Tor/Forge to Go DRM-Free By July: Immediate Thoughts

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: additional thoughts on today’s announcement from Charles Stross.

Update 2: Redshirts, my upcoming novel to be released on June 5, will be DRM-free from Day One.

132 thoughts on “Tor/Forge to Go DRM-Free By July: Immediate Thoughts

  1. To get ahead of what someone will no doubt attempt to do:

    This thread should be primarily about Tor/Forge choosing to go DRM-free, NOT about eBook pricing or the DOJ suit Macmillan, Apple and Penguin are currently fighting. Please do try to keep the discussion focused on the the DRM thing, please. Some discussion of those topics is of course fine but should not be the heart of the discussion. If you go too far astray, I may tell you to reel it in. If you post simply to rant about eBook pricing, I may delete your post.

  2. I for one am looking forward to increasing my purchases of Tor/Forge titles specifically because of losing the DRM.

  3. No joking or hyperbole, I intend to buy books from Tor/Forge the day they go live with this to show support for their actions. They are leading by example, and I intend to respond in kind.

  4. I’m very happy to hear this news. From a consumer’s pespective, it makes me more likely to buy eBooks from these folks. Heretofore I’ve been reluctant to invest too much in eBooks because I like the portability of the real deal. This action undercuts that argument to a large extent.

  5. I think this is fantastic. I have long refused to purchase e-books for the reason that when I pay money, I do so to “rent”, not “own”, those books. Huge step forward and I look forward to purchasing e-books from Tor/Forge.

  6. Publishers have largely hamstrung themselves by a) demanding DRM in the first place only to discover that b) Amazon, who was happy to lock everything down for them, now has them by the short hairs because Amazon has locked in the publishers’ audience through DRM enforcement. If publishers think Amazon is evil and has too much pull, they’ve got to free up the content to be bought anywhere and read anywhere, opening the market back to some form of competition.

  7. Excellent, at least, reason in the matter starts to prevail. Needless to say, I’ll be happy to spend my money there… ;-)

  8. I like the idea of my purchased books not disappearing at the whim of Amazon or whatever technomonkey is running the innards of my kindle fire. I’m a backup maniac, and would be much cheered by the prospect of offline copies kept safe, as well as the cloud backups. I keep my books in a cloud. The world has become a strange and wonderful place…

  9. I think this is fantastic, and I hope Tor/Forge starts a trend. I plan to purchase some books from them when they go live with this to show my support.

  10. This is the only long-term solution, if digital media is going to become the dominant player in the market, which technology is inevitably going to push us towards. Our powerful technology ought to be able to come up with ways of keeping these works protected for the authors, who live and thrive on their creations. I guess we just need to make those files un-copyable and only able to live on one device at a time (but freely transferable), and perhaps one dedicated back-up.

  11. Yay, I can buy e-books! I have a Sony Reader. I don’t want to buy different readers for different vendors. I may buy a different reader in the future. I have no objection to universal hardware-independent DRM, I just want to be able to read the books I pay for.

  12. Charles Stross called this one right. This is the second major publisher in a few weeks to make a major ebook announcement with DRM free ebooks. (I’m counting JK Rowling as a major publisher in her own right). I’m pleasantly surprised and very pleased that it will no longer be required to ‘break the (stupid) law’ to back up your ebooks.

    This might make it possible for smaller players to compete with the offering books, right now people are locked into whatever ereaders they purchased.

  13. I believe this is the first of a much larger DRM-free movement. I think publishers will see that a departure from DRM is in their best interests, both financially and by advertising that they’re on the “readers’ side” of this issue. And that’s a good thing. They will obviously (and rightly so) continue to hammer copyright infringements through means that work. DRM was a means of segregating ownership of books under the guise of anti-piracy, and we’re now starting to see the effects of that. It wasn’t in line with readers’ wishes, and what readers want is of tremendous importance to publishers. It’s how they make their money.

  14. While I think that Tor’s announcement is unequivocally good, the only minor quibble I have is that:

    the company expects to begin selling titles through retailers that sell only DRM-free books.

    I know for a fact that Apple’s iBooks bookstore does sell DRM-free ebooks (though the only ones I’ve seen that are DRM-free are free/cheap ebooks of dubious quality). I would hope that Tor can get Apple to offer their books without DRM in the iBookstore as opposed to pulling them entirely.

  15. Question: Will this have an immediate effect on Kindle owners? It will allow retailers to sell DRM-free Tor e-books. Will it directly compel retailers to remove their own DRM in order to sell Tor e-books? Thanks!

  16. Sweet. Perhaps someday they’ll go the next step and offer a reader-neutral cloud service for a person’s e-books. Like an archive but any e-book could reside there and work with any reader that is compatible with the cloud. Break Amazon’s / Apple’s / Nook’s hold before they become uber- entrenched.

  17. I wonder if and how much J K Rowling releasing, and being phenomenally successful, her Harry Potter series DRM free affected this decision.

  18. I, for one, agree with this, because it will put real competition in the marketplace. When a vendor locks you into a device, you are married to that vendor permanently. If someone then sells books at a lower price with another proprietary device, you’re stuck with two devices. Or an unwieldy device that can run apps for both vendors.

