't aware of that. Thanks!

Uhm. I bought "Using SQLite" from Google Play a couple of days ago and the PDF that was available is a Google digitization and not a real O'Reilly PDF, so no index and a slightly worse visual quality. Not an acceptable option for me.

RE " .... $399/yr for Safari subscription ..." I only pay $199/yr After the 1st year they sent me this offer ....

They have some summer sales where the price drops to $199/yr for the first year too.

Still, that's a sizable amount in some countries. They could offer direct discounts to students or people from these countries (but I can't find that anywhere, they seem focused on selling to academic institutions only).

I signed up for $199/year, and I think that as long as I keep my membership ongoing, then it is $199/year forever.

wait for black friday, they usually run a half price discount then. Bought my membership then and it renews for the same price.

But you can still buy their digital copies elsewhere like on Amazon or eBooks or Google Play.

Not early release titles that you could buy as the authors continue working on them (please correct me if I'm wrong).

I have bought book(s) that are still not released and have benefitted from them already.

Also the price difference in those websites vs direct from O'Reilly is quite significant. (Twice or more than twice.)

I would have preferred if they would have raised their book prices but kept the same business model.

One other thing worth mentioning: Publishers (and authors) were notified of the change today. It's akin to an app store suddenly announcing a major shift in the business model and payouts to app developers, effective immediately.

For my company, the single-title sales are often greater than Safari subscription income, and I am not sure sending visitors to Amazon is going to make up for the lost sales on O'Reilly. I would have much preferred if O'Reilly sent customers directly to my publisher's website, for people who want to purchase PDFs or ebooks from other vendors besides Amazon.

Reading utility nonfiction/technical titles are not the same as binge-watching Netflix or plugging into a Spotify playlist all day. Readers have very specific needs and learning priorities, and the all-you-can-eat model doesn't work for everyone.

I suspect a lot of authors care about making their work available without DRM. They are creative, tech savvy, and desire to share their knowledge (they are writing a book after all); it seems they would care about DRM issues. Guess those who do won't publish with OReilly anymore.

I actually really like Safari books online, the all-you-can-eat subscription style matches my usage perfectly. My experience has been that most technical books aren't worth reading cover to cover, but many make for great references. When researching certain technical topics, I just open dozens of books and skip straight to the relevant sections.

But even if you like the subscription model, you are forced to consume the content a certain way. If I wanted to read on my Android tablet, presumably I'd use the Safari app ... which barely has a mediocre rating.


The app has been half-crap for a long time. Bugs that have gone unchanged for years.

For example, the page you (re)open to has a tiny font(s) size(s). Scroll away from it, and you get a readable font size. Scroll back, and that page is tiny, again. Sometimes, it takes scrolling to the start of the next section to get the normal font size. Or the previous section, or page. Anyway, everytime you relaunch the app and pick up where you left off, that page has a tiny, unreadable font size. My fix for it now is to pop the table of contents popup/list, find and go to the previous section, and then scroll forward to the page I was at.

I also like to read on it with a dark background and light text. Sometimes the border is dark, as well -- as expected and desired. Other times, it's white -- its brightness decreasing readability. Solution for this? Kill and relaunch the app. I've noticed some vague sense of correspondense of this behavior with how I'm using/opening/reopening the app at the moment the undesired behavior occurs, but I haven't defined it fully and keep forgetting what I do happen to notice.

There are other irritations -- also longstanding ones in the web interface. Those are the ones I happen to remember, at the moment.

Anyway, I like having access to the library -- although more and more new titles seem not to be O'Reilly nor Addison-Wesley or the like, but what seem to be more "second tier" titles.

At the same time, if I'd taken the dollars spent on Safari and just bought titles, well... I'd have a lot of titles that will never "go away" on me.

P.S. I have the "traditional" O'Reilly subscription. I gather there is now a second type of subscription and app. Unlimited local downloads (accessible only through the app), unlike the 3 or less at a time that the "traditional" subscriptions provide. And some sort of epub or somesuch format that may allow some more formatting choices O'Reilly wanted or somesuch. But a more limited selection of titles, and no titles that insist upon other formats, such as the Addison-Wesley titles. So I gather, second-hand.

Anyway, I'm talking about the "traditional" subscription and corresponding Android app.

Yeah, I agree with you. I dislike that aspect of the service.

My favorite approach is when the author makes the book available online, but still sells the PDF and physical book. An example of this is Exploring ES6 [0]. As a user, it has tons of benefits.

Before Amazon dominated the book space, it used to be that you could go to a book store and browser through a book before you bought it. That way you could do a quick check to confirm it has what you're looking for. But with paywalled digital books you can't do that. For technical books this can be very frustrating, since you might be looking for something more advanced, while the book barely touches on the subject. Having the book available online means you can browse first.

Heck, I wouldn't even mind paying first, if online companies had better return policies. If I get a book and a few minutes in I realize it wasn't what I was looking for, I want to be able to get a refund without having to send 20 back-and-forth emails with customer support. In some cases I just pirate the book, and after giving it a browse, I'll decide to either buy or trash it. Whenever a book is good or helpful, I'm happy to pay because I understand people need to survive. On top of that, it's also in my best interest as a reader that the author continue producing amazing content.

Last perk of having the book freely available online is you can access it anywhere without having to install or login to anything. If you lose your copy, or you're at work you wanna check something... It's really easy to pull up the browser. In addition to that, you can also link coworkers to references in the book, which might get them to buy the book as well.

[0] http://exploringjs.com/es6.html

So I went into my O'Reilly publisher dashboard to examine purchasing trends over the last 6 months (in my earlier comment I noted monthly sales for individual titles are often more than Safari revenue).

Since November 2016, Safari sales have actually picked up a lot, sometimes 2x or 3x the same level as one year earlier, and there were no individual ebook sales in April 2017.

As a publisher, I'm impressed, but there could be other factors that explain these trends. I am also apprehensive about whether the upward Safari trend will continue ...

This is very disappointing. When discussing the space, I liked to point at O'Reilly, Manning and the Prags as examples of tech publishers that did a good job directly selling ebooks. I've bought many books from all three of them.

(Disclosure: Manning author twice, Leanpub co-founder.)

Now, at Leanpub we're going to be rolling out our own courses in the next couple months, so we agree with O'Reilly that there are lots of great ways to produce and distribute learning material. However, the book is the best, most general and timeless way. We're committed to selling DRM-free ebooks in PDF, EPUB and MOBI directly from on our own site for the long term.

