Publishers Begin Bailing On Ebook Copyright Protection Technology

Macmillan subsidiary goes DRM-free; who's next?

tor logo sm 0 Publishers Begin Bailing On Ebook Copyright Protection TechnologyIt’s long been a thorn in the side of ereader owners, but major publishers–one eye fixed firmly on the fate of the recording industry–have insisted that ebooks come fully loaded with digital rights management technology. But that’s starting to crack. Today Macmillan subsidiary Tom Doherty Associates (home to beloved scifi imprint Tor Books, as well as Forge, Orb and others) announced its entire ebook catalog will be DRM-free by July 2012.

In a statement at the company blog, president and publisher Tom Doherty tipped his hat explicitly to future-enthused fans and authors:

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.

Of course, this is a trend that’s been gathering steam in the more technologically adventurous quarters of the publishing industry for some time. O’Reilly Media, Harlequin’s digital-only Carina Press, and Harry-Potter-fan-paradise-cum-ebookstore Pottermore all offer DRM-free downloads. But as long as the Big Six embraced the technology, it wasn’t going anywhere.

The Tor/Forge move is just the latest sign they’re starting to shift, however. PaidContent draws attention to comments from industry vet Mike Shatzkin:

I heard a rumor from a very reliable source that two of the Big Six are considering going to DRM-free very soon. The rumor is from the UK side, but it is hard to see a global company doing this in a market silo. Another industry listener I know was hearing similar rumors from different sources.

Earlier this morning, PaidContent even featured a long letter from an anonymous publishing exec who actually breaks the DRM on his own ebooks. He said:

I don’t think DRM is good for the publisher, author or customer. Don’t pro-DRM publishers realize this is one of the key complaints from their customers? I’ve heard plenty of customers tell me that e-book prices need to be low because they’re only buying access to the content, not fully owning it. That needs to change.

Macmillan CEO John Sargent, is that you?