After O'Reilly moved to DRM-free books, their 2009 sales went up by 104% http://toc.oreilly.com/2010/01/2009-oreilly-ebook-revenue-up...
In other interviews, he seemed confident that DRM wasn't worth it
Perhaps some part of the equation has changed since then. I'm looking forward a deeper analysis of the business reasons for this.
I'm also interested to hear what more authors think - I wonder how many agree with Martin Kleppmann (Designing Data Intensive Applications) https://twitter.com/martinkl/status/880336943980085248
This independence day weekend there were a lot of sales, so I purchased:
* "Programming Clojure, Third Edition" from pragprog (30% off sale)
* The entire collection of "Enthusiast's Guide to ..." from rockynook (each for $10)
* "The Quick Python Book 3e", "Serverless Architectures on AWS", "Event Streams in Action", "Get Programming with Haskell" from Manning (50% off)
These sales are the only way I can afford the volume I read. Some of that money would have gone to OReilly authors, but they deleted my full cart with $100 worth of stuff before I could purchase!
EDIT: OReilly catalog seemed large & redundant with publishers (packt) offering the same materials on their sites. Some like Wiley / MKP only offered very few items from their catalogs. Others like Rosenfeld / rockynook / no starch now provide DRM free options directly from their sites. I'm hoping at least OReilly reconsiders selling their Animal books again.
Martin Kleppmann @martinkl
I am not happy about this. I believe readers should be able to get DRM-free eBook files to download to their own devices.
1:07 AM - 29 Jun 2017
This is actually what I'm most interested in, but don't really see analyzed or talked about anywhere. Online distribution of general digital media (beyond glorified text documents and images) at a serious, mass scale, is barely 20 years old. We are only just now, like in the last decade or less, seeing people enter the economy (i.e. having their own income streams) who grew up with most media in general available on the web.
Hand-in-hand with that is the ability to "pirate" media easily, freely, and without consequence. Even in the last decade, piracy was sorta vaguely "niche". I mean, yes, millions of people did it regularly, but even though I spent my life around very technical people, I was often a sort of "go-to" to acquire things or explain how to actually be a "pirate". People were comfortable with it, but as far as I could tell, even in my "pirate" heavy demographic, it wasn't like some sort of ubiquitous, default thing. People were comfortable with it, and did it regularly either directly or indirectly, but I suspect that I am/was part of a fairly tiny but still rapidly growing minority that would automatically transition from "I want something" to "I'll just pirate that thing". For most people there was a decent amount of friction, not because of technology, but because of their own attitudes and knowledge, so it happened far less than it could have.
All of this is a preface to what I started off trying to say, which is that as a society and culture, we really haven't figured out the social norms and expectations around digital distribution and piracy. They exist, as do the legal ones, but it is so new that the rising demographics and future trends are going to rapidly and significantly change them, and have been changing them.
Patterns of marketing and distribution have already somewhat adapted to the expectation of large-scale piracy, but that is only the beginning. Who knows how this stuff will be viewed or treated in another decade.
FWIW, I don't think that piracy is ethical, I do it anyway (though far less nowadays that I have a paycheck and with all the subscription services available), and I suspect (opposite of the author of this article, but still without evidence) that piracy is actually a benefit to creators. The quote you lead with is a great way to phrase the idea in a way that I'd never thought to articulate it.
The discounts you mention are a big controversy for downloadable sales. Go tell a game developer that "I get a lot of great free games with my PlayStation Plus subscription and usually buy games when they are deeply discounted" and often they will go berserk because they believe eroded pricing power takes a chunk out of their paycheck.
Another factor is that O'Reilly is not the company it was 20 years ago. The animal books were great (and are great sometimes today), but the books they've made on other topics (say graphic design) are not up to same standard. Those books aren't bad, but the animal books are hard to measure up to.
In recent years O'Reilly has been capitalizing on the strength of their brand, so you see Neo4J giving away a free O'Reilly book to promote their product, O'Reilly promotes their own conferences, etc.
How does this follow? Or is the assumption that use-after-sale rights would be strengthened for consumers?
Political risk is only one horseman that threatens the recurring payment dark pattern. Another would be improvements in the payment system.
Credit cards are not really designed for recurrent payment, in particular, you cannot ask your credit card company to turn off a recurring payment without getting a new card number and turning off all of your recurring payments.
Even legitimate companies, such as the New York Times, will make you talk to a customer retention specialist who will give you a hard sell to turn off their service. Other companies are not responsive at all.