The ebook world should not just give up and sell everything through Amazon. I like Amazon--they do a great job of focusing on customers, I have Amazon Prime, and I'm really happy that Jeff Bezos is a good owner for the Washington Post. But we should not let Amazon become the only seller of ebooks.

Stay tuned for something else we're planning in this regard in a few weeks...

I stopped using Leanpub as soon as you started charging author's an upfront fee of $99 PER BOOK to even start writing a book on your platform.

This really sucks.

It was my favorite place to buy books. It seemed like the one place that had the model closest to being right.

- They used to have an ongoing discount of 45% and more on special holidays.

- They were DRM free in multiple formats and they gave you discounts on ebooks if you had purchased the print books.

- They had regular updates to ebooks posted in one single list that you could keep up with.

I wish I had purchased all the books on my wish-list before this was announced.

The Safari subscription model makes no sense to my use-case.

I guess that makes Informit.com and No Starch Press my goto book stores. Also Manning and Apress, but their selection is weaker.

I completely agree. I buy a handful of books every year directly from O’Reilly, due to the reasons listed above. I don’t buy $399/year, and even if I did last year, I definitely couldn’t predict that with certainty next year, so I’m definitely not going to subscribe. Bummer.

Packt is also worth considering, with a similar lack of DRM and multiple formats.

As a nice bonus, every day, they make one title available free - a good means to dip into new technologies just out of curiosity:


Packt is very hit or miss. Some titles are awesome, and others read like a collection of SO answers and out-of-date official documentation.

Yes, I have bought books from them in the past. Thanks.

I like NoStarchPress, but Manning has waaaay more books.

Good books take time. We're not in a rush to make lots of them.

I agree. I own fantastic books from both NoStarch and Manning and a few from O'Reilly to name a few publishers (I really like tech books). I check NoStarch about once a month to see if there is something new on the horizon and unfortunately there's usually not a huge amount. Manning's MEAP program usually has 25+ books in the works and there are at least 5 I'm waiting on. Tldr; I wish NoStarch published more of their great books.

Thank you for nostarchpress.

Also thank you for the humble bundle, please keep them coming!

And many more to come! We're always on the hunt for new tech to teach in our books (and now videos)

No Starch are great too though. I own a few myself :)

Calibre will enable you to remove DRM. It is both handy and quick.

Which is totally illegal by the way.(I think due to DMCA)

The DMCA is an american law. Last time I looked, I don't live in america.

Per the wise words of a certain German musical group: we're all living in America.

Per the wise words of a certain british poet and philosopher "You can't always get what you waaaaant."

Effectively does not matter if you aren't distributing. Format shifting shouldn't be illegal, regardless.

>Effectively does not matter if you aren't distributing. While publishers don't usually go after end users, they do very often go after the people who make and/or distribute the tools. So, just because you can remove the DRM today doesn't mean you will be able to tomorrow. And it usually means you're downloading and running software on your PC by someone who is not deterred much by something being illegal.

Removing DRM is no longer so easy, now that Amazon moved their titles to the KFX format. Last I checked, the only way to do this was a clunky workaround involving either not updating your desktop Kindle software past a certain version, or downloading directly from your account page. The latter option is unavailable if you don't own a Paperwhite.

Here's something interesting to know - O'Reilly's online store wasn't an in-house operation. They contracted with an ecommerce company called MarketLive, and then all the ebook stuff was an extensive (and, as far as I know, tightly-coupled) customization. But all the add-to-basket and order-processing and order-confirmation-emails stuff was through MarketLive.

This is significant because early last year MarketLive was purchased by private equity, merged with some other ecommerce companies, and relocated to Texas. So it's quite possible - and here I have no particular knowledge - that the MarketLive platform is being deprecated or entirely abandoned, and this was a more attractive option for O'Reilly than trying to rebuild all that stuff on a different platform.

O'Reilly have always been pretty transparent with their readers; I'm sure if they'd come clean on this people would have given them the benefit of the doubt. "Sorry, in a few months we are scaling down the website because our supplier is borked, bear with us." Man, I'm sure someone would have helped them for free / cheap.

Trying to cover a supplier issue with bullcrap about "market trends" is not great; doing it from one day to the next is just terrible for customer relationships.

Why can't both things be true? It could very well be the case that they would have been happy to carry on with the market if it still all worked, but they didn't feel like they could justify the trouble of migrating it to a new platform.

The last couple of O'Reilly books I purchased from Amazon were of poor quality. The content was fine but the physical item was shocking. They were probably print-on-demand books made on the cheap. But the retail price was what you'd expect from a high end tech publisher. I should have returned them. The books look like they were printed on a consumer grade inkjet. I had heard that the books purchased directly from O'Reilly didn't have this problem. They've even taken away that option now. Looking back, this had to be expected. The writing was on the wall when they switched from a lay-flat binding for most or their titles to the cheaper, much hard to read while coding, perfect binding.

Yes, they're print-on-demand books, printed by Lightning Source (the last time I checked). They're not cheap to print, at least not at the list price; I don't know what deal O'Reilly might have. However, they're vastly more convenient because Lightning Source will ship them directly to retailers so publishers don't need warehouses. If I'd have to guess, I'd say that O'Reilly might be printing a small initial batch for each book, switching to exclusively POD once the run has depleted.

Source: I also use Lightning Source for my tiny publishing operation. Yes, the quality is not the same as the traditionally printed books, although personally I don't think they're that bad (those I've seen, anyway). In my case, as a small publisher, I would never be able to afford to operate warehouses profitably, because we only have a couple of books. We actually tried, but it was too expensive and time consuming at low volumes. We also stopped selling paperbacks, because it's very difficult to complete on the shipping costs with the likes of Amazon.

I'm surprised to hear that the print-on-demand books aren't cheap. I know you're getting flexibility with print-on-demand, which has value, but if the quality is so much worse than traditionally printed books (in my experience)... is it really worth it for a publisher the size of O'Reilly? I guess that's a question only they can answer. If people want to buy print-on-demand books, that's fine. It's just not for me, I'd like the option of paying more for a standard of quality I find acceptable. Not enough people are willing to do the same, sadly.

My "JavaScript Definitive Guide" ordered from Amazon.de (and printed by Lightning Source UK, if I recall correctly) was of shocking quality too. I returned it and got a more expensive copy from my local bookstore, printed by Lightning Source International. Very sharp type.