  19. This is GREAT NEWS!
    While I currently only by printed books, some day I will have to venture out into the eWorld. I can’t wait for the other publishers to follow suit.

    I have the same reaction to DRM on movies and music. I buy both. My guess is that people who steal movies, music and books either dont have the money to spend on them, or wouldnt buy them in the first place. The idea that piracy is lost revenue is silly. People who DL terabytes of movies would never have bought those movies (books, music) in the first place. None of this is to say that the piracy isnt wrong, nor that publishers shouldnt go after pirates. But insane lawsuits against poor college kids? Not sure how any of that actually solves any problems.

  20. I think also that abandoning DRM by the Big Six would be a swing back toward a competitive edge for them, compensating for the “win” many think Amazon achieved with the DOJ lawsuit. That just may be enough to standardize an single e-book file format for every producer. Maybe.

  21. I wonder if there’s any chance of a swap program — email Tor/Forge my DRM’d ebooks and get non-DRM’d versions in exchange. (I can’t imagine they’d be too unhappy at getting a big database of customer email addresses and title lists…)

    I think as well that this will strengthen their anti-piracy efforts. No more will pirates have the excuse that they’re providing a “service” for DRM-encumbered readers!

  22. Would this allow for the reselling of the ebook? Like the brick & mortor used bookstores, would we be allowed to resell previously read ebooks… legally?. If not, I still like the idea of being able to read my ebooks on multiple devices.

  23. I’ve been limiting my ebook consumption to mostly public domain and other legal free stuff precisely because I didn’t want to wake up one day in a couple of years and find $1000+ worth of ebooks inaccessible due to human or computer error. So this will definitely allow me to take further advantage of the convenience of my Kindle. So yea team.

  24. This is excellent news. Looks like I will be buying books by this publisher mostly – until – hopefully – others will follow suit.

  25. Personal experience from the software development end: copy protection is a Massive Headache that impedes legitimate use, gives programmers headaches, gives support staff heart failure, and doesn’t stop the guys in Latveria distributing pirated copies.

    Bravo Tor.

  26. This is awesome. I have a Nook, and I love it, both on the actual (first gen) device, and the Nook app on my phone. One reason I went with a Nook was the painless way you could sideload ePub titles (which wasn’t an option for a Kindle at the time – no idea if that has changed). I like the convenience of ordering through bn.com, but I will happily purchase Redshirts directly from Tor on June 5th, DRM-free. Oh, what’s that? DRM-freeosity starts in July? What the cracking grasshopper?!!?

    Surely they can move Tor eBook DRM Emancipation Day date up to June 4th, yes? The alternative (pushing the Redshirts release date out) is too upsetting to consider…

  27. Odds are that as others have speculated, this is the first of a flood of publishers to recognize both the futility and negative repercussions of insisting upon DRM. One of the possibly unconsidered side-effects that I’m hoping for is a surge in high-quality ebook reader software for portable devices.

    Now I enjoy my e-ink reader (a Nook) well enough, but on a tablet or phone, the device is capable of so much, but I find that the feature sets of the available apps tend to be limited, since the creator is either a small (or even one-man) shop, or geared toward supporting a specific ebook marketplace. My hope is that with the general availability of highly-portable ebooks, the market for feature-rich reader apps will be spurred on, as well.

    (And yes, yes, I know many people have their favorite app, that they’re happy to insist others try, but I’ve tried them all, and nothing gives me everything that I’m looking for. I’ve settled, entirely coincidentally, on the Nook app, since it gives me what I want in a tablet reading experience, and isn’t too shabby on my phone.)

  28. This is GREAT news! Now the publishers can focus on delivering their content to the end user and quit worrying about the dreaded piracy! Now, if they could only get more of their back catalog available….

  29. Yeah, DRM never did anything to stop piracy, because the people who pirate know how to break it. It only ever restricted legit consumers, and actually kept people away from ebooks. Not me though. I love ebooks. They are perfect for my book addiction. I just have to keep myself under control, and remind myself that I can’t read 8 books at once. That’s what wishlists are for.

  30. I’m happy Tor are doing this as a reader. It ought to be good for writers, too (but there are many fights to be had still, pricing, royalty levels, how many levels in the distribution chain and what splits, etc. But we’re not having that discussion here and now, and I don’t know the answers there.)

    With at least two major SF-world publishers doing this (Baen and Tor, obviously), I’m hoping competition can bring the rest of them onto our side. That’s complicated by the fact that I expect the market for SF is much more tech-savvy than the rest of the market, though.

  31. I’m delighted to hear it. Makes it that much easier to choose an e-reader (when the time comes for me to make such a purchase), because I don’t have to lock into one format and read only things available in that format…as far as Tor purchases go. I hope the rest of the industry will follow suit.

    jelmore49, I think you may have misread that. Tor is going to continue to sell through the retailers it sells through now (though there may be a wrinkle or two). In addition there are some retailers who refuse to sell any e-book with DRM; Tor will now also be able to sell through those retailers, where they couldn’t before.