If you could go to your payment provider, see a list of all your recurring payments, and cancel any ones you want to cancel with a button press, that would go a long way towards legitimizing the business model.
1) Book sales have been consistently declining overall, in all media. It's not clear that DRM has much to do with this.
2) They'll still be selling DRM-free through at least one merchant, Google Play. (It's not clear whether this policy extends to Amazon as well, but they wouldn't be the first publisher selling DRM-free there; Tor's science fiction novels have been DRM-free through all merchants for a few years now.)
Hopefully OReilly wanted only to cut costs, and is still willing to make high quality preorders and DRM free media available through some other source.
>supported on "e-readers with Adobe Digital Editions installed"
Someone is incorrect here.
Perhaps it was expensive because it was a platform for other publishers (and print) as well, but I doubt this would be true if they focused on their own selection of eBooks.
This is definitely true for me, and one of the reasons why Oreilly is one of the defining "colors" on my bookshelf. In particular with technical literature I really need to get a good look into the book before I make a commitment and a decision to buy. I just don't want to spend money first and then stick to something that turns out to be rather disappointing.
So my usual way of buying books is to download various publications on a topic via Bittorrent and then buying the best one once I know what I want. This is similar to going to a public library, getting a few books, and buying the most convincing one for long-term use. If there was a micropayment way of paying for the short-term evaluation, I would be more than happy to pay for that (as I implicitly pay via library contributions, which go to the publishers to some part).
Having said that, Oreilly traditionally had a market of being the "printed out manual of open source software", which I'm pretty sure is dead by now, and I wonder if they can reposition completely. One thing I noticed is that they now often sell books that have titles that sound very general "Data Science for blabla" but turn out to be really just tutorials/manuals for some particular framework. That's the kind of book I would want to avoid. Nothing against good examples, but I don't need printed out tutorials.
what makes you think this _shouldn't_ be OK?
(To be clear, i don't agree with the DRM implementation, I don't agree with O'Reillys recent change and I don't agree with an always online subscription service that is out of the price range of most people).
Lawrence Lessig (creator of Creative Commons) has a couple of great keynotes, and books, setting the tone for the battle ground.
Benklers Wealth of Networks is another great resource covering similar topics.
Then you have the clear opposition variants such as Stallmans arguments. The book Against Monopoly is also a good read on this angle (this one is more about patents than copyright though)
I don't recall the source right now, but there is also this fascinating history of copyright in Europe and the statue of Anne which, ostensibly, was mostly about censorship and not at all about authors rights or ability make a living.
First step is to recognize that IP is a propaganda term, designed to confuse issues and appeal to an entirely different set of laws and moral frameworks. So if you use this term, know that you've been successfully manipulated by the other side of the debate.
BTW, equating non-profit copyright infringement with attacking ships also might be some kind of propaganda.
"There is no justice in following unjust laws."
Aaron Swartz - Guerilla Open Access Manifesto
One bummer: Nearly everything I bought from O'Reilly were 'Early Release' books - The Kleppmann 'Data Intensive Apps' book took like two years for him to finish (not complaining, books aren't easy and this book was exceptionally well-researched), but it was nice to have the first half of the book available early on. Sadly, the Early Release program seems to be only available through Safari now. There were like five books I had planned to buy over the holiday weekend that now I guess I'll have to wait a year or so before being able to buy.
I also don't get the folks saying "Just buy $DIFFERENT_PUBLISHER books instead" - books aren't interchangeable, people buy specific titles, not whatever the publisher's version of that topic might be.
"As our books have Adobe DRM applied to them your device must state that it is compatible with Adobe DRM or Adobe Digital Editions"
Some time ago, there was a big fiasco with Adobe (3,4) "On 6 October 2014, Nate Hoffelder reported in The Digital Reader that Adobe Digital Editions version 4 ("ADE4") was sending extensive information about eBooks back to Adobe, including ebooks read by a user as well as eBooks stored on the same machine but not opened in ADE4."
I tried Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) a while back and considered it very poor experience. Originally it was based on Adobe Flex, and the font rendering was grey scale anti-aliased and looked terrible. I won't try it again to find out if they improved it.
There was another fiasco, but Adobe backed down (5). A contact from Datalogics confirmed that Adobe was going to force everyone (publishers, users) to upgrade to the new version of DRM (ADEPT) and that your old titles would be unusable if not!
I avoid ADE like the plague.