That's generally a big problem with print-on-demand: they literally print one copy at a time, so you have to rely on the printer to do quality control well. Even if you're checking regularly (as we did in the early days), you can never know if the next copy they print will be bad in some way. Not to mention that they also have multiple facilities, so you'd have to place orders all over the world.

There's also a separate problem of pirated printed books, which are of very poor quality.

There is always the chance of counterfeit books. No Starch had that problem, mentioned here a while ago:


I have very mixed experience with print-on-demand too. Bought a Microsoft Press book that turned out to be printed on demand... the print quality is bad (looks like a printer set to thrifty "save toner" mode). Together with their choice of a rather anemic font for the text, it's just not nice to read at all. The bad legibility really impacts the joy of reading it.

My O'Reilly books going back to 2000 or so are all perfect bound, so this lay-flat binding change must not have been recent.

Almost everything that doesn't sell thousands of units a month, and hardly anything does anymore, is print-on-demand.

The Kindle mobi books have issues too. For whatever reason, Amazon thinks it's acceptable to sell mobi books where the code samples are barely legible on a Kindle paperwhite.

I've had this issue with some O'Reilly and Manning titles ported purchased from Amazon in Mobi format.

Amazon is a terrible place to buy books. Its difficult to discern which books are encumbered by drm and further even if the publisher provides the book drm free its damn difficult to get at the unencumbered ebook file. I bought such a book and spent an hour of my life and talked to 3 separate employees and the best I could do was a refund after talking to 3 apathetic employees.

As far as I'm concerned there is not one thing good about the entire platform. I hate the reader, I hate their tablets, I hate their ebook store, I hate their reader app.

They don't provide a damn thing that isn't inferior to other options and have no particular benefit to helping you use their wares in an open fashion. They are only interested in options which lock you to their platform.

Its as if walmart was only interested in selling you dvds that work only in terrible walmart branded dvd players that require you to use walmarts subscription service instead of netflix.

I don't mind buying pure-text books from Amazon. That basically means novels. I don't even mind the DRM so much, as I read the book once and then don't really care, and because I have almost never had problems with the fact that I have literally over a dozen Kindle devices and Kindle-app running devices.

However, technical, computer, electronics, physics and math books are almost all uniformly terrible from Amazon (or even epub). These are long-term references that need a proper print layout option (PDF) and be unencumbered by DRM. A 2002 edition of Mastering Regular Expressions is virtually totally applicable today, 15 years later - but imagine if I had bought this in a DRM'd Sony version, or a Palm .prc (now part of Amazon)? I'd be SOL.

I'm a Safari online subscriber myself, but I think this decision is a huge mistake. I also own books that I purchased from O'Reilly and I still use those books. Just because I don't continue to re-purchase them doesn't mean I don't use them or will never purchase another. I use them on a daily basis. I also use Safari on a daily basis. Why can't they see that there is a need for both models?

I rent things, and I own things. Just because I rent some things doesn't mean I want to rent everything. By the same token, just because I buy things every day doesn't mean I never want to rent anything.

We are truly living in the Idiocracy.

I just don't understand the business choice. It's not like this will push people onto the safari books program. If anything, I worry that this portends the end for them.

Online reading enables tracking, the data has value.

Data has value, but not as much value as repeat customer loyalty.

Yes, the comments in this thread provide valuable data, if the O'Reilly marketing department has the appropriate parser.

I'm terribly disappointed, and that's putting it mildly. I have bought many eBooks from O'Reilly and have also provided feedback repeatedly that the main reasons I buy from O'Reilly are DRM free books in different formats (especially PDF and ePub, which I use).

It's the same set of reasons I buy books from Apress, Pragprog, NoStarch, Packtpub and Manning (to name a few others).

I have tried Safari Online through an employer subscription, but I just cannot get used to reading long books on a browser and hence don't use it (don't even talk about apps on other platforms). I need my books in specific formats that I can use in book reading apps across different platforms. I don't like being connected all the time just to read a book. For me reading books is mostly an offline-like activity (except if I have to search about something online).

Books are also very different from other kinds of media that are more of an ephemeral nature, like music, movies, TV shows, etc. Though many technical books might become outdated quickly, there are many books that do contain almost timeless pieces of information and wisdom. I don't buy books on Amazon. I don't buy books in Apple's iBooks store. There is no way to know upfront if something has DRM or not. I don't like supporting DRMd content for books.

O'Reilly, if you're reading this, your decision to stop selling eBooks like you used to is a very poor one for your readers. You may end up making more money from unused Safari subscriptions, but you won't have the fan following you had before.

As for comparisons with Pluralsight, I despise such models that are filled with DRM and restrictions.

To Apress, Pragprog, NoStarch, Packtpub, Manning and others - please do not change your models and remove DRM free eBooks in multiple formats from your stores. I, for one, will stop buying whenever something like that happens. Subscription models are very poor in user experience and don't provide adequate freedom to read whenever/wherever.

FWIW informit.com has the same model. We have regular holiday sales (including a 4th of July sale starting tomorrow), update our eBooks, and offer the different DRM-Free formats including PDFs.

Informit.com is a Pearson owned site and sells the following tech imprints: Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall, Sams, Microsoft Press, Cisco Press, Pearston IT Certification, Big Nerd Ranch, Peachpit, Adobe Press, and New Riders.

And we currently have no plans to change that model-just make it better!

No worries. We're not changing the way we do business at no starch. Just working to do better.

We (Manning) have no intention of ceasing DRM free book distribution. If anything, we're in the process of diversifying ways you can consume our content :)

An idea by the way: i would love to see more conceptual books at Manning. This is great to have content on a specific tool or library. It would be so great to also have more classic teaching books :)

O'Reilly author here. This is the email we got today. Sounds like they also plan to offer courses through Safari as well.


I'm writing to let you know about some changes—including new opportunities for you—at O'Reilly.

First, as of today, we are discontinuing fulfillment of individual book and video purchases on shop.oreilly.com. Books (both ebook and print) will still be available for sale via other digital and bricks-and-mortar retail channels. Plus, every book and video will still have a product page on oreilly.com, offering customers two options for getting the content they want: Safari membership (starting with a free 10-day trial) and, for books, a "buy from Amazon" button.

Why the change? It's clear that we're in the midst of a fundamental shift in how people get and use content. Subscription services like Spotify and Netflix are the new norm, as people opt for paying for digital access rather than purchasing physical units one by one. We've already seen this in our own business—the growth of subscribers on Safari far exceeds the individual units previously purchased on oreilly.com. That's the reason for the change.

