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Sci-Fi Publisher Tor Ditches DRM For E-Books 280

Posted by timothy
from the thought-tor-was-some-kinda-darknet dept.
First time accepted submitter FBeans writes "'Science fiction publisher Tor UK is dropping digital rights management from its e-books alongside a similar move by its U.S. partners. ... Tor UK, Tor Books and Forge are divisions of Pan Macmillan, which said it viewed the move as an "experiment."' With experiments, come results. Now users can finally read their books across multiple devices such as Amazon's Kindle, Sony Reader, Kobo eReader and Apple's iBooks. Perhaps we will see the *increase* of sales, because the new unrestricted format outweighs the decrease caused by piracy?"
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Sci-Fi Publisher Tor Ditches DRM For E-Books

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  • It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NabisOne (2426710) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:31AM (#39805965)
    Now we can hope the other publisher's will follow this trend.
    • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Informative)

      by fifedrum (611338) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @10:42AM (#39806951) Journal

      Anecdotal and all, but I certainly will gravitate towards their offerings. Immediately. The very reason I don't buy any ebooks for my wife's kindle is that we can't read them on anything else. I'm certainly not reading a 400 page tome on my phone.

      So I say, "Good on them, and here's some money."

      (posting to remove misplaced mod, because I'm an idiot and clicked the wrong text)

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>> I'm certainly not reading a 400 page tome on my phone

        Why not?
        I used to read e-books on my 8 bit computer at 320x200 resolution. In comparison reading on a hi-res phone would be a luxury.

  • About Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:31AM (#39805973)

    and for some reason this makes me want to purchase every Tor book they offer,

    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      Very laudable, and this is a great move that I hope more publishers adopt, but one side-effect of this kind of enthusiasm is that the Tor experiment will be hailed as a resounding success because of people exuberantly rushing to support the first major mover in this direction.

      • by julesh (229690)

        Second. Baen have been selling DRM-free ebooks for years. In fact, Tor *used* to sell their books through Baen's system, but had to withdraw then, due (I'm led to believe) by pressure from their parent company.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Very laudable, and this is a great move that I hope more publishers adopt, but one side-effect of this kind of enthusiasm is that the Tor experiment will be hailed as a resounding success because of people exuberantly rushing to support the first major mover in this direction.

        Actually, the cynic in me has it that Tor simply wants to keep the money for itself. I've been annoyed at times to find some sci-fi books are unavailable on Kindle/Nook/iBookstore, then I remember that they're published through Baen.

        Gr

    • by ryzvonusef (1151717) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @11:51AM (#39807871) Journal

      Amongst the ones I can personally recommend, Tor has:
      1-Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn)
      2-Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time)
      3-Steve Erikson (Malazan)
      4-Orson Scott Card (Ender)
      5- George R.R. Martin (Song of Ice and Fire)

      Brandonson has been itching for DRM free ebooks, and even offers a totally free ebook on his website (Warbreaker). Good to see his nagging has had some effect.

  • Sure thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:38AM (#39806071) Journal
    Going to go poking around the Tor archives and grab myself a couple books as soon as this comes to fruition. Reward good behavior.
    • What are you going to get? There's so much to read and so little time, I'd appreciate some suggestions and opinions from my fellow slashdotters.

      • The rest of the books in the Ender's Game series, to start. I read the first one but never bothered with the rest. I might try one of the Halo books to see how terrible they are. Also, After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn looks quite interesting.
      • Re:Sure thing (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @10:25AM (#39806687)

        Tor has Charles Stross and Vernor Vinge.
        No true geek should pass them.

        I'd also look at Steven Erikson myself.
        I think a lot of Windling's crew are at Tor too, for the early urban fantasy.

        That's off the top of my head, with no access to my dead-tree books right now.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        I suggest anything by Neal Asher.

        The Polity universe is very good (home of his earlier stuff, including the excellent Agent Cormac series and the Spatterjay series). I have just finished "The Departure" from his new series (Owner series) and it is excellent.

        If you're looking for a "quick" blast into the series, then the Spatteryjay series (set in the Polity universe) is a collection of three novels (The Skinner, The Voyage of Sable Keech, Orbus) rather than the lengthier Agent Cormac run, which stands at 5

  • Note that if the profitability of removing DRM is dependent on eBooks being more attractive because they're able to be read on multiple devices then that profitability will disappear if one device begins to dominate the market. Why should I care if my eBook is multi-platform if I'm only ever going to read it on one platform?
    • by Junta (36770)

      Profitability is driven by two directions, revenue and cost.

