Macmillan’s Tor/Forge goes DRM-free

Macmillan science fiction/fantasy imprint Tor/Forge — the publisher of titles like Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” — will sell its e-books DRM-free as of “early July 2012,” the company announced today.

“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.” (As a publishing executive wrote on paidContent this morning, that is why he breaks DRM as a regular part of his e-reading experience.)

Doherty notes that Tor’s DRM-free titles will be available from all the retailers that already sell Tor/Forge books and “the company expects to begin selling titles through retailers that sell only DRM-free books.” That could include, for example, independent e-booksellers like Emily Books, whose Ruth Curry has argued that DRM’s prohibitive costs are “crushing indie booksellers online.”

Tor/Forge is an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, which is a subsidiary of Macmillan. (Thanks Tim!) One should not necessarily infer, from the changes at Tor, that Macmillan is close to dropping DRM across all of its imprints. This decision could be related to competition within the genre (sci-fi/fantasy publishers Baen and Angry Robot are also DRM-free) or to Doherty’s specific role at Macmillan.

Presumably, though, the change did not happen without some support from the top. (Yes, there was support from CEO John Sargent, Charlie Stross reports.) It also offers a possible model for how other publishers might drop DRM — in bits and pieces or by imprint, rather than all at once — though that could be problematic in some ways. (How do you decide which books go first? Is it fair to readers?)

Note that Mike Shatzkin wrote today, “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.”

Maja Thomas, VP of digital for Hachette, recently described DRM as “a speedbump” that “doesn’t stop anyone from pirating.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user jonny2love