And with Safari, O'Reilly is uniquely positioned to give our customers the choice and convenience they expect. When we launched Safari back in 2001, we knew we were investing in the future of publishing, and today, that future is here. Since 2014, when O'Reilly became sole owner of Safari, we have refocused our business around its potential as a membership platform. It's working—just this week, Outsell Insights published a report on Safari that gave us a "Strongly Positive" rating and noted that, "Safari shows that continuous reinvention through the addition of new tools onto a solid content base provides an extremely strong foundation on which to build a business. As an example, it also shows the kind of timescales necessary to build a strong reputation for quality content, one on which a more tools-focused solution is possible."

That's where "new opportunities for you" come in. We've developed successful new products like Live Online Training and video Learning Paths, available exclusively on Safari, and we have more in the works. We'll be in touch soon with more information about these new ways we can work together on Safari. And of course, we will continue to publish books and videos that are available both as stand-alone products and on Safari.

Subscription services like Netflix are cheap. Vastly cheaper than Safari. Furthermore, Netflix allows two viewing streams simultaneously, 24 hours a day, and all five members of my household have their own profiles. We almost certainly spend more hours as a family on Netflix than we do reading O'Reilly books (especially since it's mostly just me who does that, and sometimes my son when we're doing programming together).

I'm not spending $399/year. Maybe if it were $8/month like I spend on Netflix and Crunchyroll or Amazon Prime (paid annually), sure. (Granted, this household uses Prime for delivery and ignore their streaming stuff mostly.)

Goodbye O'Reilly. Not only will I not buy Safari, I will not buy any O'Reilly product ever again.

The economics are different, Safari is a niche product and will always be more expensive than something aimed at the general consumer.

Well, yes. And thus why this will fail.

I want to read O'Reilly books as PDFs. Properly typeset PDFs. And I don't want to buy from anyone other than O'Reilly. And I tried Safari, but it's not the same as reading their books as PDFs.

Here at Manning we plan to keep selling beautifully typeset .PDFs & other formats for many years to come :)

Thanks - it's the only format that I can read code in. I will be throwing more moola your way because of this.

I LOVE Manning! You are amazing and I will keep spending my hard earned money on your books.

I bought your Spring books, and a few others. Next time I want to buy a book, I'll go straight to Manning and not O'Reilly.

How different are the operating costs? What is cost-per-user? Is the smaller audience just an excuse to squeeze for more net revenue?

From the businesses perspective what it costs doesn't matter (as long as they cover their costs), it's about what value the customer perceives and hence how much they are willing to pay.

Exactly! I didn't want to give Safari some sort of a "niche market" pass on a high price without some sort of breakdown on their operating costs (which I don't think will ever see the light of day).

O'Reilly is becoming a less and less interesting company to work with but it's not surprising

After-all this is the company that's built a multi-million dollar conferencing business that doesn't pay speakers, and often doesn't meet their travel and hotel costs

Not defending O'R, but what conferences pay speakers' fees and reimburse their costs these days?

Some pay speakers but plenty of conferences cover travel and expenses (not enough though)

Oredev in Malmo are a O'Reilly sized conference that not only pays travel etc. but also book it all for you

It's not just large swanky conferences, believe community events like CSS / JS conf cover costs as it helps get diverse speakers (and ultimately it shows you respect the speaker)

Let face it O'Reilly are profiting off their speakers hard work and without speakers there is no conference

Netflix and Spotify operate completely different business models, and their customer base has completely different needs and requirements.

They're also much cheaper.

Safari has always been an also-ran side platform. The "growth of subscribers" on Safari may exceed direct sales, but what's driving that growth? Is it really because Safari is Just That Awesome? Does the management team have any idea?

This is a classic example of a business with a reputation for treating its customers with respect deciding to trash that reputation by treating its customers and content developers as livestock that can be farmed and sweated.

I mean, "much cheaper" doesn't mean much. I pay $199/year for Safari. It's more expensive than Netflix or Spotify, sure, but still only $17/month.

And regarding Safari being an "also-ran side platform", I'm wondering if maybe you were thinking of the old SafariBooksOnline platform. They switched to Safari a couple of years ago which is definitely more modern and cheaper, although it does do away with the tokens you would get every month to download whole books or chapters.

For me, this doesn't trash their reputation or otherwise make me think less of them. They've obviously decided that direct fulfillment was too much of a hassle and that other retailers could do a more efficient job. I guess I might feel different if I bought a lot of books from them, but having used their subscription service for around 8 years now, I just don't need to buy tech books anymore.

The current price is $400 per year not $199, if you get a discount or have a grandfathered rate that should not be used as a talking point to defend their pricing as a person signing up today will not get that rate. So you have to base the argument on today's prices...

You'd think they'd use this opportunity to run a sale for Safari to ease the transition for people who aren't yet on the platform. Maybe they didn't expect this to cause any problems?

>This is a classic example of a business with a reputation for treating its customers with respect deciding to trash that reputation by treating its customers and content developers as livestock that can be farmed and sweated.

I take it you've never attended an O'Reilly conference. They really are trash.

Hello OReilly author. May I ask: did you consider DRM issues when choosing to publish with OReilly and would you choose to publish with them again after this change?

I'm a relatively old author (my only book with them was published almost 10 years ago) but they did contact me a few years later and asked me if I would allow them to "experiment" with selling a DRM free version of my book.

I gladly said "yes"

Even then, all books were on bittorrent within weeks regardless of if you have DRM or not. As a victim (so to speak) of piracy I'd rather provide more convenience to the customer over ineffectively making life harder for the pirates.

"including new opportunities for you"

I'll be the judge of that

Obviously in context it means O'Reilly authors but... I might consider contributing some course material. Based on the comments here, though, perhaps not. It's not much of an opportunity if it doesn't benefit the other party enough for them to pay.

Giving the authors zero prior notice - that's rude!

As a long-term buyer of lots of O'Reilly ebooks - it's disappointing, but it's their prerogative if they want to exit the market. It's not like we entered into some lifetime contract where they agreed to sell me ebooks forever.

From O'Reilly 's point of view, this looks rational though.

Joel Spolsky [1] and Jeff Attwood [2] called it in 2008:

>What is stackoverflow.com?

>Nothing, yet.

>But here’s the concept:

>Programmers seem to have stopped reading books. The market for books on programming topics is miniscule compared to the number of working programmers.

Then they made doubly sure by making SO a huge success!

In music publishing, most of the money in the mainstream has moved from music sales to live performances, with streaming subscriptions bring up the rear.