  32. Can I offer a standing ovation? I am one of those heavy book buyers who uses e-books for convenience, but wants to actually own books. Dropping DRM puts Tor/Forge back on my “buy from” list, and that makes me very happy. So, thank you for showing reason and respect for your customers, Tor.

  33. DRM has kept me from buying ebooks, games, music and movies. (And DRM has also been the reason I read most fiction in paperback.) A dead-tree book is indeed limited in many ways; but Amazon can’t simply decide that it’ll “unsell” my physical books once they’ve been delivered. If and when Amazon sinks, it won’t take my second- or third-hand copy of The Pearly Essence down with it.

    What’s missing in the brave new world of ebooks is the notion that you should own what you pay for. Finally, Tor decided to do a little something about that. I must say I commend them.
    Giving people easier access to legal content — that they can own, not just “rent” — may be the only lucid way to combat piracy.

    We must also understand that illegal proliferation of content is nothing new, and the best possible approach, it seems to me, is to make legal channels a lot more attractive than illegal ones. Aye, that’s an uphill battle, but we’d fools not to chase that particular rainbow. (I mix metaphors all the time. Sorry.)

  34. Where does the line of piracy start? If I buy a paper copy of Old Man’s War, read it and then lend (or even give) it to a friend, is that piracy? What if I do that with a (DRM-free) e-book?

    What if I don’t wait until I’ve read it and give my friend a copy and we read it at the same time? What if my friend – possibly without my knowledge – gives a copy to her friend (in the same way she might lend/give a book I lent her)?

    What is the difference between the legal definition of book piracy (or one of the many?) and a working definition of it from an ethical point of view?

  35. I’m not going to kid you: I haven’t been hesitant to remove DRM from ebooks. This has never resulted in me distributing one; it has resulted in me being able to read them on devices that aren’t my Nook. If I didn’t have that ability, I wouldn’t buy the ebooks, and I’m pretty sure that’s not just me. For my troubles, I have of course had the concern that doing this is at least conceivably illegal by the DMCA, not to mention it’s just a pain in the arse. It pleases me to no end that Tor — a publisher that I am already favorably disposed toward, of course — is going to help lead the way to stop making buying and reading their books a pain in the arse. Pretty much that simple.

    Otherwise, everything in the original post makes good sense to me. And getting further away from Amazon’s attempt to monopolize is definitely tasty, tasty frosting.

  36. Cool news. I think this is a serious shot over Amazon’s bow, and we’re better for it. I have no doubt that “moving books between e-readers” is primarily about “moving books from Kindle to anything else”.

    Anything that brings down the walled gardens.

  37. About time! Hallelujah and Praise the Lunch!

    The only downside I can see for John is that some fraction of his audience will postpone their purchase of Redshirts until the DRM-free version is available. It’ll be interesting to see what the sales numbers look like before and after the change.

  38. Customers want to pick out an e-reader like they pick out a toothbrush. We don’t want to have to think, “Well, THIS toothbrush can clean my first bicuspid, but can’t do my second premolar. And THIS one can do my bicuspids and molars, but has no support for my lateral incisors.” Instead, we want to weigh factors like comfort, size, affordability, appearance, and maybe a few bells and whistles. I think this is the start of letting people do just that.

  39. @jelmore49: DRM has always been a publisher imposed requirement, not a vendor imposed one. Apple, Amazon and B&N have always made it the publisher’s choice whether the ebooks they sell have DRM or not. I’ve gotten terrific DRM-free ebooks published by highly reputable small presses from both the iBookstore and B&N. (I’d rather not deal with mobi so I don’t buy ebooks from Amazon.) This is not an option limited to free or cheap ebooks of dubious quality.

    Anyway, this is terrific news. I can finally buy Tor ebooks. Yay!

    I hope other publishers follow Tor’s lead.

  40. It’s about damn time. I have started avoiding buying books that have the DRM on it because I use several differant formats. This makes me happy. VERY happy.

  41. One of the reasons I don’t buy eBooks has just gone away (at least for Tor).

    I only see this as good news for the book buying public and may be a few trees.

    Now does this apply only to Tor US or does it also apply to Tor Canada as well?

  42. Very pleased to hear this. Usually I don’t pay much attention to who publishes the books I read. However, as an avid SF and mystery reader, I go through many books in a year (50-70 novels), and I have not been happy with DRM (so many reading apps I have to have on my iPad!), so I will be sure to puruse the author lists for ToR/Forge.

    It would be very nice, especially for the sorts of books that ToR/Forge publishes, if the backcover/dust jacket blurb content were available on the ebook (I don’t know if ToR currently does this). Espeically when reading series authors’ books, it would be very helpful to be able at a glance realize which book of the author’s many titles deals with humans colonizing a world run by sentient flamigos compared to the book where sentient penguins take over a human multi-generational spaceship.

  43. When the other major publishers follow suit, will there be another accusation of collusion?

    @jelmore49 I read the announcement as it would keep selling ebooks through the current vendors, but that this move will open up the option to add vendors they couldn’t use before because they only sell non-DRM ebooks.

  44. Speaking solely as one who would NEVER violate copyright, I applaud Tor’s move. DRM always seemed like a way to punish the law-abiding. Pirates will figure out a way around any such blockades. The ones who get hurt are the ones like me, who wouldn’t pirate anyway.

