Tor, the world’s biggest science fiction publisher and home to authors including Orson Scott Card, China Miéville and Cory Doctorow, has shaken publishing with the news that its entire list of ebooks is to be made digital rights management-free.
Tor, whose parent company Macmillan is currently fighting a lawsuit over accusations of ebook price fixing, is the first major publisher to drop digital rights management (DRM) from its ebooks, and the move prompted predictions that others would soon follow suit. JK Rowling’s recently launched ebooks, sold exclusively from her site Pottermore, are already DRM-free.
DRM is the way publishers currently protect their ebooks from piracy; it limits the sharing of titles between electronic devices.
The decision will cover Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape and Tor Teen ebooks from July 2012, the publisher said, as well as Tor UK titles. “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 ebooks in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of ereader to another.”
“The pressure to do it has come from readers and authors,” agreed Jeremy Trevathan, publisher at Tor UK’s parent Pan Macmillan. “It’s partly prompted by the launch of Pottermore, which JK Rowling has made completely DRM-free. The evidence from there seems to be that in fact piracy has gone down.”
Trevathan said the news had been received “very positively” by writers and agents, while retailers have also been upbeat. Science fiction author Charlie Stross described the move as groundbreaking; it means, he said, that even if particular e-readers become obsolete, the ebooks purchased for those devices will still be available. He also argued that smaller retailers will be able to compete more effectively in the ebook marketplace.
Doctorow predicted that “this might be the watershed for ebook DRM, the turning point that marks the moment at which all ebooks end up DRM-free. It’s a good day”.
“DRM hasn’t stopped my books from being out there on the dark side of the internet,” said science fiction author John Scalzi. “Meanwhile, the people who do spend money to support me and my writing have been penalised for playing by the rules. The books of mine they have bought have been chained to a single e-reader, which means if that e-reader 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.”
Tor will continue to fight ebook piracy “as robustly” as it did before going DRM-free, promised Trevathan. “The reason going DRM-free makes sense is that piracy is going on already [and] we have to acknowledge it,” he said.
As yet, Macmillan is “testing the waters” to see how dropping DRM plays out. According to Trevathan, the house currently has “no thought of extending it beyond science fiction and fantasy publishing. But it’s in the air. We’ve not talked about this to other publishers, but I can’t imagine they haven’t been thinking about this too.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Seit 1996 bin ich freier Mitarbeiter der Salzgitter-Zeitung, als Experte für das Geschehen im hiesigen Kreisfußball. Daneben sind meine Kolumnen seit 2005 fester Bestandteil im Lokalteil der Salzgitter-Zeitung. Zusammen mit Frau und Tochter sowie zwei gefräßigen wie faulen Stubentigern versuche ich das zu meistern, was das Leben, das Universum und der ganze Rest an Absurditäten für uns bereithalten.