Oreilly author here. FWIW a ton of us were caught off guard by this as well. At the same time, I can't say I'm surprised.
My commercial incentives for working with oreilly wasn't about the book per se. I found a ton of value in working with them for their peripheral activities including safari, their strata , and AI conferences. I think other folks who write for oreilly tend to do these same things.
Pointing out where oreilly is making money: It tends to be large companies paying for access to safari now.
They will be putting other content in there now.
Print is a dying media. That being said: A ton of people prefer print still.
I don't think any end user or author of their's is "happy" about this per se. 1 benefit I liked of the online store was the ability to point people at that for pre releases and updates.
You can't really do that with amazon.
I may be naively hopeful in saying this, but..
That being said: this should allow them to invest in other distribution channels now as well.
Oreilly showed they know how to run a distribution channel and may use that expertise in other areas.
As someone closer to this than a lot of people, I'm happy to answer general questions about the process, other ways this could affect us etc, if that helps.
What if I'm out of work and cannot afford the rental (Safari) fee?
What about account problems? Because of technical reasons or political (say revenge because of public criticisms), there's a risk to lose access to the material. This happened to somebody with their Amazon account and their ereader.
I would just consider having your own drm free backup.
I understand what you mean though :(.
If circumventing DMCA is still illegal in and off itself, I'd be careful by advising people to break the law, without making it clear that they risk some serious penalties in many jurisdictions.
What's the current status of inheriting DRMed works? I know that I'll be able to read the books and comics I inherit - but I'm not so sure about the kindle eBooks - without gaining access to the account of the deceased - assuming it remains active for long enough to do so?
You bought the book, you own the pdf. I'm not advocating or implying people giving them away.
I'm not sure if you read above but I'm actually an author.
Authors don't really make much money when working with publishers..but it doesn't mean I don't want something for my work.
I'm also not going to hand out legal advice as I'm not qualified to comment on or do so.
>> I would just consider having your own drm free backup.
> You bought the book, you own the pdf.
seems perfectly reasonable on the face of it - it implies removing the drm - which I think is still unclear if it is legal or not (per the dmca)?
I believe there was some case around backing up dvds (a notoriously fragile medium) - as well as circumventing drm in order to view legal copies (eg: play dvds on Linux/in vlc) - but I'm not certain if that was tested in supreme court or not - and if it would apply to ebooks.
I do know that with the initial draft of the dmca, circumventing drm was in and of itself illegal.
I won't comment on DMCA regulations.
Every ebook and video you’ve purchased through your O’Reilly account is available below. You get lifetime access to these products, and we will alert you when they are updated.
This is your account. You should be fine here.
If they stop selling then they lose 100% of my business which is about $100 a year.
I don't use other formats. They screw technical books too badly. Some other publishers like Apress and MS Press do okay too but if O'Reilly pulls out then it's quite a blow.
I asked him about it and I think he'd rather have the latter benefits than the minuscule compensation:
"Piracy is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means you receive no compensation for the benefit readers get from the work you put in. On the other hand, pirated books act as implicit marketing, expanding awareness of you and your book(s)."
So I bought the books, but asked if he had another copy of his own book. He said that he did not, because that he guesses he should keep a copy as, after all, he was the author. That's a lot of trauma for him to say something like that.
In fact any initial advance is often calculated on this basis. A book has to sell exceptionally and unexpectedly well to start paying extra royalties.
So... authors can make a little extra money by selling their five or ten free copies direct to the public. Even at a knock-down price, it's still money they wouldn't get otherwise.
The piracy argument is nonsense. Most technology book authors either have a brand/platform because they're already notable, or they remain unknown, because it's almost impossible to build a brand solely by writing specialist technology books. (This wasn't always true, but it's become more and more true over time.)
Piracy for "exposure" changes nothing. Given the royalty issue, it doesn't even affect most authors' earnings - although of course it does affect publisher income.
If I had a tech book in me I'd be trying to steal from Wes Bos's playbook, not get on a call with an O'Reilly editor.
Without more data (or really... any), this conclusion is pure speculation.
The reasons they give for discontinuing their e-commerce efforts are that book sales have been dwindling since 2000, and that they simply make too much money on new interactive media and don't want to pay for their own e-commerce infrastructure and staff anymore. I would imagine the publishers they are now relying on can also help them market their titles (which I suggest speculatively would help significantly).