  45. Finally. It never stopped any book from being stolen. It only stopped honest customers from making choices. For instance I don’t have to buy all my Tor books from Amazon now because of know DRM. I have always felt DRM did more to help Amazon than anything else. I never bought anywhere else because I wanted the ease of putting it on my Kindle.

  46. jelmore49, i was confused at first, too. i think it’s saying “yay! we can now sell in places that won’t sell DRM-ed books” not, “we will stop selling in places that sell DRM-ed books.” The latter doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a business perspective.

  47. Great news! Here’s hoping other publishers follow suit.

    (And here’s hoping we also start to see some movement on the issue of region-locking, although I suspect that’s a whole different and much larger can of worms. I want to own an ecopy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, dammit!)

  48. I’m out of shelf space at home (half my library is already double-stacked), so I’ve switched to ebooks, and I find them very convenient. My policy is to buy new ones with DRM if that’s the only way I can get them, but I will convert existing books to electronic form if I can get them DRM-free. (I then haul the physical ones off to a friend who sells used books.) This means I can start converting a whole lot of Tor books to electronic form and freeing up shelf space. So this is a big win for me, and will provide extra income for Tor as well.

  49. Two comments/thoughts:

    1) Stripping DRM is in no way difficult, especially these days with a nifty little toolchain you can download. This is in fact the only way I could get one ebook onto my reader because the author self-published and only published it for Amazon with DRM.

    2) Do you have any idea if Tor is going to allow customers who previously purchased DRM copies to get unencumbered copies? And how will this play into library e-lending programs, which often rely on DRM so that given ebook copies are only checked out for a limited time to a limited number of people?

    This is awesome news, though, and it’s nice to see Tor doing this. That’s at least two big SF houses now on the no-DRM bandwagon.

  50. Finally, the publishers are getting behind a winning strategy. I’ll be happy to support DRM-free ebooks once they become available.

    Now I hope they add the second half of the equation – providing a one-time-use download code with every physical copy of the book sold. I’d be willing to pay a bit more for the physical book if it came as a bundle, rather than forcing me to pick the format, or pay twice….

  51. This addresses one of the major reasons I have been reluctant to move to ebooks. I had no interest in being restricted to one format and the possibility of losing my library with a change of device.

  52. Piracy will be about the same, DRM is already trivially easy to strip with some moderate google-fu. What might go up a bit is casual book sharing between small groups of people. Of course this occurs with paper books but its more difficult to loan a paper book and keep a copy. I suspect this is the reason the publishers stayed with DRM. Of course this same discussion applies to music and that has been DRM free for a while.

    Hopefully they will find that treating their customers like customers will result in a positive cash flow. In addition breaking theereader lockin is great.

  53. Great news and, I hope, a way for savvy specialist bookstores to compete if this does become a trend. Right now, ebooks are still a minority of sales, but I’ve been worried about what happens when they become a majority – this points to a future where independents can sell books on an equal footing with chains at least as far as ability to distribute titles is concerned and that’s nothing but good.

  54. As a consumer, I like this. As a writer and seller of engineering software, I do not like this. I’ve been told that the two paths do not cross, I’m not sure about that.

  55. I think this is a great thing and I really hope other publishers follow suit. I have now bought two copies of Old Man’s War. One paperback that I gave to a friend and one eBook when I wanted to re-read it. I bought it for the Nook and ended up losing it on a trip. Fortunately Barnes and Noble is nice enough to develop an app for the iPad so I am still able to read my Nook purchases.

    DRM only punishes the consumer because there is always a way to bypass it for those who want to steal.

  56. This is an excellent development, and I will support this action with my book-buying dollars

  57. Glory, Hallelujah!

    And…
    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

    BRING DOWN THE HAMMER!!!

    (And, there are a lot of jackasses out there who could afford to buy but choose not to; and there are jackasses who’ll rip off other people’s work and sell them, pocketing the cash. Have no problem with publishers bringing down trouble on those fools).

  58. My quick thoughts:
    1) Yay, I can finally start seeking out backlists without having to dread the, *ahem* porting process to move them to my reader of choice
    2) The announcement says “by early July the entire list of ebooks will be DRM free”… so, going out on a limb: new releases coming out before July may come out DRM free? Or do we think they may wait and do a rollout of all titles at once?

  59. This is another reason why I like Mr. Scalzi. Well said, and a great step. Maybe I can start thinking about getting an e-Reader and not be afraid what will happen if that company goes under. Woo-hoo!

  60. If I’m on the fence about buying a book, the ease or difficulty of getting rid of the DRM is usually a deciding factor. I don’t mind spending a few bucks on an author I’ve never read before, but I do mind wasting my time convincing files for which I paid money that I have the right to look at them.

    So this move on Tor’s part is very likely to result in me buying more of their books–not just as a one-time, day-this-takes-effect show of support, but as a steady, long-term consequence of them making their books more convenient to me as a consumer.

  61. This will definitely influence my desire to buy books from Tor/Forge, all other considerations being equal.

    1. Will Tor/Forge start selling the books through their own site?
    2. Will this change be retroactive? Can I download a new copy of my old Tor/Forge books without DRM?

