Well - it looks like they’ve made up their mind - in a way that makes it difficult for the readership to change it.
But starting a few years ago, ebook sales too started to flatten, and then to fall. Running oreilly.com as a distribution platform was effective, but also costly. It required a dedicated investment in e-commerce software, staff, marketing, and so on. It also required us to choose whether to direct incoming customers to the declining e-commerce business to buy standalone units, or to our growing subscription business.
As the slowdown accelerated, the contrast between the rapid growth of the subscription business and the interest in learning in new ways became ever more striking. Now, don’t get me wrong, we believe in books, and the effectiveness of text as a tool for sharing knowledge, but the business model that had given us such a great start three decades ago has changed deeply.
I suspect that the rapid growth in the subscription business was largely due to corporate site subscriptions - where corporations simply look at it as a (fully) tax-deductible expense.
There is even an O’Reilly support thread about the issue.
And we are looking into ways for our resellers to support unit sales of PDFs. I regret that we didn’t get those arrangements in place in advance of this announcement.
Now authors published by O’Reilly may have more of an influence - for example Martin Kleppmann voiced his extreme displeasure - prompting Tim O’Reilly to respond
I do agree with that. And if any online bookstore wants to sell PDFs, we will be happy to provide them to them.
So this could be an opportunity for Pragmatic Bookshelf (whose print books used to be sold through shop.oreilly.com) or InformIT (some Pearson books are available through Safari) to start selling O’Reilly ebooks.
And apparently ebooks.com already does exactly that.
Looks like I’ll have to open an account with No Starch Press if I still want that off-line, portable version of Learn You Some Erlang for Great Good! (hmmm - they’ve been doing 50% off Day against DRM sales in the past years - we’ll see July 9).