      For revenue, there is more confidence even in a theoretical single-device market that the media will endure.

      For cost, the infrastructure to support DRM is a non-trivial expense contributing to erosion of margin. It also serves an additional limiter in terms of scale, per-copy costs have a not-quite-zero incremental cost on the publisher due to DRM.

      • Re:hmm (Score:4, Interesting)

        by elsurexiste (1758620) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:52AM (#39806275) Journal

        I expect some karma flak now...

        Hi! I program DRMs for a living, among other things. buddyglass is correct: the extra sales are going to be from the extra platforms that now can use those eBooks. The "DRM Infrastructure" is trivial for authors and publishers, I'd not dare to call it "Infrastructure" at all. Also, costs are usually insignificant: you usually protect an entire work, not individual copies.

        • I don't fault anyone for making a living. Let me start there.

          However, I am not sure that DRM protects a damn thing. Like it says here, the idea itself is flawed. It's also not inherently a technical idea, as the flow of technology is to allow open access to information and it goes against the grain of that. It's a technical idea borne by non-technical people.

          DRM is there to protect that mythical money loss of piracy. The arguable point is that the vast majority of people that "pirate" would not or coul

          • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

            Pointless diatribe. If someone wanted to pay me to make a pointless product, I absolutely would take their money and do the very best job I could. I would make a screen door for a submarine, and make sure it fit and was easy to install.

            I don't care what I'm writing, as long as I'm writing. The more pointless it is, the more fun I usually have. Whether it is effective or not is secondary to the paycheck, and usually takes a back seat to the fun. Effectiveness is a business problem, not a code problem.

            Ta

      • The article seemed to be suggesting that any loss in revenue due to the removal of DRM, i.e. book-sharing eating into legitimate purchases, would be offset by individuals being more likely to legitimately purchase eBooks because, sans DRM, they're a more attractive product. Because they work on multiple platforms. I'm just saying: if that is indeed the calculus at work here, then if the "multiple platforms" disappear then so does that boost to the attractiveness of DRM-free eBooks.
    • by FBeans (2201802)

      Why should I care if my eBook is multi-platform if I'm only ever going to read it on one platform?

      Yes, if *you* are only going to read it on one platform, you won't care. For those people who would like the opputnity to read an e-book on multiple platforms, this is very useful. Or to phrase it a different way: yes, your choices are made based on your needs, woopty do!

      • This is typical for me to use them all for ALL my Kindle reads, but I often read kindle in a combination of these:

        - My Kindle touch reader.
        - Kindle app on my new Android Tablet
        - Kindle app on my Nexus S (especially if I get caught waiting somewhere without my reader)
        - Kindle cloud on my Work desktop (I use and support Linux for a living)
        - Kindle cloud on my laptop (also Linux)
        - Kindle app on my work Mac

        This is what the digital revolution is about. I haven't hurt the author one iota and I am using the conte

      • I was positing a future in which there is one dominant platform. A future in which, for all intents and purposes, *everybody* is a single-platform reader. At that point, cross-platform readability isn't really a selling point.
    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Asic Eng (193332) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @10:00AM (#39806379)

      Why should I care if my eBook is multi-platform if I'm only ever going to read it on one platform?

      Are you absolutely certain you will only use one platform, and will only buy books from one supplier for the next twenty years? You don't think within this time frame some new device will come out - similar to e.g. the iPad did - and you'll get this device and will want to have the content you already paid for available on it?

      Don't you think at the speed new devices are developed these days, some company will introduce something to the market with an entirely new display technology - much better than e-ink, super-amoled and retina display together? Are you sure it will be your currently preferred vendor who'll pioneer that new device?

    • Re:hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Brucelet (1857158) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @10:03AM (#39806417)
      I agree! Also, my glorious vhs movie collection will never be made obsolete by the introduction of new media formats, because why would the industry ever change away from such a dominant format?
      • Don't know about you, but I'm fine with my media purchases having a usable lifespan of ~10-20 years. I don't have the expectation when purchasing physical media that it will remain usable in its current form for perpetuity. Books are somewhat of an exception to this rule, since there's no "format" to change. Then again, being physical media, books that are regularly used do tend to disintegrate over time.