Isn't the same thing likely happening here with O'Reilly's conference business probably dwarfing everything else?

[1] https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2008/04/16/stackoverflowcom/

[2] https://blog.codinghorror.com/programmers-dont-read-books-bu...

frankly I've found the utility of my oreilly membership has definitely increased over the last few years as the utility of Stackoverflow and Google searching on an issue has declined. However it's true that I don't buy physical books very much anymore, and definitely not physical technical books.

Deeply disappointing. O'Reilly had some really good things going for it, and it just decided to flush it down the drain.

This is on par with Apple moving to butterfly switch keyboards across its entire laptop line, or Netscape deciding to ditch its browser and rewrite it from scratch. Tragic, user-hostile blunders. And it wouldn't completely surprise me if this marked the beginning of the end for O'Reilly.

You remember a different Netscape than I do. Netscape was the kind of browser you hated to recommend to a loved one. The experience was truly subpar. When Firebird was announced, the user experience improved significantly over what Netscape could have ever hoped to attain, though it still took some time before recommending it to a loved one would turn out not to be a mistake.

You're talking about the change from Netscape Communicator 6+ to Firebird and eventually Firefox in ~2003. That was a positive change.

I'm talking about the the change from Navigator 4.x to the MAS-based buggy crashy slow XUL monstrosity in 1998-2000. That was a terrible change, it killed Netscape as a company, almost gave Microsoft complete control over the future of the Web, and ended up necessitating Firebird/Firefox.

(It's the "touch bar" that made this my last Apple laptop until they get rid of it, but true, the keyboard is pretty darn bad too.)

Isn't that an optional feature?

Only on the 13-inch, and even there the non-TouchBar version has some lame limitations (e.g. only 2 USB-C ports and slower WiFi)

Sadly no, it's forced on every pro model except the lowest spec one.

I've bought well over a hundred O'Reilly books over the years, and after 2002 or so, I bought almost all of them as DRM-free PDFs. But in recent years, I've only averaged an O'Reilly book or two per year, because they've been slow to publish books on new technologies I cared about.

I find that, with few exceptions, Kindle programming ebooks are annoying and unpleasant. Some of the "textbook"-mode ones (where you can highlight diagrams and not just text) are tolerable on a Chromebook in tablet mode, but just barely.

And there's no way I'm going to pay $399/year for Safari, not when I'm currently spending $0-50/year, and certainly not for the privilege of using what people tell me is a mediocre mobile app. So going forward, this means that I'll buy maybe one O'Reilly book every other year through Amazon.

Does this also mean that O'Reilly is no longer going to be offering "early release" books for people who don't buy Safari? I think that something like 90% of my technical book purchases in the last 10 years were early release.

The $399/yr doesn't make sense for a lot of people. It definitely is too high a price point for me as I only read 1 or 2 O'Reilly books a year at most. It's nice to have a copy lying around for reference years later.

On the flip side, I totally understand them going DRM-only for digital publishers. O'Reilly PDFs are way too easy to find for free with minimal Google-fu.

Only thing that will change with DRM is less Google-fu and more Pirate-fu which people with good google-fu also have in abundance.

Yeah there's absolutely no way I would ever pay for something with DRM.

This will end up going the way the textbooks went.

The DRM won't change the availability of O'Reilly books on pirate sites in the least.

> On the flip side, I totally understand them going DRM-only for digital publishers.

Has the introduction of evermore draconian DRM in movie disc formats prevented them from appearing on pirate sites?

Does DRM claim to accomplish that? Sure, they appear eventually but it does slow people down and raises the technical knowledge bar required to do so.

I just posted this on another thread:

I just got this via email and I'm very disappointed too. DRM issues aside, Kindle is still terrible for tech books. Code samples, data tables, etc. They all look crummy. The pdf ebooks from the Oreilly store had far superior formatting.

Google Play store offers O'Reilly books DRM free in both PDF and ePub format.

How? I just bought "You don't know JS: Up and Going" (only $5, so not bad as a test) and I was prompted to download Google Books.

I have stopped buying Kindle books due to no longer being able to back up the files (KFX switched to a new encryption type). I rarely buy technical books, but O'Reilly was my go-to due to actually being able to have the real files offline.

Edit: Okay, Google don't make it easy and there's no way to do it from Android. Go to https://books.google.com.au/books and click on a book in your library. If the publisher has allowed it, there'll be a cog in the upper right corner that will have "Download PDF" and "Download EPUB" available.

Its amazing that a company whose main product is search has such a worthless search for their store. Its absolutely worthless unless you already know exactly what you want.

You have to use their general search product to find enough info to bring up the exact title you want to buy.

For example you can't on the play store find all the oreilly books that aren't drm encumbered or find all the books on a certain topic in a certain range of years directly via its interface.

Not only the store, Youtube and Scholar do not provide a good search experience either.

I wonder why.

In fact I remember that when Youtube got adquired by Google search got worse.

Does it have the same pricing as O'Reilly's online store did? Heavy discounts (60%+) for multiple book purchases over $100? Early access books? What about .mobi? (I still have some actual eInk Kindles including the original DX!)

O'Reilly themselves say Google play only offers epub, I think they've killed PDF there too

I am a Safari subscriber, however I use it only for quick reference or for watching videos.

I've never read a whole book on Safari only for one reason: the HTML formatting in the browser (as well as in the Queue app) is terrible. It still amazes me, how a publisher such as O'Reilly, who by definition should be aware of importance of such things as typography, almost entirely neglected this in Safari. Books in Safari are just stream of text, without a proper layout. I truly wonder, if Safari employees have read a whole book on their platform themselves.

If I needed to read a whole book — I would still buy the paper version directly from the publisher or Amazon.

The news, that O'Reilly is gradually switching towards a subscription-only model in the future, are very disturbing for me.

I'm puzzled by this. I'm reading /Introducing Elixir, 2nd Edition/ online right now in Firefox on a Mac, and it looks fantastic. Beautifully formatted.

I've just checked this book on Safari — it seems it indeed doesn't have the issues I've experienced while reading on Safari, like spacing between the letters in a word, tons of whitespace in weird places and poor image quality.

That means that overall quality of books ranges on the platform.

May I ask you, would you still prefer a Safari version of this book over, say, a PDF?

Tough call. I'm not at all unsympathetic to the variety of very good reasons why someone would prefer a pile of DRM-free files they own and can do with what they please. In this case, for me, it doesn't matter much; I have a Kindle on which I'd never try to read a technical book, so whether I read a pdf in Preview or a website in Firefox I'm kind of indifferent to. All else being equal, it seems to me that the web offers much more flexibility in design than a pdf, which must, at the end of the day, have standardized "pages," that don't necessarily correspond well semantically to the content.

