Tor Books goes completely DRM-free

Today, Tor Books, the largest science fiction publisher in the world, announced that henceforth all of its ebooks would be completely DRM-free. This comes six weeks after an antitrust action against Tor's parent company, Macmillan USA, for price-fixing in relation to its arrangements with Apple and Amazon.

Now that there is a major publisher that has gone completely DRM-free (with more to follow, I'm sure; I've had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers), there is suddenly a market for tools that automate the conversion and loading of ebooks from multiple formats and vendors.

For example, I'd expect someone to make a browser plugin that draws a "Buy this book at" button on Amazon pages (and vice-versa), which then facilitates auto-conversion between the formats. I'd also expect to produce a "switch" toolkit for Kindle owners who want to go Nook (and vice-versa).

I think that this might be the watershed for ebook DRM, the turning point that marks the moment at which all ebooks end up DRM-free. It's a good day.

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.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said 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.”

DRM-free titles from Tom Doherty Associates will be available from the same range of retailers that currently sell their e-books. In addition, the company expects to begin selling titles through retailers that sell only DRM-free books.

Tor/Forge E-book Titles to Go DRM-Free


  1. Awesome! This is going to make pirating e-books so much easier. Thanks, Tor!

    I keed, I keed.

    1.  Not really. If you know what you’re doing, removing DRM already takes less than a second with all normally used formats. It is trivial and has been for years.

      1. Yeah – the DRM on ebooks is well-known to be pathetic.

        The only thing that has been saving ebooks is the same thing that saves anything else sold digitally – most readers will pay for what they want to read so long as the fee is reasonable and the quality of the material is good. And the folks who won’t pay are people who wouldn’t pay for it anyway.

  2. What are some great books published by Tor? I’d love to hear any recommendations that I could purchase to support Tor in this move.

    1. It’s hard to be specific without knowing something about your tastes.  Tor are such a prolific publisher of SF, fantasy and drama that there’s bound to be something you would like a lot, but I can’t guess what it is.

      Personally, I’d start with anything by (flicks rapidly through Tor’s web site at random) Brandon Sanderson, Ben Bova, Jacqueline Carey, China Mieville, Vernor Vinge, or Susan Shwartz.  But that’s my taste; YMMV.

  3. A nice move, but I’d rather see retailers be able to discount Tor ebooks so they are at least as cheap as their Tor discounted paperbacks.

    1.  I got one a year ago for reading books from Project Gutenberg (Nook Color).  It was completely worth the investment in gift cards from Christmas/Birthday to get it too.  It’s become my most used electronic gadget at this point – and I’ve read a number of classics that I’d never gotten around to reading before.

      Once I figured out how to get Overdrive’s stupid client to work so I could get ebooks from the library, that was icing on the cake.

  4. Thank You Tor. JK Rowling recently did the same when she released ebooks of the Harry Potter series.

    Good to see publishers are realizing they have been hoodwinked by DRM. It was sold to them as a fix for pirating, but all it actually did was tie to the user to a particular hardware ereader. What a horrible trade off.

    Now there is just step left in the publishing industry. I really wish hardcover books would come with a code to redeem to get the ebook version. 

    1.  You think that was a misunderstanding? If DRM had been successful, it would have virtually guaranteed repeat purchases of the exact same item, at virtually no production cost.

      1.  The misunderstood how much power they were giving to the device creators.

        If Amazon can use its market position to wipe out competition in the eReader market, publishers are screwed.  It’s in their best interest to keep as much competition in that field as possible.  DRM helps Amazon more than it helps individual publishers – it’s good to see they finally might be figuring this out (and figuring out that despite selling their books, an Amazon monopoly on book distribution is a really, really bad idea for the market).

  5. There’s no point in dealing with conversion software if we just use well-engineered, standardized formats. I don’t expect apps to convert my .wma songs to .mp3, I expect to not have to even worry about it in the first place.

    1. Although, these two situation do differ technologically, even though the customer service issue is the same. ebook formats ought to be able to be converted without any loss of information, while wma and mp3 are both “lossy” audio formats and some audio information is lost anytime you encode a file into one of those formats. So, converting between wma and mp3 over and over again will eventually result in a file of audio noise, but converting between epub and mobi should keep all (or, at least, most and all of the most important) information intact.

  6. Awesome, they just shot up to my #2 preferred ebook vender behind Baen (they’ve been doing it right since day one).

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