Whether you are published or self-published, you have choices to make about the Digital Rights Management (DRM) of your ebooks. DRM, if enforced, helps you protect the copyright of your work. Logic would tell you that if you protect the DRM of your novel, then it forces people to purchase your book instead of share it and sales should go up, right? Then why did this July 2014 Earnings Report just reveal that indie authors without DRM sell twice as many books compared to indie authors with DRM?

Disclaimer: Just because you turn off DRM for your ebook does not mean you will automatically double your sales. (Note: Amazon does not let you change your mind about DRM once you’ve published your book.)

book sales with and without DRM

This issue isn’t localized to the publishing industry. It has dramatically affected the music industry as well. In fact, the two industries are more alike than they are different, which suggests that the book industry should learn from the mistakes that the music industry made. But, what is at the core of the DRM issue that makes non-DRM novels sell better? Are consumer’s even aware if a title is protected by DRM before purchasing? I looked everywhere on the Amazon page for my short story (The Ravenous Flock), but did not see anything that mentioned DRM. That means that user’s are the ones that spread the word about a specific title having DRM protections. However, Kindle readers can still lend my ebook to other users for a short period even though I have DRM enabled. Additionally, they can still purchase the book as a gift for another user from the Kindle store.

As a side note, it’s also important to point out that DRM only applies to the ereader format that you selected it for. If I were to sell The Ravenous Flock on the Nook, I could set it for non-DRM.

So is DRM actually the root reason why sales were lower? Or is that just a correlation that was made? The folks that created the sales report believe that it is more than a strong correlation since non-DRM indie books sell better at almost every price point. But all that tells me is that price isn’t a factor. While I trust the fact that non-DRM books do sell better, (and is echoed in the music industry) I can’t help but question the reason why. According to the logic of the report, the answer lies in the behavior of the Kindle users. Apparently, the Kindle readers that purchase indie books must somehow find it easier to share the book when DRM is not enabled, and therefore become a word-of-mouth marketing machine for those books. Perhaps that is what is occurring, I can’t be certain. But whether or not we understand the true reason of why, it would be wise of us to learn from the music industry that has suffered from this same issue in the past, and would behoove us to follow the path that successful authors have already blazed before us.

What are your thoughts on DRM? Please your opinion in the comments below.

8 thoughts on “DRM – should you use it?

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