If you love Sci-Fi, you’ve probably at least heard of Tor Books, a Macmillan imprint catering to the geek crowd. But even if you don’t know what the Prime Directive is, Tor Books is interesting for a very important reason: they have a no-DRM policy on all of their books. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, and it is (to be completely unbiased) a way for a publisher to deny you your fair-use rights. Want to read the book you purchased on multiple devices, or listen to that song on a device that doesn’t talk to iTunes? DRM aims to make that impossible, and at least succeeds in making it annoying.
Everyone – except publishers and some artists – hates DRM. Mostly because it makes it harder to do things you are legally allowed to do, but also because DRM makes the assumption that you, the person who bought a book or song, is a criminal. You can’t be trusted with this precious content, you see, so it has to be wrapped in chains. Because DRM is so universally loathed – and so universally useless – most industries are moving away from it. Apple no longer uses DRM on songs purchased through iTunes, and Amazon lets you download plain old MP3 files from their music store. And many eBooks – all of mine included – are DRM-free.
Tor was one of the first “major” publishers to take a stance against DRM. This was a smart move, because their audience tends to be more technical, and technical people hate DRM even more than most. Hachette UK, however, is somewhat less enlightened. They refuse to release any book without DRM. They have also announced that they will no longer acquire any books with any DRM-free edition, anywhere in the world. And now they’ve sent a letter to their authors, insisting that DRM be used to “protect” books … published by other houses.
In one letter, Hachette has stated that 1: they hate their customers, and 2: they believe in magic. It’s amazing to watch the publishing industry go through the exact same convulsions that the music industry experienced a decade ago. It’s like they haven’t learned anything.