So, no more DRM free ebooks, no more multiple format ebooks and Safari subscription cannot be used offline and cannot be used out of their apps.

349 euro is a very steep price

Difficult to buy more O'Reilly books

From the blog post:

> That’s clear even among the largest, most stable corporations: a few years ago, a study predicted that 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies won’t exist in a decade.

Perhaps this move is the first step to be one of the 50% disappearing

One of the things I'll miss is the "upgrade a registered O'Reilly print book to an ebook for $4.99" option. Always nice to have both the print and [affordable] ebook versions. Bummer.

Manning gives that you for free

We also allow eBook customers to upgrade to a print book for $12 plus shipping - https://www.manning.com/ebooks

That and their daily half-off sales have resulted in me spending far too much money on their books... At least they generally have good editing and a pretty high quality bar, better than I've seen with Packt or Apress.

Glad to hear you've enjoyed our stuff. We really do try to do a good job with it! :)

I'm sure I'm not their biggest customer, but I have bought in the hundreds of dollars worth of books each year from O'Reilly for the last few, consumed as DRM free PDFs. Definitely going to re-evaluate that. When I want to buy a book on a topic I used to Google "O'Reilly <insert topic here>" as my first port of call. That just ended. I'll look to other publishers first instead, and cease recommending O'Reilly.

Why would their Safari service not be suitable for you if you prefer to consume their content as PDFs anyway?

Oh, looking at their site, I now see that it's a substantially different cost and set of constraints than those that applied when I allowed my subscription to lapse. Disregard.

Folks, www.eBooks.com is still selling O'Reilly titles without DRM. Prices might be less competitive than Amazon, but we're not Amazon. http://www.ebooks.com/subjects/computers/

I just looked up my own O'Reilly book on ebooks.com. http://www.ebooks.com/95729334/designing-data-intensive-appl... I can't see anything about DRM on the page, but under "supported devices" it says "e-readers with Adobe Digital Editions installed". Isn't that DRM enforcement software? Could you clarify please?

Edit: this page explicitly says that readers need to be compatible with Adobe DRM https://support.ebooks.com/hc/en-gb/articles/214119286-Guide...

I am not sure if your book is DRM protected – if you browse the books at ebooks.com, you will see that ebooks.com is selling books in "EPUB/PDF format" and „secure EPUB/secure PDF format“. Furthermore please take a look at https://support.ebooks.com/hc/en-gb/articles/205639205-Insta...: Most of the ebooks available to download from eBooks.com (but not all) are protected by Adobe DRM…

Interesting. How much do you charge per book sold (e.g., as a percentage of the list price)? Also, do you collect consumer taxes for the EU (and other countries that require them)?

This sucks. I've been a subscriber to Safari Books Online for a couple of years. Whilst I like being able to reflow text, and in general the reading experience is good, some books just looked screwed up when reading them in the Queue app or the Safari web site.

For example, some of the equations in 'Hands-on Machine Learning with Tensorflow' aren't rendered to images properly. They probably look fine in the print and PDF versions of the book, but I don't get those as a Safari subscriber. I get an HTML version with equations rendered to images, without anyone checking the quality.

Amazon does sell 'print replica' editions of some books, which are as good as PDFs if you are OK reading within the Kindle app, but IIRC that's not the case for O'Reilly books, which are only available as HTML-ish versions.

That sucks. Especially when "Amazon or your favorite retailer" is not even available where you live.

How many technical book does one read in a year anyway? The $399/year subscription model doesn't make sense unless your employer is paying for it.

Even with subscription, you can't read these books on Kindle if you want. I bought a lot of books from them, that I often load to old kindle to read during vacation, without having access to internet, or other distractions

"Seeing as 40% of our customers buy pink things, we are reducing costs by selling only pink things."

The whole point if going to O'Reilly was DRM free books that I can use on my various devices (iPad, Sony Reader).

Guess it's off to Apress in the future. Can't load Kindle or Kobo books into the Sony.

FWIW informit.com has the same model. We have regular holiday sales, update our eBooks, and offer the different DRM-Free formats including PDFs.

Informit.com is a Pearson owned site and sells the following tech imprints: Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall, Sams, Microsoft Press, Cisco Press, Pearston IT Certification, Big Nerd Ranch, Peachpit, Adobe Press, and New Riders.

O'Reilly, your SafariBooksOnline pricing for folks outside the US is insane. Great content, but the pricing is too much for someone who isn't earning US dollars. Well, I guess it's just a matter of time someone came up with something more democratized, and cheaper.

I watched premier computer bookshops die -- SoftPro's disappearance in the south Denver area was so sad for me. This was a somewhat long process; there was a period where we were wringing our hands about the physical computer book stores disappearing.

But there was O'Reilly, other smaller but equally good online vendors, and also rans.

I think now we're seeing the start of the same decline and disappearance of online outlets.

That smile on Amazon boxes is starting to look like a smirk.

It's clear O'Reilly is struggling. I personally know some authors, and they have made some great books, but I've not bought much from them for around 10 years. They seem to have dropped from my radar. I no longer hear from my friends that they are publishing their books with O'Reilly.

Also, O'Reilly produced and ran a number of excellent quality conferences (ETech anyone?) These disappeared a long time ago. I also remember them sponsoring a whole range of meetups and smaller conferences with books given out for free being quite common. O'Reilly has changed, and they need to change too.

Perhaps the internet and search engines have overtaken technical books in general? Perhaps in seeing their market share decrease over the years they need to make drastic changes to adapt?

I've cancelled my Safari subscription and moving everything over to Apress. This is definitely a very sad day. I own every O'Reilly book ever published DRM Free and still had Safari, but never again.

Apress, Informit, and Packtpub you are now #1, BE #1, stay customer first.

I used to buy a lot of O'Reilly ebooks, always DRM-free directly from them. I thought they had a great business model and they published quite a few excellent books. They've slowly lost me as a customer over the past few years as those two characteristics have disappeared. Other publishers have more consistent quality, better coverage of new tech and better pricing. This just adds "access to DRM-free downloadable files" to the list of things that other publishers do better.

It'll be interesting to see how having all of their digital content locked behind Safari will affect their ability to attract authors. Maybe it'll work out well for them overall, who knows.

Tim O'Reilly mentioned on twitter that he's not opposed to selling PDF's via a third party bookstore.


