It’s no secret that we don’t like DRM here at Literarium. It doesn’t prevent piracy, it imposes prohibitive costs on small publishers and it punishes honest customers. From this article, Note to Publishers: Your Addiction to DRM is Killing You:
When it comes to readers and book buyers, meanwhile, DRM has been nothing but a source of pain and frustration, just as it has been in every other content market, including digital music. Books from the Big Six can’t be loaned or borrowed, or they can only be loaned or borrowed a certain number of times. And they can only be used on one platform, with all kinds of restrictions. What these chains and locks do, more than anything else, is to make the simple act of buying and reading a digital book horrendously complicated. Does that make more people want to buy and read e-books? It’s hard to see how. In a very real sense, those locks are hobbling the industry.
Sure, this may not be visible to happy Kindle consumers, but since the Kindle explicitly refuses to accept the industry standard ePub format, which is how most independent and non-DRM eBooks are formatted, there is an automatic schism in the eBook world, where anyone selling an ePub only version of an ebook is unable to sell to Kindle users.
Similarly, innovation in the reading space, in particular social reading, is crippled because most new companies can’t offer their services to DRM-locked books, as shown in this article about our complicated relationship with eBooks:
Theoretically, it should be easy to share not just books, but passages we like, and there are a number of startups and services like OpenMargin and Readmill and Findings that are trying to make this happen. But competing rights, standards and platforms mean these kinds of features are available on only a tiny fraction of books, and that keeps most readers inside their little reading silos.
Add into the mix a recent article from an anonymous publishing executive, ‘Why I break DRM on e-books’. From that article:
I was coming to the conclusion that I wanted to start breaking DRM on e-books I bought so that I could read them on any e-reader, but what pushed me over the top was a terrific post from science-fiction author Charlie Stross, “Cutting their own throats.” He argues that DRM is a way for the Amazons of the world to create lock-in to their platforms.
Do click on Charlie Stross’s article in that quote above, by the way, and his follow up post to that, which relates directly to this news from TOR/Forge: Macmillan’s Tor/Forge goes DRM-free:
“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said Tor/Forge 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 e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”
All these articles together provide a solid hope that DRM is finally going into the wastebasket of publishing tech history (as it has already done for music and as it will hopefully do in the future for video).
Note, authors concerned about piracy need to read this article by John Scalzi, to reassure themselves that the publishers are still putting energy into shutting down big distributors of pirated material. He quotes Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Senior Editor of Tor Books:
Just in case anyone is worried: I can tell you with complete confidence that Macmillan and Tor/Forge have no intention of scaling back our anti-piracy efforts in the e-book realm. We expect to continue working to minimize this problem with all the tools at our disposal.
This is as it should be: the publishers, authors and consumers on the same side. For too long, consumers have been lumped into the same bucket as commercial copyright violaters.