Reminder: Free eBooks from Tor

I mentioned last week about how Tor was giving away free eBooks of popular titles (including Old Man’s War) to those folks who signed up to receive a newsletter; well, the e-mail about first of these titles, Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris Mistborn, just showed up in my mail queue. It’s a PDF file, and it looks pretty much as if it were taken from the production layout, so it’s a nice job. And it’s definitely DRM free: Fiddle with it to your heart’s content for your own personal use. Please don’t drop it onto BitTorrent. Having people drop an e-mail for free eBooks really isn’t too much to ask — and since I know what’s planned for, I can assure you it’s going to be something people who love science fiction and fantasy are going to want to get an e-mail about when it happens. Everybody wins!

OMW is going to be next week’s free eBook (and several others are planned after that), so it’s not too late to sign up and get that. Tor is also sweetening the deal by entering each e-mail into its “Watch the Skies” Sweepstakes, in which the prize is one of those very sweet Asus EEE 4GB Galaxy Mobile PCs, as long as you sign up by 11:59pm Eastern tonight (that’s February 15, 2008) on May 15, 2008 (I’m clearly having trouble with details today). The details of the sweepstakes are here. I see that since technically I’m not an employee of Macmillan, I’m eligible to win (yay!), but since it would also look very bad if one of the participating authors won the prize, I’ll just unilaterally exempt myself from participation (sigh). Sometimes having ethics sucks.

In any event, if you want the eBook of Old Man’s War, remember to sign up, sooner than later. Also remember that if you enjoy the works in the free eBooks you’re getting, to seek out and buy other works from those authors. Their families and mortgages will thank you for such tender attentions.

45 Comments on “Reminder: Free eBooks from Tor”

  1. Oh, hum… Beware, worldwide geeks, that only US residents can enter the sweepstakes. Too bad.

    Well, at least, kudos to Tor for allowing anyone with an email addy to subscribe and receive the free e-books! Great job.

  2. I was sent Mistborn (a novel of Elantris). This made me happy as I’ve already read Elantris. Thanks for the tip, John!!

  3. According to the email I received the sweepstakes “ends 11:59 A.M. (ET) on May 15, 2008.”
    And the first ebook is Mistborn: The Final Empire, not Elantris.

    That said, as I wrote before, I’ll be more than happy to buy unDRMed ebooks from Tor; if their reasonably priced (~5-6$) it’ll be cheaper and faster than ordering them from amazon or similar websites.

  4. @Irene Delse: I’d like to stress the “reasonably priced” bit.

    See for example the “Off Armageddon Reef” case. IIRC, David Weber always insists on keeping the electronic rights for his books. When he signed a contract with Tor for his newest series, he managed to put the ebook on sale through the Baen’s Webscription, but it was priced 18 dollars!
    I’d really like to know if anyone ever bought it.

  5. Re buying other books–I’m pretty sure I won’t be reading 654 pages on my computer. If I like the beginning of the free Mistborn, I’ll probably have to go buy it to finish it.

  6. The price is my major beef about e-books. A friend recently bought the new Sony book reader, and I have to admit that I was hugely tempted. Then I went to the Sony bookstore and found that the books were not enough cheaper than the paper versions to make it worthwhile for me. I want to own both paper and electronic versions, but I can’t justify the expense of both. Oh well. I’ll take unDRM’d ebooks and wish for an e-ink book reader…

  7. I already have an SFBC copy of OMW, so no real joy for me there. But I can only say, as a marketing technique, about damned time a SF publisher figured out the paradigm of:

    a) we probably already have all these volumes in an electronic format by the time we go to paper press,
    b) electronic copies really don’t “cost” anything,
    c) why not offer a coordinated scheme of free sample books so the readers of “type A” titles who’ve never heard of “Author B” might end up with a new favorite author whose titles said reader will then be willing to pay to read, either in e-form or in paper.

    hail yeah I signed up! Even if three out of four of the sample titles they offer are just so much “meh”, it won’t cost me anything to so discover, and I’ll damn sure be adding the name of the fourth writer out of the four to my “buy this author’s stuff” list.

  8. It seems, at least from where I sit, that Tor marketing has shown itself to be more capable than whoever is doing the hosting. I’m guessing a lot of people took advantage of the “Forward this” feature or something. Either way – the site is unreachable at this time. And I can get pretty much anywhere else so I’m surmising it is an issue with the site.

  9. I’m also not sure I’m going to read a novel on my computer, but I signed up anyway.

    I just might print it out, actually. Printed two-up and double-sided, 654 pages works out to 164 pieces of paper. That’s not too bad, really.

  10. On the subject of buying authors’ works, I just bought OMW from amazon; it seems they’re trying to liquidate their trade paperbacks, so it’s less than $4 right now. Yay!

  11. oooooo….. shiny!!

    Next week will rock, tho! Thanks for participating, John. I got hooked on OMW through SFBC and the rest is history.

    I have participated in Baen’s free library and usually end up buying the book after reading about 1/4 of it. It’s a great way to get a taste of the writer’s style.

  12. I’ll have to convert the pdfs into html or flat text for reading, because I prefer grey text on black background, no “pages” and the font I use in the terminal. Maybe things’ll be different if I ever get my paws on one of those nifty ebook readers that use the EInk display…

  13. Kerry 12, paragraph one, sentence 1

    The link at text “it’s not too late to sign up ” is not working.

    Yeah. The link is missing the dubby dubby dubby (www).

  14. That’s jacked – the email I got thanking me for signing up is formatted the same way – no “www” – and it shouldn’t be necessary. But apparently right now it is. Messy.

  15. @ Gianluca #7: Agreed. Putting ebook at the same price level as dead tree books strikes me as unreasonable. If I buy a book that is also a solid object, I can do more things than with an e-book: I can resell it, donate it to the library, get it autographed, etc. And it doesn’t need a reader or batteries!

  16. Natalie @9

    I have a Sony e-reader and you can buy books from other sites in RTF or PDF to read on it, although the PDF files are hard to read. I buy most of my books from and love their free library.

  17. PDF is basically a disaster for portable readers — as a Sony Reader fan, I was quite disappointed to see that PDF seems to be the only choice. But I’m sure that some enterprising person will convert it to a more useful format (or else perhaps I will when I have some free time).

    Ah, the fundamental truth of “free”: It isn’t so free if you have to waste otherwise valuable time to make the thing readable. It’s just that the non-freeness doesn’t go to Tor as money, but down the crapper as useless and redundant effort by would-be readers.

  18. You know what I’ve always thought would be good? A system of ebooks hosted on a server, wherein you could either buy the rights to read or buy the book itself and enter a special code unique to your book. You could then download it in a number of formats (like for the Palm) or read it right there on your computer. You could read your book anywhere without needing to tote the paper copy along.

    I mean, I love books. I love owning paper copies of good books. But I also like ebooks for portability. I would love to only have to buy one book and get all the formats, if you know what I mean.

  19. Julia — Fictionwise does the multiformat thing nicely, though only on a subset of their books (where they can get the rights, I suppose). Baen does multiformat fairly well. Doubtless Tor will follow suit, eventually.

    So far nobody has built an ebook-store-aggregating-thingy, so each store has a few books by a few publishers (or only one publisher). And there’s nothing like a standard set of formats and of course inter-converting, though easy, is totally illegal without the publisher’s okay.

    The result is that ebooks are either sold by the publishers (eg Baen) or by device vendors with deals with publishers (eg Sony, Amazon). The publishers of course have no interest in any sort of compatibility with other publishers, and in some cases have bought into ridiculous DRM snake-oil. The device vendors, of course, want to sell books DRM-locked to their own devices. Nobody is budging yet.

    That said, if you want to start such a company, I’m going to be looking for a job soon enough…

  20. Moronic tech question here: anyone know how to convert the PDF into, well…any format I can later convert into Palm/doc? Adobe had a seizure when I tried to convert 600+ pages into text, and I think my work will have a seizure if I print all those pages onto paper.

  21. Tor is to be commended for making this DRM free. I read ebooks on my Nokia 770 and to do that well I needed the text in, well, text form. I was able to do that in short order without hassle. And, no, I’m not about to share it out on Bittorrent. But it’s one of the huge advantages of having the PDF unprotected – you CAN convert it to a format better for your uses if you want to.

    Thanks Tor!

  22. Gianluca:
    Those $18 David Weber books are probably what Baen calls “ARC”s … “Advanced Reader Copies”. Basically, it lets people read the book before its printed/while it’s being writen or edited. Once the book is fully released, it drops down to the $5 or $6 range.

  23. “See for example the “Off Armageddon Reef” case. IIRC, David Weber always insists on keeping the electronic rights for his books. When he signed a contract with Tor for his newest series, he managed to put the ebook on sale through the Baen’s Webscription, but it was priced 18 dollars! I’d really like to know if anyone ever bought it.”

    This story is garbled, and it unfairly places the blame for the e-book price on David Weber and/or Baen.

    In fact, we (Tor) do have the e-text rights to Off Armageddon Reef, and as a kind of prelude to our plans to re-start our arrangement with Baen’s e-book store (which will happen as soon as various legal details get sorted out), we let them sell the e-text of Off Armageddon Reef, the debut novel in Weber’s Tor series. We set the price, and objections to that price should be directed to us, rather than to David Weber or Baen.

  24. @JamesC: no, it’s the proofed book, released in January 2007 at the same time of the hard cover, and it’s still priced 18$ even though the mass-market paperback was published last month and amazon sells it at 7.99$.

  25. Gianluca, see PNH comment directly above yours — it got stuck in moderation for some reason.

  26. @Patrick Nielsen Hayden: yes, I know the story, or at least the version of the story as reported by Baen’s Bar users.
    In my mind what I meant was that David Weber managed to release his book through the webscription even after the end of the short-lived “Tor Webscription,” but with a ridiculously high price imposed by Tor.
    What I effectively wrote is ambiguous, blame my limited English skills.

    I’m perfectly aware that Baen and David Weber have a really clear understanding of the possibilities offered by the net. Beside the webscription, just think of the Free Library, or the downloadable Baen CDs. That’s not the only field they’re pioneering, think of what they created with the 1632 series.

  27. Gianluca, PNH:
    Sorry, I was just guessing that it was an ARC :o) I’m sad to hear that the book really was $18 … I actually purchased a physical copy of Off Armageddon Reef for a flight to London, so I never even looked at the ebook price.

  28. Thank You Patrick,

    I always thought it was Tor’s decision, right or wrong. I didn’t buy the eBook of OAR because it was more than I paid for the HC and I just couldn’t justify that price for electrons.

    I bought the Stross books when things were open previously and will likely buy Tor ebooks again once they become available.

    I was very pleased with the new program, and hope it leads to a successful ebook business for Tor. Having said that, I hope in future there are plans to branch out into formats that are more usable on portable devices and at prices that are more likely to get customers to bite.

    Good luck with it.

  29. I received my email last night and downloaded the PDF. I’m happy to report that it is a clean PDF that converted nicely to HTML using pdftohtml on Ubuntu. It looks good in FBreader on my n800. Conversion to other formats should be straightforward.

    I’ve seen other PDFs that are hideous, particularly those created with Microsoft Word.

  30. I signed up last week, and just got my link to download Mistborn. Went there, downloaded it… wound up with a nice PDF of the cover, and 654 blank pages. What’s up with that?

  31. I too signed up a while ago and have now downloaded Mistborn. My only complaint is that the email from Tor was some horrible web-page thing. Gmail coughed on it. Tor eventually re-sent a gmailified version.

    Yeah, I’m one of those old guys who still thinks that email should be plain-text. It’s one more item on my list of lost causes along with “hacker/cracker”, “science fiction/scifi” and a few other “you kids get off my lawn” old guy rants.

  32. Well, if Tor’s goal for this is to get new sales, they’ve succeeded. I read the first Mistborn book, and liked it well enough so that I’ll look for the next in the series when I get another chance to do some reading. (And I really think it created a new Tor sale that would not have otherwised occurred, without cannibalizing any purchase I would have made anyway.)

    One thing I don’t understand is why all publishers don’t make the first 1/3 to 1/4 of all their books available online. It seems like such a tactic can only increase sales. I have seen a few sites like that will post the first few pages, but that’s really not quite enough to hook me.

    I don’t know how large of a market segment I represent, but for me, it’s not the money that is the limiting factor, but finding good books to read. In other words, I can afford to pay for all the books that I actually read. What I can’t afford is: (1) spending a lot of time trying to find good books to purchase, or (2) spending a lot of money to buy lots of e-books that I never finish because they turned out to be not good.

  33. I’ll put in a good word for the Mistborn guy/girl at the local library.

    Good book, btw,… although I’m sort of rooting for all the protagonists to be killed. I’m sort of anti-social, so this is a sign of a good book.

    I may even eat some Pewter before my next roll with the husband, as it would be fun to toss him around a bit.

    I can’t wait to read your book. Unlike most here… I know you only as the AOL blogger. I may be blown away, indifferent,or disappointed to have you as a narrator.

    Either way… at least you’re people won’t be swallowing and burning Tin every time there’s a fight. That got old about one fight in….

  34. Well, the bad thing (from the publishers point of view) about making some of your book available online is that I might decide I hate it, instead of liking it. But surely that’s better than me deciding I hate it AFTER I buy it – sure they’re going to get that one sale, but they’ve pissed me off, which isn’t good for future sales.

  35. I just got done reading OMW courtesy of the freebie from Tor.

    Where/when can I get the other two in the series in eBook form? The Tor website is somewhat, ah, inscrutable… :)

  36. @16, 21, 24, 26 etc.

    No PDF conversion needed!

    Tor serves Mobi and straight HTML versions, as well as the PDF, at their site. I’ve used iSilo (a Palm 4.0 compatible reader) to read all their books so far. Up until now the HTML has been one large file, without chapter links, but it’s a lot better than mucking about with a PDF.

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