        In any case, time will tell whether there are enough people who feel as you do (i.e. place a large va

    • by milkmage (795746)

      "profitability will disappear if one device begins" pretty sure Kindle dominates right now. how is making your content MORE available impacting profits in a negative way?

      can I [POTENTIALLY] make more money on amazon..
      or amazon + everyone else?

      what if the device you DO have doesn't have a contract with Tor? You'd have to wait for them to get into bed together. w/o DRM read what you want when you want on the device you want. - this is why you should care.

    • Note that if the profitability of removing DRM is dependent on eBooks being more attractive because they're able to be read on multiple devices then that profitability will disappear if one device begins to dominate the market. Why should I care if my eBook is multi-platform if I'm only ever going to read it on one platform?

      You would care very much if in three years time, there are much better readers for a different platform.

  • This is a _positive_ move. I think that there is going to be a time - say in the 2020s - where people look back at the DRM'd digital media of today and scratch their heads... "What were these people thinking, restricting digital media use like that? What did all that DRM'ing achieve?". Again, kudos to the publisher for not using DRM, and for setting a positive example for the rest of the publishing world to follow...
    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:52AM (#39806279)

      Again, kudos to the publisher for not using DRM, and for setting a positive example for the rest of the publishing world to follow...

      Might be better to say "kudos to the publisher for following Baen's lead and not using DRM".

      Do keep in mind that Baen's ebooks have NEVER had DRM.

      • Or of publishers like Pearson and O'Reilly, who also don't use DRM in their eBooks (if you buy them via Amazon you may get Kindle DRM, but not if you buy them directly), but also have a sufficiently large turnover that the example they set is relevant.
  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:42AM (#39806121)
    Okay now lets do something about the price. I'm so tired of seeing ebooks that are as expensive as regular books or more expensive. There is no reason for it other than 'I want to' or 'I'm afraid of cannibalizing my own paper back sales'. They really should do some experiments lke Valve did with Steam so they can determine the proper pricing for an Ebook. As it is I don't buy stuff for my nook simple touch I got for Christmas simply because any book I want to buy it cheaper than the Ebook version 99% of the time. This is because I tend to buy used over new when I buy a book. The publishers pricing of their Ebooks isn't protecting their profits it's negating them yet no one seems to get it.
    • by crafty.munchkin (1220528) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:50AM (#39806229)
      The printing costs of a book are negligible in comparison with the editorial, typesetting, proof-reading and other costs associatd with releasing a book. Go and read Charlie Stross's essays on common misconceptions about publishing [antipope.org] to discover WHY it's impractical.

      As an aside - games on Steam are almost always more expensive than the copy I buy with a disk from a store, with the exception of when the steam sales are on.

      • by Dyinobal (1427207)
        Even if the actual making from the book isn't the bulk of the cost, an actual book has the same associated costs for editorial, typesetting, proof-ready and any other costs as an Ebook would. There is no excuse for them being priced more expensive than the actual paper copy of the book when they cost less to produce.
      • that doesn't account for Kindle books that cost more than trade paperback.

    • I'm generally seeing much lower prices of the Kindle versions these days, at least on the ones I look at. It's all over the place though. Sometimes it's $1 less, sometimes it's as low as 50% of the printed book.

      Lower is still relative, though. I was looking at an $80 technical book, and the Kindle version was $50 but... seems I can go up to $10 or so for an eBook. More than that and the resistance starts, and at $50 it seems insurmountable despite the fact that with something technical having a search funct

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@@@gmail...com> on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:44AM (#39806141)

    Pricing is - eBooks should be lower priced (although not to the pennies on the pound level, I find that argument ridiculous) and currently they rarely are.

    Neal Asher books - Gridlinked as an example, his earliest Agent Cormac book, first published in 2001, now published by Tor: £7.99 on the iPad, £5.11 paperback on Amazon, £4.75 Kindle edition.

    Will the removal of DRM flatten out those pricing peaks and troughs? Will the eBook version go up or down? That will determine if piracy goes up or down.

    • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:49AM (#39806215)

      It will likely mean that certain proprietary formats will slowly disappear and the pricing will get down to the 4.75 kindle edition as no one buys the iPad editions etc.

      Right now some of the pricing peaks and valleys are due to the fact that some devices have fees attached to publish for them at all.

      As we go further into DRM-Free, most books will probably just start coming in PDF or something similar and fancy PDF reading apps will be more abundant than they currently are, and available on more devices.

