An interesting thing about the latest post from publishing-industry observer Mike Shatzkin, highlighting what he feels were the most important points from the Digital Book World conference he helped run: it largely focuses on DRM. Aside from Matteo Berlucchi’s call for publishers to drop DRM (which I covered here and here), Shatzkin also brings up a point about the relationship of DRM to sales at romance e-bookseller All Romance Ebooks.

Shatzkin notes three interesting statistics that came up in All Romance’s presentation at DBW:

  • Only 20% of All Romance’s readers strongly resist e-books with DRM.
  • 96% of All Romance’s e-book sales by volume are DRM-free.
  • 91% of All Romance’s titles are protected by DRM.

He points out:

What this means is that the nine percent of All Romance’s offerings that do not have DRM are selling 96% of their units overall. And since only 20% of their customers find DRM as a strong deterrent to sales, that means those fledglings are outselling all the majors for other reasons.

What might those reasons be? Shatzkin speculates, but doesn’t really come up with any solid reasons. My own speculation is to wonder whether even those people who don’t “resist” DRM could nonetheless be swayed toward embracing DRM-free because they recognize the advantages it has. I know I don’t “resist” e-books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble if they’re not available anywhere else, but I’m more inclined to buy something if I see it’s DRM-free.

But the more interesting thing to me is how much this and other news coming out of DBW suggests that DRM is being discussed at industry events a lot, rather than just being taken for granted as “that thing we don’t publish e-books without.” Might this suggest e-book DRM could be on the beginning of its way out? It still seems a bit unlikely—but then, so did the music industry ditching DRM before it did. How much bigger will Amazon have to get before publishers decide the paper(less) tiger of e-piracy is the secondary threat?