  62. Hmm. Let’s look a the phrasing. “by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free.” Note that they do not say “as of July 15 Tor is going DRM-free.”

    It sounds to me like they’re beginning a transition now or soon, and that the expected date for completing that transition is the end of 2Q2012. My guess would be that they wouldn’t set up any new publications with DRM, only to have to take it off again, but I don’t know.

    John Scalzi, do you? Will Redshirts be available DRM-free starting June 4?

  63. I don’t expect this to have much immediate impact on me, because I strip DRM from books as soon as I buy them (because it irritates me and because I bought a few books from B&N that I couldn’t otherwise read). However, it would be nice if Tor were able to come back in a year and say “We dropped DRM and our sales are doing just fine”, because that’s the sort of thing that people need to hear.

  64. Xopher:

    I don’t know if Redshirts will debut DRM-free. I have asked for it to be so. If it’s not, it’s likely an artifact of where it is in its production cycle, and/or an issue with the retailers themselves.

  65. Hallelujah!

    The Church of Kopimism agrees! DRM is evil, and the act of CTRL + C and CTRL + V is sacred!

    (Sorry, just read the article about Kopimism right before heading to Whatever, and I just couldn’t resist…;-)

  66. YES! I THINK this should solve a problem for handicapped folks that REALLY gets under my skin! My husband is legally blind and uses a reader called a Victor Stream that plays audio books (such as the Library of Congress or Audible) but also has a decent text-to-speech reader that enables him to “read” a wider variety of books. I BUY e-books, and I think I should be able to put them onto his reader as well as mine, but I cannot because of DRM. He has no other way to access this wider field of reading. BRING IT ON! (We will always have cheaters, and as soon as you come up with a security measure someone will find a way around it. To counter that probably the most effective measures might be better ethics training or capital punishment. Take your pick.)

  67. Good for Tor in leading the way on this. It’s smart for them, and it’s the right thing to do. Win/win.

    When my Kindle broke, I wanted to replace it with a Sony e-reader, but I was afraid to because I didn’t think I’d be able to transfer my existing library of DRM-protected books to it without going through a great deal of trouble. In the end, I reluctantly bought another Kindle.

    If/when DRM goes away, I will feel freer to buy whatever e-reader I want and to buy books from whichever bookseller I want, without fear that the books I’ve purchased will become inaccessible to me.

  68. Cheers to Tor. This is the kind of move that all the publishers need to do to avoid the situation of having only one bookstore (Amazon) left. I’ve been buying from Baen for years because of their no-DRM policy. Now I’ll also happily add Tor e-books to the list (while a list of one is technically a list, a list of two feels more like a list). While I love Amazon, having no choices in bookstores is a bad thing.

  69. Devin:

    “And how will this play into library e-lending programs, which often rely on DRM so that given ebook copies are only checked out for a limited time to a limited number of people?”

    It’s irrelevant, at present, because Macmillan doesn’t allow libraries to circulate their ebooks.

  70. Charles Stross asks: “Who gains? And Why?” and answers: “They [voracious users] will go to whatever retailer they can find online, and they find DRM a royal pain in the ass — indeed, a deterrent to buying ebooks at all.”

    Yep. Market segments like my mother. She hates going through different steps to read books with different DRM schemes on her Nook (B&N, Adobe, ‘Library’ Adobe). She just wants things to work the same regardless of the supplier, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t be set up that way.

    Personally, I find the issue of format obsolescence most troubling with DRM. Most users (those who don’t remove the DRM encryption), will lose all their purchased ‘books’ when their DRM’d file is no longer supported and/or they forget their passphrase.

  71. I welcome this news, as it will assist in there being a stronger and better ecosystem for books. However as a non-US English reader in a jurisdiction that has made it legal to remove DRM for fair use purposes (and who has spent the 10 minutes required to set up Calibre + add-ins), my primary issue will continue to be with geo-restrictions. There is no quick fix for that issue at the selling end, unfortunately. I don’t expect to run out of products to buy without faffing about to lie to retailers, so I will continue my current approach of not setting up geo-workarounds.

  72. If it’s not, it’s likely an artifact of where it is in its production cycle, and/or an issue with the retailers themselves

    Should be the latter; the publishers don’t do the DRM themselves. Contractual issues are another issue, however.

    While I am terribly delighted about this, I’m not sure how it’s going to really affect anyone. And… will the DRM-lack be noted wherever I buy the book?

    (Before today, I did not know that Powell’s sold ebooks. I look forward to being able to buy from them in the near future. So I suppose that is a way I will be affected…)

  73. With a big time publisher like Tor following in Baen’s footsteps, hopefully the rest of the publishing world will wake up and smell the coffee and see how authors from Cory Doctorow to J. K. Rowling have thrived without DRM. DRM provides just enough hindrance to be a nuisance to honest users but never was and never will be a serious threat to pirates. The very exigencies required of any of its myriad implementations make it a bad security joke. Hooray to Tom Doherty Associates for having the sense to leave the DRM Titanic.

  74. Steve Boyette at 3:44 –
    From Charlie Stross’s excellent (if currently truncated) post (which he says he will fix as soon as he gets home):

    “4. Effects of removing DRM on the supply chain

    (Firstly, I’d like to note that the Macmillan experience with dropping the mandatory requirement for DRM on audio books can’t be taken as a useful indicator. The main retailers of audio books, Apple and Audible, refuse to ship DRM-free audio books. Therefore DRM-free audio books remained essentially unavailable to the public.)”

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2012/04/more-on-drm-and-ebooks.html

  75. Note that quite a few publishers use Baen’s storefront to sell DRM-free books. Including Ace, Night Shade Books, and, at one point, Tor. (When the press release mentioned retailers who don’t do DRM, my assumption is that this means going back to Baen’s storefront.)

  76. I have to say my wife and I are not early adopters by any means, and we purchase books in the higher range as mentioned by C.S. I love my paperbacks as once I’ve bought it I can read it wherever & whenever I want (as long as there are no floods/fires or sudden blindness). I toyed with the idea of using my ipod touch to read off of, but I just prefer a book in my hand I suppose.
    If it the removal of DRM goes across all publishers I might be encouraged to purchase electronically, but I just prefer the physical books more.

  77. This is stonkingky excellent news, and I wish to state my thanks to Messrs. Doherty, Stross, Scalzi, Doctorow and a cast of thousands who have not lived in vain.

    The biggest objection I’ve held to acquiring a shiny reader and a gazillion e-titles (probably incurring another small nation’s debt in the process as well :-) has had a large brick removed from its corner.

    It smells like freedom … and opportunity.

    P.S. John, I luuurrve comment-preview capability. Thanks 2x!

  78. DRM is the biggest reason I have not yet picked up an e-reader. Why buy books (or software, or anything else, really) if you aren’t allowed to actually OWN them? So this is indeed welcome news. I hope other publishers follow suit.

  79. People who read John Scalzi with pleasure are the kind of people who will find a way to pay Mr. Scalzi, and our other favourite live authors, to keep writing. This change in restrictions on e-books will make me buy more e-books, because I can be confident of keeping them yet they won’t add clutter.

  80. Absolutely excellent news. Regardless of what business reasons lay behind this (and of there are, and should be), this is a wonderful development.

  81. Mr. Scalzi, I’ve bought several of your books. I don’t think I’ve pirated any of them, but I may have. I’ve certainly pirated plenty of books both electronically and by, you know, the old fashioned way of checking them out of that rascally institution called the Public Library.

    Dropping DRM isn’t going to make it any more difficult for me to download ebooks, or to share the ones I buy with others. It is, quite literally, a three click process. It will make me more likely to allocate my book buying budget to Tor/Forge published books, and my piracy to others.

  82. I’m really excited and interested by your statement acknowledging that “Most people just want to own their damn books.” Do you happen know if this policy change is expected to make purchasers the legal owners of a copy of their books, as they are for paper volumes? Or is it just going to remove some of the technical restrictions that make it obvious that they’re not?

    Can buyers of future Macmillian e-books expect to exercise all the rights of first sale that publishers were forced to accept for physical books more than a century ago? Can we sell the e-book if we don’t like it? Lend it to a friend if we do? Give it to a library fundraiser? Will it to our heirs?

    Or will we continue to deal with the crippling “licenses” that purport to take away all those rights, based on the legal theory (now often a legal fiction), that simply reading e-book files require the creation of one or more “transient copies,” and the courts’ findings that publishers can license the creation of those transient copies in any way they wish?

    Most importantly, will finally allow the creation of resale market where I can buy a used e-book for cash, without giving anyone with enough interest a list of all the writers whose thoughts I’ve ever found interesting?

    One one of these alternative represents a real change and a return to acknowledging the role that uncontrolled, unhindered, and most of all, _private_ reading has in maintaining our democracy. The other, well, perhaps it will make Big Brother and his little, commercial Sis smell a bit less offensive as they dig themselves into their perch on our shoulders.

  83. Awesome, saves me the step of stripping it off. Now if they would do the same for Audible books I would save even more time (I easily remove it from them too).

  84. Does this mean it’s easier for someone to violate my copyright? It does.

    It’s rather hard to imagine how much easier it could have been than it already was. The folks who had the technical wherewithal to put books on their e-readers other than via clicking the B&N or Amazon links already well knew where to find things if they wanted them. Removing the DRM from Kindle books is available in a multitude of ways for anyone who cares to do it, some of them one-click solutions.

  85. Oh, for an edit button. Sorry for the typos and the length of my rant above. The only error that changed much meaning: I meant to say “Most importantly _to_me_, will this finally allow the creation of a resale market…”

  86. In the last few seconds my CC has been charged for my first e-ink based reader, and I am very excited. It was this announcement from Tor/Forge that was the deciding factor. And John (Mr. Scalzi, how do I address you properly as a long time reader but very rare poster?) if you have any pull in your world (which I am betting you do) and if you get to read this feel free to stress how important this decision was in my purchase both of a new device and many books to come by both you and many other authors

    On top of all those new books though, let me say that with this announcement I will also be purchasing more then a few new copies of books that I already own for my new device. I am normally a stingy, miserly bastard, but I firmly believe that this move from Tor/Forge is a great one and will vote with as many dollars as my partner will let me spend on new books and books I already own in hard-copy so long as they remain in DRM-free formats. Tell it far and wide when people like me as fans are making second and third purchases of the same book it is worth noting in the publishing world. People who watch consumption habits in order to profit from them should take note when I will and when I won’t do this.

    Thanks for the wonderful writing, incisive commentary, and being a delight in my life.
    Hybridan

  87. I didn’t consider that Tor’s announcement would have meant opening up new venues for distribution, as opposed to closing existing ones. Huzzah!
    Now, if I had an easy way to determine if the Redshirts that the iBookstore has will be DRM-free (as John himself pointed out earlier, it may be too far in the proverbial distribution channel for that to change). If not, it’s no big deal; there’s more than one ePub vendor out there.

  88. Devin@3:04: I’d expect publishers who go DRM-free for sales to individuals to still use DRM on library books, or if they’re selling the library a DRM-free copy, require the library to apply DRM for patron checkouts.

    If I’m checking out a book from the library, the DRM may be annoying, but I’m getting to read the book for free, so I don’t mind its being there. I feel very differently about DRM on a book I’m actually purchasing for myself.

  89. This’ll definitely save me that extra step of removing the DRM myself when I want to read a book I purchased across my Sony reader, Android tablet, and Android (soon to be Apple) phone. I really like the idea of buy once, keep anywhere. I’ll be ecstatic when publishers figure out a way to include digital copies with the purchase of physical copies of books, so my physical library can grow with my digital one.

  90. This is good news. I don’t like stripping the DRM in order to put stuff on my Nook so I can buy the book from whoever has the lowest price. The fact that I have to have 6 ebook apps on my phone and tablet so that I can read the books I’ve purchased is a symptom of the problem. Anyone that removes that hassle for me earns a gratuitous book sale.

  91. John Scalzi said:

    But most people don’t want to violate my copyright. Most people just want to own their damn books.

    Two sentences. Infinite amount of truth.

  92. I am happy to pay a second time (third in the case of some novels I have in audio book as well) for a much beloved novel as an e-book if it’s not chained to a particular reader or app by DRM. So I hope other publishers follow Tor’s lead!

    And thank you for the link to Charles Stross’ article. So fascinating to hear his arguments for removing DRM from the business standpoint!

  93. After 12 years I can finally buy Tor books again! I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

  94. About 2 weeks ago I ALMOST bought an ereader. It was in the cart and everything…and then I didn’t go through with it, because thinking of stripping DRM off pissed me off. (And I have a tech background! It’s not like doing it would be HARD for me.)

    Now, between this announcement from Tor and the Nook Glow (as I’m calling it) coming out next month, I’ll be getting my very first ereader at the crusty age of 29. It’ll be a perfect unity of exactly what I want in ereader hardware married to ebooks that have no DRM. It will have Tor books on it, and I think Baen books too. And best of all, I won’t have to fiddle with changing formats or stripping DRM. I’ll just give my money to those who save me that hassle by never putting DRM in there in the first place.

    Yaayayayayayay! ::muppet flail::

  95. If the DRM-free trend continues, I might actually start buying e-books instead of paperbacks. So far I’ve mostly avoided ebooks because I’m not willing to buy books attached to a specific device. I suspect the same is true of plenty of people.

  96. just plain awesome. I have an e-reader but DRM does make me use it less than I would otherwise. I am so buying Redshirts in a DRM free copy…

  97. I think Charlie’s analysis nailed it. Amazon was using DRM to monopolize ebooks to their hardware, which would do nothing harm people who read, people who write books, and people who make a living publishing them. i..e it helped Amazon but hurt everyone else.

    Dropping DRM is the only way I can see to break that monopoly, which will be good for people who read, people who write, and publishers. i.e. good for everyone, and in the long run still good for Amazon, just not as good for them if they had monopolized the ebook market.

    From a book-buyer perspective, I will echo the sentments expressed by many already. I haven’t bought ebooks mostly because I fear the DRM will tie the book to obsolete hardware or be revoked at the whim of the ereader hardware. So, this is definitely cool in more ways than one.

  98. Dropping DRM may help diminish the Amazon dominance of the ebook retail scene, but only a little bit. Even though it will now be possible for Kindle owners to buy Kindle books from Tor (and presumably the rest of Macamillan and eventually other major publishers) from other retailers, if the price is the same at all retailers, why would they give up the convenience of the wireless downloads and the knowledge that they can redownload at any time, and that if they only buy from Amazon they can’t accidentally buy two editions of the same ebook (OK, that probably only happens to people with hundreds or thousands of books, like me).

    Amazon is not just selling the ebook, they’re selling an ecosystem of easy book buying, large selection, exclusive titles, and when possible, aggressive discounting because their overhead is one of the lowest in the industry. Publisher mandated DRM guaranteed a lock-in of their ebook ereaders, but dropping DRM doesn’t change the other reasons why Amazon was successful at garnering a majority of ereader buyers. If the publishers really want to even the playing field, they should only sell industry standard ebook editions (e.g., epub and pdf) in order to prevent to lock in customers with proprietary formats.

  99. Huzzah! I buy e-products encumbered with DRM about as often and as willingly as I buy physical products encumbered with dung, so Tor is in for quite a lot of my custom in the immediate future. I give thanks and so do my bookshelves.

  100. This is excellent news. I own a Cybook Gen ereader and can’t count the number of times I’ve wanted to buy a book by Tor/Forge and have been unable to do so because I couldn’t get one that I could read on my reader. (I bought a Cybook because I object to being tied in by hardware to any one retailer.) Since buying my ereader I have nevertheless become a confirmed ebook fan. So Tor can expect a great deal more of my custom as I replace my old paperbacks and buy new in ebook format.

  101. Well chuffed. I do a lot of my reading on my phone because it’s small, backlit, and always with me, but I tend to buy a paper copy of a book, then illegally download the ebook because DRM laden ebooks are such a pain to get on my phone. Now I can stop filling my flat with paper!

  102. I’m thrilled to hear this. I have a Kindle, an iPod Touch, an Entourage Edge, and an iPad 2. I’ll buy the DRM free version from now on (which I’m assuming will be ePUB) and read it on whatever device I can. As much as I love new gadgets, I’m tired of walled gardens. Also, I’ll probably be buying more books from Tor because of this. I have a friend who will only buy DRM free books. He’ll be happy to hear this news. My respect for Tor went up when they started the Tor site, and has only increased since. They’ve now hit another high point with me.

  103. I have admired Tom Doherty for decades, as did my science fiction book editor father. This is a bold decision, which I strongly endorse. I hope that other publishers see the light… and that your own e-book and hardcopy book sales increase!

  104. @Bruce:
    Look at how JK Rowling does it with Pottermore: It integrates into the Kindle-experience (including wireless transfer and re-download whenever you want).

  105. I dislike Amazon because of their attempts to tie writers and publishers to the Kindle, but they may have actually been doing me a favour. I am sure the actions of Amazon and others have had a fair bit to do with TORs decision to drop DRM.

    At the moment a lot of people own Kindles, the only DRM Kindles support is Amazons, which means that if Amazon decide not to carry an eBook that immediately moves a large number of possible book sales. I am sure TOR, or any other publisher does not relish putting themselves in a position where they can effectively be blackmailed by a distributor into accepting unfavorable terms. Publishing books without DRM effectively takes control away from Amazon and puts it back in the hands of the publishers and writers where it belongs.

  106. Yeesh, that’s a lot of comments!
    My .02: finally! I hate hate hate the fact I’m forced to buy the same product more than once if I want it on more than 1 device. In fact, I desperately wish when you bought a hardcopy version of the book, you got the ebook free. I don’t know how many times I’ve bought a book, put it on my shelf, then bought the ebook so I could read it on the go and conveniently. I scour used bookstores for copies of books I’ve read on ebook so I can have a physical version.

    I’m all for authors getting paid! They should be paid MORE! But between DRM and absurd pricing for ebooks, publishers are just shooting themselves in the foot. More and more new authors are self-publishing for these reasons.

  107. I purchase almost all my books from Baen because they are not DRM and I can sideload them to my Nook. Looks like now I can add Tor to my preferred site.

  108. As someone else mentioned earlier, at one time at least some Tor titles were available through Baen’s Webscriptions store. The Tor announcement says that the no-DRM books will be available through the same range of retailers as currently carry their ebooks. Would there be a chance that the Baen site might carry them again? They’re not a current carrier, but they have in the past, and I for one am very comfortable doing business with that site.

  109. Sounds great. This will definitely get me, a voracious mid-list reader, to buy Tor books rather than pirating them. I have no illusions that my pirating books is ok but when the pirates make the process of finding, acquiring, and loading ebooks vastly easier and faster than my having to buy the book, find a (illegal) program to strip the DRM, and then transfer it to my reader I’m also not going to jump through the hoops. If I’m being forced to do something illegal either way I’ll choose the illegal act that is more convenient to me.

  110. I buy you’re books because you are a great author. I buy additional used books you wrote to give to friends, which in turn, grows your readership by them buying your new books. This is great for paper copies, but what happens in the world of digital books? I’m not saying I’m going to be handing out free digital copies of your work, but there should be a way to share books with other readers. If digital copies are cheap enough, I’ll just buy gift copies for them, and a DRM free file makes this much easier since I shouldn’t have to know which specific device they will be using to read your fine stories on.

  111. I will tell you right now that it will increase my purchases of their books. To date I have refused to pay more than $2.99 for any book with DRM. Basically, because it is little more than a rental if it includes DRM. I have purchased plenty of e-books for more than that price, but they have all been directly from the author or from Baen, which doesn’t have DRM.

    I am looking forward to buying Redshirts as an e-book.

  112. As Sean said, Baen was there first. They have ploughed a lonely furrow for years, but can’t realistically be called a major publisher (yes I know who their owners are). And Tor did dip their toe in the water with Baen for awhile, so they have some experience of DRM-free.

  113. Maybe a stupid question. I have the choice to buy “Redshirts” as eBook or as printed book. Since it really does not matter to me:
    What’s better for you (John Scalzi) earnings wise ? Or is there no difference ?

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