This is pretty big publishing news: Tom Doherty Associates, an imprint of Macmillan and the publisher of most of my science fiction work, has announced they plan to ditch DRM (Digital Rights Management, i.e., the stuff that keeps you from moving or copying your eBooks) entirely. Here’s the release that’s going out about it.
Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, today announced that by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free.
“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”
DRM-free titles from Tom Doherty Associates will be available from the same range of retailers that currently sell their e-books. In addition, the company expects to begin selling titles through retailers that sell only DRM-free books.
About Tor and Forge Books
Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books, founded in 1980 and committed (although not limited) to arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher. Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is also the home of award-winning Forge Books, founded in 1993 and committed (although not limited) to thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction and general fiction. Together, the imprints garnered 30 New York Times bestsellers in 2011.
I called Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Senior Editor of Tor Books, to ask what going DRM-free will mean for the publisher’s efforts regarding online misappropriation of author copyrights, because I know that this is a very real concern for many writers. This was his response to me, which he allowed me to post here:
Just in case anyone is worried: I can tell you with complete confidence that Macmillan and Tor/Forge have no intention of scaling back our anti-piracy efforts in the e-book realm. We expect to continue working to minimize this problem with all the tools at our disposal.
As you know, we already have a legal team in place that pursues major infringers. We don’t expect that to change at all, and we hope we continue to get the kind of cooperation from infringed-upon authors that’s been such a big help in the past.
Now, thoughts. Please understand this is me speaking personally, for myself, and only for myself.
As an author, I haven’t seen any particular advantage to DRM-laden eBooks; DRM hasn’t stopped my books from being out there on the dark side of the Internet. Meanwhile, the people who do spend money to support me and my writing have been penalized for playing by the rules. The books of mine they have bought have been chained to a single eReader, which means if that eReader becomes obsolete or the retailer goes under (or otherwise arbitrarily changes their user agreement), my readers risk losing the works of mine they’ve bought. I don’t like that. So the idea that my readers will, after July, “buy once, keep anywhere,” makes me happy. I had been planning to ask Tor whether or not it would be feasible to offer my e-books without DRM; now I won’t have to have that conversation.
Does this mean it’s easier for someone to violate my copyright? It does. But most people don’t want to violate my copyright. Most people just want to own their damn books. Now they will. I support that. And I believe that most readers who like my work will support me. They get that if I don’t get paid, they won’t get books — and more than that I really do believe most people who can support the artists whose work they like will support them. So personally I don’t think ditching DRM will mean people will stop buying what I and Tor have to sell.
That said, I know that there are people out there who don’t give a crap about me or my career and are happy to put up anything I write for other people to copy and take. These are the folks on whom I am happy to bring down the hammer. I have informed Tor/Forge before of people and sites who have violated my copyrights; they have done an admirable job sending their legal strike teams against them.
So Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s very quick and public assurance that Tor/Forge is not abandoning the principles of defending its authors’ copyrights is heartening to me. One reason I stay with a large publisher is because it has the people, resources and experience to do any number of things I find difficult to do myself, from editing to page design to, yes, legal action. If Tor/Forge (and by extension, Macmillan) continue to back up their words as they have done in the past, on my behalf as well as on behalf of other authors, then that’s a cogent argument for authors to continue to work with them, and for readers to support their wares.
What will be interesting is to see how other publishing houses will respond to this action. I won’t speculate in detail at this point, but I will say that I strongly suspect this is just the first of many changes we’re going to see in how business gets done with major publishing. I’m watching, both as a consumer and as a writer.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments, please.
Update 2: Redshirts, my upcoming novel to be released on June 5, will be DRM-free from Day One.