The article I want to link from Laura Baldwin is unfortunately only directly linkable via social media, but for now it's the only article at this link:
Anectdotally, I bought a lot of DRM free books from O'Reilly directly. While I did share them due to convenience (coworker doesn't understand SSL! No problem), I also shared them with friends who couldn't afford them. I think this was actually good for O'Reilly, and that Tim was right and still is on this score.
I say this because I personally spent many thousands of dollars through their web store. My friends without cash who went on to become computer professionals started paying for the new books they wanted as well. The vast majority of people I shared books with who could afford them would go out and buy several more after seeing the quality and value of particular titles.
It's obviously a culture and economic mechanism that subsidizes certain kinds of customers and use, but I believe it subsidized the "right things". Because much of the content builds value in real marketable skills, free-riders can eventually become wealthy enough that the price to convenience ratio tips correctly and they become paying customers. It helps that they now have very strong brand loyalty. This is how I became an O'Reilly customer in the first place, so many year ago.
O'Reilly direct e-book sales was a positive example of business that creates huge uncaptured value for the domain (technical knowledge), but by virtue of that generates more customers. This is the kind of business we actually need. In some ways I think it was their own success that killed their book business, because ultimately digital books were replaced by more compelling media formats, and those exist largely due to advances in design and technology, and their books are raw fuel for those advances.
I say this many words only because I loved them so much, and am sad to see them go. I have to sadly admit it's been probably two years since I either read or bought a lot of titles from them. I haven't been reading or buying technical books at all. I don't know if this says something about my current level of specialization, perhaps my current level of laziness, my subconscious desire for new media formats, the quality of the titles they've been publishing, their business model, or perhaps the nature of the industry they serve.
I'd personally like to hear more from O'Reilly about this eventually. I know they need to spin everything to look good, but I am incredibly curious if their non-book media is actually increasingly popular as they suggest. Do people just not want technical books anymore? Do people want them but increasingly pirate them and never pay? Are people willing to pay for technical knowledge in different media? Did their business model cost them their business, or is this the result of unavoidable change in the market for technical knowledge?
The biggest sellers were always mass-market guides to Windows, OS X, Word, iOS, and such.
The next tier down were introductory guides to core topics - HTML/CSS, js, Java, Flash, VisualBasic, and on on.
The tier down from that was much more specific - e.g. sound on iOS - but only of interest to a relatively small audience.
Eventually publishers hit a point where they can't find good expert authors because the money for writing a book is so poor compared to a typical developer salary, and the amount of work so high, that no one wants to do it. And even if they do they probably need a lot of help with editing and formatting.
StackOverflow and other online sources have more or less wiped out the lower levels. Changes in the industry have wiped out the upper levels - hardly anyone needs an introduction to Windows now, and even an intro to HTML/CSS is much harder to sell than it used to be.
That leaves the niche-y, limited, specialised levels - which aren't big enough on their own to support the old publishing model, except as a cottage industry.
Aside from author advances, the production costs of a book don't depend on the technical level of the content.
So this is why the industry is struggling. Meanwhile lynda.com, Udemy, and other courseware are cleaning up in the same space.
So of course O'Reilly, Wiley, and the rest are going to try to make a play for that space. And IMO they will fail, because the costs of producing courseware are much higher than the costs of producing a book, the courseware business requires an even more specialised skill set, the market isn't huge anyway - and more than anything, they're late to the party.
But it's rather harder to be a successful technical book author.
The point I've emphasized above really matters a lot for people who do read many books. Despite select chapter previews that some publishers provide, there are people who really want to do their own evaluation of something before committing to buying it.
> My feeling is that most people who choose pirated books are unlikely to pay for them, even if that's the only way to get them. As such, I'm inclined to think the marketing effect of illegal copies exceeds the lost revenue. I have no data to back me up. Maybe it's just a rationalization to help me live with the knowledge that no matter what you do, there's no way you can prevent bootleg copies of your books from showing up on the Net.
Again, the emphasized sentence above has been known for a very long time in the areas of music, movies, TV shows, books - any content, actually. In my observation, people who pirate books also tend get into a habit of hoarding rather than reading (low disk/storage and bandwidth costs). Leaving aside the people who are in countries with poorer currencies and cannot really imagine buying a lot of the English language technical content produced, I doubt if the real loss in revenue is even substantial.
Books also, depending on the subject, require investments of time, attention, memory and repeated reference, unlike movies, TV shows and music that most of the time require a "one time investment". So I would not consider books to be in the same category as others when it comes to piracy.
