You may have missed the announcement yesterday, but “Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, today announced that by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free.” Today, Tor UK made a similar announcement.
First off, yes, I’m aware that smaller publishers like Night Shade Books, Angry Robot Books, and Baen have been publishing e-books without DRM for a while now, but Tor is the first major publisher to move in this direction.
With that out of the way, what does this mean for readers? Well, check out what John Scalzi or Charlie Stross wrote about the switch (note that Stross was consulted by Tor prior to their decision). Here are the big takeaways: removing DRM makes it easier for readers to shift their purchases across multiple devices. Removing DRM provides readers with a little insurance against sellers like Amazon suddenly changing their terms of service or yanking books back off devices. Smaller bookstores could also get into the e-book business more easily if DRM fades away. It might also make piracy easier, but Tor has a pretty aggressive anti-piracy effort already in place (Stross argues for watermarking–separate from any DRM–to make piracy easier to detect).
I have a very old Kindle. I haven’t upgraded just yet. I won’t say Amazon’s walled garden–built with bricks of DRM–has kept me from doing so (it certainly hasn’t kept me from buying books), but it has been a factor (the fact that I may upgrade to a full-fledged tablet is the bigger factor, to be honest). It will be interesting to see if any of the other major publishing houses follow Tor’s lead in light of the DOJ suit or because they want to stay ahead of the rapidly revolving technology surrounding the e-book. Stay tuned to this story.