    • As I just said above - the printing costs of a paperback are negligible in comparison with the editorial process that occurs with each book. Look for my post above and click the link in it to discover why :)

      Good example - I just started reading it yesterday :)

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      Where I'm at in the U.S., e-books are usually considerably cheaper than their hard-copy equivalents. But I've heard (I think on an earlier thread on /.) that this varies greatly not only by country, but even by region and for individual users. I save quite a bit of money each year buying e-book versions, especially with textbooks. My Kindle pretty easily paid for itself in the first year I owned it. I don't think I've ever seen a Kindle version of a book that was more expensive than the hard-copy version (h

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Gridlinked is a still a bargain at that price though, but I see your point. The bulk costs that went into it (like editing, proofreading, etc) are sunk already. I think we're meant to believe that the extra cost is down to reformatting it for eBook release.

  • by allcar (1111567) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:51AM (#39806253)
    From TFA:

    Now users can finally read their books across multiple devices such as Amazon's Kindle, Sony Reader, Kobo eReader and Apple's iBooks.

    It will be interesting to see if the likes of Amazon honour the publishers wishes, or whether they still insist on using DRM. This might finally damage the Kindle business model. In a similar situation, I recently purchased the new Stephen King audio book directlty from Simon & Schuster, as it is in a DRM free MP3 format. Who would buy from Audible if the same material was available elsewhere in a better format?

  • ...a book, whether digital or dead-tree, your name will be there along with Baen as my first choice of publishers to support via the wallet.
  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:53AM (#39806289)

    Being an e-book reader and science fiction fan, I've been very disappointed in recent years with how weakly science fiction publishers have been supporting the e-formats. Of all fields, you would think science fiction would be on the CUTTING EDGE of technology. But, alas, it was only recently that Asimov's [wikipedia.org] even launched a e-book version of the magazine--and it's been plagued by poor formatting, missing illustrations, etc. Very sad when science fiction's leading magazine can featuring writing about the future, but can't seem to actually *embrace* the future.

    Glad to see at least one major science fiction publisher is trying to do something with the format.

  • Several years ago, Baen Books (ahref=http://www.baen.com/rel=url2html-25847 [slashdot.org]http://www.baen.com/>) started to make some of their books available as e-books for free, with approval from the respective authors.

    Reportedly, those authors actually saw an increase in sales of their paper books as a result. Maybe TOR is betting on a similar outcome (besides saving the trouble of supporting a DRM system).

  • DRM is so easy to remove from ebooks that it's really not much of an inconvenience. Downloaded music DRM used to be a bit more difficult and more restrictive. And don't get me started about the ridiculousness of DRM on digital movies.
    On the other hand, people who copy works illegally are generally not ever going to be customers. I'm guessing that DRM cost the publisher money in licensing fees, and wasn't effective at all in stopping copying, so it makes good business sense to drop it.
    • It's hard for people that can barely understand what the concept of DRM is... which is a massive majority, unfortunately, which is why the fight against only gets slow traction.

    • DRM is so easy to remove from ebooks that it's really not much of an inconvenience. Downloaded music DRM used to be a bit more difficult and more restrictive. And don't get me started about the ridiculousness of DRM on digital movies.

      Removing DRM is illegal. Therefore, if it has DRM, I know that I could remove it, but I'm totally unwilling to do something illegal in order to read a book that I paid for. Therefore, no matter how little inconvenience, I won't buy it.

  • Seems to me Tor now has as good or better than a name as Baen.
    I was already on Tor email list because I think they publish great stuff. But I only have bought from them dead tree versions in bookstores when I have seen them. Since I am overseas much this will give me an incentive to buy.
    If there was a way to buy via Kindle that would be great or maybe there is a way to buy directly from Tor which would be better and ought to save me some money since no middleman?
    Also I have bought from Tor books that I have

    • by mattr (78516)

      p.s. Tor can you give me a version that works with Calibre, with beautiful artwork I can view on my Mac? I would probably read it mostly on my Kindle but would enjoy collateral like information about the author and so on.
      And I wouldn't hold it against you if you want to sell me DVDs or cool comics, etc.

  • Removing DRM engenders consumer goodwill because people are no longer forced to use cumbersome restraints with their ebooks. These restraints mainly penalize legal consumers, because those with intent to steal will circumvent them as a matter of course.

    However, it's worth noting that not all consumers are the same. Legal consumers tend to like books which require a brain to read. If you released the Twilight series without DRM, it will be pirated more than a brainier book.

  • I mean, we were only talking about this yesterday!

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