I'm not at all happy with O'Reilly's decision, and did write to support at oreilly saying that this makes it difficult (finding DRM free content on amazon or elsewhere in multiple formats) and that I wouldn't be buying O'Reilly products again. I received a standard reply thanking me for the feedback and pointing me to the blog post. My guess is that the direct customer relationship and brand recognition through its website is going to be lost along with this decision.
I don't know if O'Reilly will change the decision, but people who do value the freedom of DRM free content in different formats must voice their opinions by writing to O'Reilly support.
I am not a fan of DRM. Less because of its restrictions, but more because of its low level of user experience (merely consequence of its restrictions, sure, but still), with publishers not making content available for this or that device, and with lack of smart features like lending/borrowing/transferring material.
That said, and being from Latin America myself (Brazil), as well with connections in Asia (friends), I've heard many stories already that give an idea of thousands of developers that are consuming "paid" content downloaded through torrents/forums/dropboxes/etc, and never made the "honorable" payment.
I am afraid you are underestimating the amount of developers in developing countries that consume books from O'Reilly and other publishers and are not paying at all for that, ultimately damaging investments on new material, both by publishers and authors. It is hardly the case of not being able to afford, but simply a cultural thing.
For any author that thinks their content should be DRM-free and available to anyone, I don't understand why they don't publish on GitHub, and drop a link to their PayPal account for contributions. If they did, my bet would be on repositories with huge traffic (easy to monitor), but low pay-rate.
Even if you do convince someone to pay (did I read that 1% was a good conversion rate?), how difficult is it to get their money? How many are you going to lose to the PayPal login process? How much money is your payment processor going to take?
While I've got you here (although this looks like a throwaway account), how easy is it for you to make a credit card payment to a US merchant from Brazil? Can you use Patreon? PayPal? Flattr?
Also, Bitcoin is not the solution here.
My personal experience doesn't really support this. I used to work for a publisher of fiction books. Our business model was that we'd sell them exclusively on our website as eBooks for some time before putting out physical copies. One result of that was we were able to track all sales of the books in realtime.
The vast majority of eBooks were sold with DRM. But it would only be a matter of time before the DRM would be cracked and we'd see the books pop up on pirate sites. By tracking our sales figures, we noticed a very steep decline in sales as soon as a pirate version of a book became available. This was very consistent across our range of products.
I'm personally not a fan of DRM, however I don't think we would have been able to survive without it. We would always hope the DRM wouldn't be cracked quite so soon, as we'd receive very few sales afterwards.
Of course, the types of books we published were different to O'Reilly's, and our target audiences were different. The effect of piracy might not necessarily be so bad for them as it was for us. I'm sure it's still a challenge, though.
yes, i also agree. The content just needs to be made slightly difficult to pirate, to keep the honest people honest - but there's no need to invest in any expensive and difficult to maintain DRM (like an online check).
Also, if content is easier to consume when pirated, then whose fault is it that more people would rather pirate than go though the official channel?
Maybe some did, I don't know. I suspect that the ones that didn't, probably wouldn't buy a similar book from anyone, not because of piracy, but because they just aren't into that particular kind of product. So no (real) harm, no foul.
I always appreciated that they were available in any format (pdf/ebook etc) and thus easier to search. You can even sync them to your dropbox automatically after purchase. A download them.
We had a book service at a former company and it was terrible, one page at a time with a clunky web interface. Being able to download and scan them was much appreciated.
But as internet search gets better, you find quick solutions on stack overflow. It must be hard selling books.
I tried Safari when I was still in university, but found it terrible (but that was a few years back). I won't pay $400/year for a service like it. I could see maybe half that being reasonable. But, there are so many subscription services now.
Blog post here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/oreilly-mission-spreading-kno...
Guess I'll have to buy everything as print books again...
My work bought a copy of Designing Data Intensive Applications for the team, I've started reading it but lugging around 1kg of book every day gets old really quick, I wish they would have offered a PDF download coupon or something inside.
Is it just Google has more weight they can throw around and O'Reilly didn't want to 'rock the boat', or was it a technical problem?
Apparently the Google Play versions of O'Reilly books are formatted strangely and aren't a direct PDF of the physical books.
Companies are starting to get serious about product and service lock-in, for me and many others the paradigm is repellent.
I also prefer the PDF versions which I can print out a chapter when I need to read hard-copy Instead of carrying with me an entire book (live/work in Manhattan, we don't use cars much and value light-weight equipment).