I can only hope that a statement like this isn't used to pacify the masses until this issue is relegated to obscurity. In the mean time, I'm looking at other publishers (thank GOD that many of them I heaven't heard of are discussed here) for content and refuse to pay for a $400/yr safari subscription while NEVER REALLY OWNING ANYTHING.

In case it might help anyone many libraries pay for a subscription to safari books. For example the Seattle library system provides free access to safari books to all card holders.

Seattle library cards are available not only to anyone in who works, lives or owns property in seattle/king county but also those who have a card in one of several surrounding county library systems. Further non-resident cards may be had for $85 a year.

Unlike having a personal account you cannot download items for offline viewing, can't access video training, and can't access books in progress.

Still this provides access to the bulk of the material you may want to read.

RE "....many libraries pay for a subscription to safari books....." It is only a subset of the Oreilly ebooks. NOt all of them ....

Can you essentially only read the books from the library website?

Years ago I wrote up a quick script using imacros and calibre to create epubs based on the documents available from safari.

I would consider this fair use format shifting. Legal opinions probably vary but this was essentially indistinguishable from just reading the book so long as the script didn't grab a page per second and pretty easy to do.

Music and film (a.k.a. Spotify & Netflix) are entertainment means. Books are not - especially the technical ones. You can buy a Netflix and Spotify subscription and stream them 24/7 without the need for paying attention. How could they expect people to buy a subscription for $399 and be happy/ok/cool about it? You cannot "stream" books. I'd feel I have done a dead investment. I doubt it will be a successful strategy even for half of the current subscription cost.

I contacted customer support and they had this to say:

> We currently have the Kindle versions of our title available on Amazon.com and the ePub version at Google Play or IBooks for your mobile devices. We do not currently have the DRM free PDF versions available from any online re-sellers.

Horrible news. In my experience tech books tend to be horribly formatted in ePUB and MOBI format. They don't have to be, but they usually are.

When I have bought from O'Reilly in the past, I have always defaulted to PDF.

Now, not only does that option go away, everything will be DRM going forward.

I don't know how the math works, but ACM members currently get free access to Safari. You can sign up for ACM for $99 a year.

Isn't this a subset of the full safari library?

It used to be, but currently it seems to be the complete catalog.

I can understand their decision to stop selling print books, however, since they are still selling safari, why not continue to sell individual ebooks? Is the infrastructure and maintenance that much different?

This is surely the unspoken element of O'Reilly's change here, piracy of technical PDFs is rampant.

If you think this makes piracy harder in any way, you are badly mistaken.

It only takes one person to "break" whatever protection there is on the content, its almost entirely irrelevant just how much protection is on that content, because only one person needs to go through the process.

The thing is, by making pdfs harder to get through legit channels they are going to increase traffic through illegitimate channels. It's not about how many files are available, it's about how many people are looking for them.

Not if they stop making PDFs full stop

Yeah stop book photocopying by not publishing books is the best way to do it. Then they are no longer book publishers just another website with a premium subscription.

People like me will just publish directly to gitbook

If someone can't pirate "X in a Nutshell", they'll pirate "Learning X". Either way, nobody is getting their money. No point losing customers over it.

Does anyone know why they're killing PDF? Seems insanity to me, it's the only digital format I find suitable for consuming technical books.

Are O'Reilly PDFs available through retailers? Through Safari?

I can't tell for sure but it seems to be on the bandwagon of; pay for what you don't use and what you pay for you don't actually own.

A few weeks ago O'Reilly sold its interest in the Pubfactory platform and the developers who work on it to Sheridan, a printing services company (presumably Sheridan wants to beef up its own digital portfolio). Whether this is cause or effect here, I couldn't say, but it would seem to be related.

One makes a guess that as digital delivery becomes a bigger part of the pie for them, the cost of managing physical inventory becomes more burdensome to them. So they said, screw it, we'll join the Borg and be assimilated.

(Personally, I get access to the Safari online service through the library at work, so I don't have to worry about it too much).

> One makes a guess that as digital delivery becomes a bigger part of the pie for them, the cost of managing physical inventory becomes more burdensome to them

But they also are ditching selling ebooks

Completely threw me off when I got the email. Safari Books Online is really expensive, and I dislike seeing private entrepreneurs reinventing public libraries (and even selling it as an innovative concept).

Very disappointed by this decision. I have been a customer of OReilly for about 20 years, buying ebooks since 2009. I really liked DRM free nature of their ebooks, so that I could read them on all of my devices.

Maybe decision makes sense from economic perspective. But they really have to consider who their audience is. These are the people who still complain that Google Reader was killed and loss of good will and PR consequences of this decision will come to haunt them for years, regardless of the current financial reality.

Does anyone know how this will affect previous ebooks purchased via O'Reilly?

Will you still be able to login and access the digital books or do you need to download all of them before a certain date?

They say you will still be able to access stuff you already bought for life. You certainly already can access them as I logged into my account to check.

Sad news. O'Reilly were one of the few publishers that used my preferred model: buy the paper book and add the eBook version for $10 extra or so. Best of both worlds.

Well, O'Reilly seems to be focusing on the large, corporate market, with a broad array of topics, so from that perspective this move makes perfect sense as a small, simple optimization on their part.

At Pragmatic Bookshelf, however, we focus on the individual, highly skilled developer looking to improve their skills and those of their teams. We don't offer a broad array of tech topics, just the ones we feel are important.

We focus on readers who like to collect and own their books, DRM free in epub, mobi, and PDF formats (you get all three for one price, and can re-download forever, or as long as we're in business ;)

It's a different market, and a different approach.

So don't go hating on O'Reilly for this move—if it doesn't suit you, you're not their market. And that's okay. It's a big world.

/\ndy Publisher, Pragmatic Bookshelf

Question: do you consider giving up on the soft-DRM (watermarking of PDFs) too?

Lack of DRM (both soft and hard) was for me the biggest feature when buying from O'Reilly. It's what made it quite unique and why I bought most of my tech-related eBooks there. I had a somewhat unpleasant surprise when I bought books directly from your website and found them to be watermarked. Didn't see that written anywhere on the site before I purchased...

The watermarking is the sole reason I don't buy ebooks from PragProg.

