Why we don’t sell ebooks
June 9, 2020 by Rory Litwin
We are often asked if ebook versions of our publications are available. I tell people that they can find most of our books through Proquest, Ebsco, or Odilo, but that with a few exceptions on Amazon, we don’t offer ebooks for retail sale. With this post I would like to explain why, as well as to share a little teaser about a related future announcement.
It would be technically pretty easy to create DRM-free ebooks and sell them without going through a middleman. The problem is the ease of copying DRM-free ebooks to share, which would compromise our sales too much. We don’t bring in much revenue from book sales beyond breaking even, so we can’t afford to do it this way.
DRM-protected ebooks have a few different problems. One problem is that a big portion of our audience is opposed to DRM in principle, and we’d rather not be on the wrong side of that debate. Another problem is that self-hosting DRM-protected books is extremely expensive, beyond our capacity to take on. So we would have to go with a third party, and third party ebook sellers come with issues. They want to control pricing and set prices at much lower levels than we do for print books. They also want to take a bigger cut of sales than print book sellers require. Since printing books is not the most costly part of our operation, producing ebooks wouldn’t save much, so the reduction in revenue from ebook sales would lead to financial unsustainability. Another issue with third party ebook vendors is that they often require users to download their app, in order to capture repeat customers and connect to their DRM systems.
The picture shifts slightly if you only look at our backlist, where most of the books have few sales anyway. So here is what we’re planning. We are working on a “Friends of Library Juice Press” membership program. Among the benefits that members will receive is access to a different monthly ebook–DRM-free–from our backlist. Watch for a full announcement and launch of this program later in the summer.