Tor Listens To Authors And Readers And Ditches DRM

from the ears-wide-open dept

We have said quite a bit about the perils of DRM and how many in the entertainment industry still insist on its use despite the fact that it is pointless as a deterrent to piracy and only leads to frustration for paying customers. Recently, we spoke about how DRM is bad for book publishers and that their insistent use of DRM was part of the reason they ended up in the DOJ’s sights. Fortunately, it looks like some publishers are learning from these follies. Tor has just announced that it and all its sister companies’ books will be DRM free by July of this year.

Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time. 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.

This is an exciting move for anyone concerned about the future of ebooks. That ability for readers to transfer their books from one device to another will help as technology advances and becomes far better. It is also excellent to hear that not only are readers voicing their dislike of DRM, but authors as well. That is what is really great about this. It often seems like publishers care little about the opinions of authors when it comes to these types of decisions. This news shows that some publishers are listening. Let’s hope that other publishers learn from Tor’s example and begin to listen as well.

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Comments on “Tor Listens To Authors And Readers And Ditches DRM”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Sales Killer

DRM is a sales killer. Why would any consumer buy any content infected with DRM? Why would any author be so stupid as to have anything to do with any publisher who uses DRM?

Everybody knows that DRM kills your ability to just handle the content like any other file. Publishers seem to be so deluded that they think they can just slip in DRM without anybody noticing. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

PaulT (profile) says:


“It seems that in a lot of cases an author’s estate is a lot more copyright-crazy than the author ever was.”

That’s understandable, if wrong. They’re making their living off of something their dead relative once did, and they’d have to work if it weren’t for copyright. I can understand why they’d fight tooth and nail to keep the money rolling in the same as it did when the person who actually did the work was alive…

Dmitry M (profile) says:

DRM doesn't prevent theft

Protecting copies through DRM doesn’t really make sense. If I want to borrow a friend’s book (physical copy in this analogy) I can do so without paying anything to the author. He might lend this book to a dozen other people in the book’s lifespan. People share things, whether it is a physical book or a song. In trying to prevent sharing, however, DRM stifles creativity and exerts unfair restrictions how this software can be used from platform to platform.

TL;DR Get with the times entertainment industry.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’m assuming you know nothing about this series because your comment makes no sense otherwise. Jordan hasn’t been dead that long and the current holder of his estate is his wife who was very involved in his writings as an editor.

Secondly she’s not doing this for the money the books being wrote current were already planned out ahead of time and Jordan was working on them before he died and had already drew out the outline for all three of the books being done by the new author Brandon Sanderson.

fogbugzd (profile) says:


I am very familiar with the series and am a participating member of the Dragonmount community. I am well acquainted with the situation with Harriet and completion of the series.

If you notice my original post split the comment about estates into a separate paragraph. I meant it as a general comment, not applying to the WOT series. My apologies for not being clearer. I was typing on my phone which is not friendly to fat fingers, and I was keeping my comment brief. Apparently too brief.

Tim K (profile) says:

Now if they would not price fix...

While this is a good step, I still won’t buy from them because they are part of Macmillan who was one of the publishers not to settle to the price fixing charges. It’s unfortunate too, cause I really like some of the authors, but when I went on Amazon to buy an ebook it was 11.99, which I’m not going to pay

Kindle Edition $11.99
Hardcover – New $14.95 — New $13.45 — Used $7.80

Paul A. says:

How about a low-tech replacement to DRM

Suppose instead of DRM, when books are purchased, the purchaser’s name, phone number and address become embedded in the document. This would surely cut down on file sharing, as I certainly don’t want anyone with a browser and a torrent client to get my personal info.

This also does away with the whole need for the author/provider to maintain a DRM verification server.

Paul A. says:

How about a low-tech replacement to DRM

Suppose instead of DRM, when books are purchased, the purchaser’s name, phone number and address become embedded in the document. This would surely cut down on file sharing, as I certainly don’t want anyone with a browser and a torrent client to get my personal info.

This also does away with the whole need for the author/provider to maintain a DRM verification server.

PaulT (profile) says:

How about a low-tech replacement to DRM

That’s the sort of thing that sounds good in theory, but won’t really work very well in practice. Most pirates would strip out the watermark or transcribe it into an unwatermarked copy, just as they break the DRM now. Meanwhile, any one who loses a flash drive, has their Kindle, laptop or iPhone stolen, or otherwise loses data will be falsely accused of sharing their file. A canny botnet creator could simply hoover up all the eBooks on machines they’ve infected and use them to falsely implicate innocent people, making the system useless. Plus, if such information is easy to decrypt and strip from the file, it would be a handy method to aid identity theft, etc.

Like so many forms of DRM, it may work to catch the particularly clueless or deter the particularly paranoid, but it won’t stop piracy. It may even lose sales – after all, who wants to buy something that can get you sued if you ever lose it?

Cowardly Anonymous says:


You might be a bit perplexed about the fact that the authors were not only on board put pushing for this action. Allow me to clear something up. Authors have a long history of benefiting from the sharing of their works through the public library system.

In fact, most authors spend a fair amount of time in the public library. This helps them with inspiration and learning the best and worst ways to utilize language. Those authors that are not well read usually make this fact painfully obvious.

After such a long history of this kind of openness, the harsh restrictions of DRM really were an anomaly in this field.

Anonymous Coward says:

Charlie Stross put up a well reasoned post detailing a presentation he made to Macmillan regarding the business case for removing DRM. He puts it much better than I can but the main points were that technological rate of change made it dangerous to bind yourself to someones walled garden, walled gardens let the owner screw you over in the future, and that the DRM policies promote piracy in midlist readers and collectors who value OWNING (which they still don’t but it at least starts to create the impression) the product that they bought.

ShellMG says:

Baen won my loyalty when I was given a hardcover of Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Cryoburn.” I’d been reading her novels since I stumbled upon “The Warrior’s Apprentice” in a bookstore shortly after it was first published, and she’s one of the few authors for which I’ll spring for the hardcover.

Inside the back cover was a CD with all of her previous Vorkosigan novels, plus a few nice extras. I could feel the love from Baen, who wanted her fans to stay loyal (and maybe pass along a little of that loyalty to them). I was able to upload them to my iPad, re-read the novel prior to “Cryoburn,” revisit a few favorites and pass the CD along to a friend, a new potential customer. It INCREASED the value of the hardbound, and who knows how many readers Baen and Ms. Bujold will gain?

Anonymous Coward says:

What DRM-free Tor store?

I know they may have said July, but from what I can tell the link on their page still says “COMING IN SUMMER 2012”. Not much summer left here…

Also, there’s no indication that Tor ebooks sold on Amazon, iBooks, etc. will be DRM-free, is there? Or that their ebook prices will even be cheaper than used book prices on Amazon…

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