Have had Safari Books Online for about a year now, got it 50% off last August, love it. There have been several books I started reading in SBO and then ordered physical copies on Amazon. Never even occurred to me to order the books from Safari directly. The books I order are about broad topics and themes (Designing Data-Intensive Applications, Enterprise IoT, etc.). Rarely would I order a book about a specific Language or Framework, they have a limited shelf-life, but I'll absolutely reference the online versions to grab the info I need (more valuable format, can have open on monitor, search, etc.). Their process for alerting authors of this change may not have been great, but it seems like a smart business decision (assuming my use case if fairly typical).

This is disappointing. Amazon doesn't let you buy pdfs, which I prefer over epubs.

well i mostly bought their titles from bookstores in deadtree format so it does not really affect me. as long as they continue to publish good stuff and the bookstores have their books (which has become more of a problem lately) i will probably buy a few once in a while. still this is a most unwelcome deterioration. it just puts them in the category of companies that like to squeeze every dollar out of their users, which is not good because they used to enjoy a very good reputation which justified their high pricetag.

Lots of outrage but the important thing here is they'll still be available from other retailers. They're not forcing you to buy a subscription to get the books.

The problem is other retailers don't offer the DRM-free ebooks that O'Reilly was. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. all DRM them to heck.

Going forward, the only time I'm gonna be buying O'Reilly ebooks is when they're on Humble Bundle.

1. Books were DRM free and in various formats. I could use the PDF in my computer and the epub in my ebook reader or tablet.

2. There were discounts when registering the purchased printed book

3. There were discounts for newer editions of a book

This is disappointing, but I guess it the way most companies are going.

Subscriptions are fine, but they quickly add up. I'm in the process of cutting out stuff I don't use. As it's quick to forget you have been paying for service "X" and haven't actually been using it to get your moneys worth. Safari would quickly fall into that category for me.

However there are plenty of online stores which sell DRM free books, so no big deal really.

For those of us deeply disappointed at O'reilly discontinuation of PDF ebooks, I've started an "idea" on O'reilly's support website to bring them back:


Hopefully, if it gets enough upvotes, they'll consider it.

I am writing from Pearson and have seen a lot of queries about where can folks find DRM-Free PDFs of technical books now. I want to share that informit.com, a Pearson eCommerce site, sells DRM-Free PDFs from our imprints Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall, Sams, Cisco Press, Microsoft Press, New Riders, Que, and Peachpit.


Are the PDF eBooks watermarked?

Yes they are watermarked for security

A digital watermark is automatically inserted customer information into a purchased product to restrict it's usage only to the buyer of that product. To me that's exactly like Digital Rights (Restrictions) Management. Calling something that contains digital watermarks DRM-free is deceptive to the customer. But long story short, if it contains watermarks I don't buy it.

The watermarks are discreet w/ no other information than your name. The PDFs require no passwords and can be loaded on up to 6 different devices. We have tried to come up with a solution that provides for the customer, but protects our authors' content as well. But certainly I can understand your point of view.

They don't protect anything. Probably 90% of your catalog is out there on the net and findable with a bit of googling. In the end it's just a bad business decision. You scare away potential customers and your stuff gets pirated anyway. You're degrading your own product and artificially creating a situation where the pirated product is actually a better one (one without a watermark) than the one you are legally selling. You've got to realize how insane that is.

I would love a subscription service -- if they offered a books-only option with PDFs at a reasonable price.

I don't need tutorial videos or any of that other crud, I need books.

If I could get all the high quality programming books I want for $15 I wouldn't think twice.

This does not come as a surprise. Packt now has Mapt, and subscription based services such as Pluralsight are showing far healthier profit margins than O'Reilly.

This is just their attempt to get in line with what other publishers are offering.

Having purchased many books thru O'Reilly, and now using Safari Online - I'm a huge fan of this move. Feels to me like going from iTunes to Spotify, or Netflix DVDs to Streaming.

I'm not. I purchased many books from O'Reilly as well, but the number is more like 4-5 books a year. Even with just 4-5 books a year I still usually end up with a book left unread or unfinished every time.

Spotify/Netflix makes perfect sense for a subscription model because of the way we consume musics/videos. The same can't be said for technical books. Not for $399 a year anyway. With that price point, seems like they are hoping to get employers to pay for it.

I guess I'm an anomaly in that I read far more books than watching movies, but I agree that most consumers will want a variety of music and shows, unlike books. However, isn't the price point ($35/month), which is 4x more than Spotify, roughly in line with the price for a single book, which is roughly 4x an album.

I guess the main difference is not that the price ratio between subscription and individual items is off, but rather that most consumers don't want 1 book a month. It's a bummer that they don't give people an option, but I'm still a fan of Safari...and I hope this move will mean they drastically improve the Safari app, much like Netflix has doubled down on Streaming now that they don't do DVDs.

I read books far more than I do watching movies or tv shows as well, but I don't include technical books in my count. I read general books for entertainment, and maybe learn one or two mundane things that I don't know before. I read maybe 2-3, sometimes 4 books a month for entertainment.

When I read technical books, its going to be because there is a specific thing that I want to learn, and when I'm done with the books, I expect to have a new skill under my belt that I can start polishing. I certainly don't do this at a rate of 1 book a month.

Yeah, the fact the pricing is offered at rate that is way more than most people's (including mine) purchasing habit is a bummer, but the inclusion of DRM meaning that you lose access to your "purchase" once your subscription ends is the deal breaker for me.

The fact there is a lot more content in the Safari offering may look like a good value in the marketing copy, but that just means more noise to filter through for me. I only have limited amount of time to spend on consuming content after all.

They are also gambling that they are worth it and that you can't live without them vrs the competition. Which now with DRM only option, the competition just moved into first place.

Bingo...i was thinking the same thing.

Either employers or they're hoping people will just "suck it up". For this to really work, they need to drop the price to Netflix/Spotify levels of 10/month.

Is there any alternative to Safari Books Online which has both beginner and advanced content, video and books ? (If yes, I want to move away from Safari on grounds of principle)

Informit.com is a Pearson owned site and we sell the following tech imprints for all levels: Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall, Sams, Microsoft Press, Cisco Press, Pearston IT Certification, Que, Big Nerd Ranch, Peachpit, Adobe Press, and New Riders.

We have regular holiday sales (including a 4th of July sale starting tomorrow), update our eBooks, and offer the different DRM-Free formats including PDF, MOBI and EPUB.

The same is true of eBooks.com.

Maybe if we all start sending tweets to @timoreilly he will reconsider this very unfortunate decision...

From what I understand he hasn't been making day-to-day decisions for O'reilly for at least 10 years. He's just the owner and figurehead.

This is dreadful and such a disappointment from a company I'd praised to others for their service.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2024

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact