A Quick Followup to Today’s Redshirts Madness

Today has been flat-out the most interesting — and ultimately the most gratifying — book release dates I’ve had, and a lot of people are responsible for it.

As a recap for the folks who need recapping: My new book Redshirts came out today, and in its eBook format it was supposed to go out without digital rights management added to it. But when the book was released we found out that several of the major online bookstores had (for whatever reason) swaddled the book in DRM, contrary to our desires. Readers informed me, I informed Tor, Tor’s digital folks went into overdrive, both talking to the retailers to get the DRM switched off, and offering DRM-free replacement files for the people who had bought the book with it switched on. All within the space of hours.

Redshirts going out with the DRM switched on had the potential to be, bluntly, a major screw-up, but at the end of the day I think it turned into a textbook example of how to address a potential problem head on and fix it quickly and fairly for readers and buyers of the eBook.

To that end, I have people to thank.

First, thank you to everyone, here and on Twitter, who quickly reported about when and where they found DRM’d copies of Redshirts. It allowed me to give a usefully complete picture of the problem to the folks at Tor.

Second, thank you to my editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who found about the problem for me pretty much at the moment he woke up, and who started working to fix the problem roughly half a second later.

Third, thank you to Tor/Macmillan’s digital folks, and in particular Hillary Veith and Daniel Schwartz, who made contacting the retailers and offering an easy e-mail fix to affected readers their priority for the day.

Fourth, thanks to those retailers who helped to resolve the issue on their end and especially those who will follow up with their customers, so they can have the DRM-free experience they were promised.

Finally, thanks to Tor and to Macmillan for moving at unheard-of speeds to fix the problem. From my point of view, this wasn’t just a technical issue, this was my book, bought by my readers, on its release day. To have the problem recognized, addressed and solved within hours was a huge relief to me, and also showed that Tor/Macmillan are serious about this DRM-free initiative of theirs. That makes me happy, and I think should make readers happy.

And now I am going to have a cookie. Maybe even two. I deserve them, damn it.

36 thoughts on “A Quick Followup to Today’s Redshirts Madness

  1. I love “great customer service” stories. I can only hope that the customer servers of the future are reading them and learning.

  2. Kudos to you and to Tor for working hard to set things right with your readers.

    I still haven’t found any retailers online that are definitely selling no-fuss, no-DRM Redshirts epubs directly yet. If anyone’s found one, I’d love to hear about it. (Or if the folks at Tor accepting purchase receipts will also accept checks, I’d be happy to send my $11.99 straight to them. Though I suspect that’d be too much trouble for them to handle until they’ve got their bookstore properly set up.)

  3. I got Redshirts from Amazon this morning….and finished it this evening. Pure gold as usual. Hope the DRM issue gets fully corrected quickly.

  4. Very, very classy, what you all did today. I hope this goes well so that other publishers will try this, too.

    We all deserve a cookie. You deserve, like, 6, today.

  5. I just downloaded Redshirts from B&N again and it is now DRM free so anyone who bought from them can do the same.
    You deserve ice cream too.

  6. Gotta say, even though I didn’t buy the ebook version, this whole thing has caused my respect for Tor to go up a few notches. And I thought that was already pegged at max. Guess not.

  7. Found an error: Search for “off, Kerensky told them.” I believe in context this should be Jenkins.

    Otherwise, enjoyed it. Thank you for Coda 3.

  8. I rather wanted to buy the ebook, just to encourage the ebook stats, but.. you’ll have to live w/ a hardcover purchase. I can’t show the book off to friends on the ipad as easily as the hardcover!

    Thank you Tor et al :)

  9. I guess here is a good a place as any to say I loved the book. You will be signing it Friday. That is all.

  10. Despite my deep affection for my e-book reader I will be buying a paper copy, what I’m really waiting for is the day when I can buy e-books from my small local bookstore.

  11. This passion to look after your readers and personal ownership of an issue is magnificent….so how do we get to have this level of attention when we live outside of the US??? November release…PAH!

  12. Finished Redshirts this morning, John. Nicely done. That third coda was my favorite.

  13. MikeB, ask your local bookstore about partnering with Google eBooks. As long as your bookstore has a website, it’s an option. That’s how my local store is selling them.

  14. @ Galena:

    I buy nearly all of my ebooks from one of my local bookstores via Google, but we need to enjoy it while we can. Google has announced that they’re ending those partnerships next January.

    The ABA (American Booksellers Association) is working on something via IndieCommerce to take that role, but I haven’t seen any details yet.

  15. John, just received my DRM free copy from MacMillan. Very impressed with how quickly this was resolved by you and your publisher.

  16. I’m not through with Redshirts yet, just on chapter 6. It’s all very…meta…somehow. Because the characters aren’t really “redshirts”. They’re named characters and at least the viewpoint character is almost certainly safe until the last chapter…or maybe not, depending on how tricky Scalzi is getting. In any event, the premise is rather self-subverting. I like it.

  17. I bought the audio version and have been having a great time listening during my daily driving time. It seems like the character voices aren’t as personalized as they were in the audiobook of “Agent to the Stars”, but it’s still a great listen.

    Sadly, I bought from Amazon, which meant Audible, which meant a lot of research and effort to figure out how to convert it so I could listen to it on the device I use in my car. Totally my fault for not researching more beforehand – I’m fairly sure I was able to get DRM-free output from Audible the one other time I’ve used it, but I couldn’t find the option once I’d bought this (unless I wanted to inflict iTunes on my computer and then burn a large number of CDs). I really need to find some better ways to get audiobooks.

  18. The feedback that I got from BooksOnBoard was that they were selling what they got from Macmillan’s distributor. I guess that Kindle is the only eBook that most people are aware of in the United States so it was the only one released as DRM free. Every other site I saw listed Redshirts as Adobe DRM in ePub.

  19. So, I just had an exchange with this guy in Germany, where they don’t have access to Redshirts eBooks yet. They can’t get it because it’s not being released on Amazon or iTunes until November 15th. I suggested that he get someone in the US to buy it for him, like it was a physical book, because, hey, it’s DRM-free, and not being able to do stuff like that is one of the big problems with DRM. He comes back and says that it’s still watermarked with the buyer’s name… I’ll have to check on that when I get home and can poke around in the file.

    So what’s the scoop, is it watermarked, and either way… what should people in a situation like that do?

  20. Thank you and thank all your minions…I mean helpers who resolved this so quickly. I sent my email and had a nice DRM-free file in my inbox shortly thereafter. Quite a pleasing customer experience.

  21. I bought the Audible version because Scalzi + Wheaton = Whezi. Um, maybe I did the math wrong, but whatever.

    I may be forced to purchase a digital copy so my wife will read it too. ;)

  22. It’s listed on |iBooks for release in the UK on November 15. The wretched Germans get it on November 12 (schwein!). I guess it will be DRM free if its on iBooks. Also Tor/Froge bookstore will go live in UK in July with DRM free which is excellent news.

  23. Downloaded the Audible version as soon as Audible woke up…Great listen and good price..thanks to the publishers who set a reasonable price.
    What can I say that hasn’t been said? After listening to the book, I spent the next night thinking about it. Thats a good thing.
    Scalzi and Wheaton rule the audiobook field.

  24. The iTunes store is now drm free, and a friend who got it from the google play store said the same was true there. Neato!

  25. I read about Redshirts on another blog I’m following and got interested. Alas, when I went to Amazon’s webstore to buy it for my Kindle, it lists it as preorder and release date for 15th November (I’m in Finland, if that matters).

    Then I tried following the links from this site, but didn’t find any “click here to send us your money and receive a mobi in return” button anywhere. I guess I’ll just have to skip this one… Unless anyone can point me to a place that sells a DRM free Kindle-friendly version?

  26. OK, so: I own all the OMW books in dead-tree versions. Any way to get some DRM-free Kindle versions without having to pay again? Without, that is, resorting to, um, “unsavory websites”?

  27. Oh, and BTW, all of my paper versions were purchased from UK booksellers, while my electronic editions (“Redshirts”, “Android’s Dream”, “You’re Not Fooling Anyone…”) all came from the US version of Amazon.com. Because I’m in the military, you see, stationed in England, and I only recently got the Kindle…

  28. The genesis of Redshirts is obviously Galaxy Quest’s Guy Fleegman: “I’m not even supposed to be here. I’m just “Crewman Number Six.” I’m expendable. I’m the guy in the episode who dies to prove how serious the situation is. I’ve gotta get outta here.”

    That, in itself, isn’t “bad”; however, the theme is handled with more depth and finesse by Jonathan Carroll in his classic “Land of Laughs”.

    As a toss-away TV SF parody, Redshirts is OK…but the book is essentially unoriginal and kind of boringly obvious. I guess, we must all sit and wait for the next Old Man’s War…. And wait…and wait….

  29. Martin Gersa:

    “The genesis of Redshirts is obviously Galaxy Quest’s Guy Fleegman”

    Yeah, it’s really not. Wikipedia will help you there.

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