Jun 4 2012 5:00pm

Tor Books Announces E-book Store: Doctorow, Scalzi & Stross Talk DRM-Free

Today at BookExpo America in New York City, Fritz Foy, Macmillan EVP  Digital Publishing and Technology, discussed the recent decision to sell the full catalog of Tor e-book titles DRM-free, along with three surprise guest speakers: science fiction authors Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross and John Scalzi. The group talked about why going DRM-free improves author/reader relationships, strengthens relationships between publishers and retailers, and does not encourage piracy. In addition, Foy officially announced that a new Tor/Forge DRM-free e-book store will debut here on in late summer, 2012.

Titled “Taking the Plunge,” this special presentation at BEA’s Publisher’s Launch aimed to explain exactly why Tor/Forge “unexpectedly” announced the switch to a DRM-free model. As Fritz Foy pointed out, however, it wasn’t unexpected at all, but instead something Tor/Forge had been “grappling with for close to four years.”

Indeed, during the lead up to the launch of itself back in 2008, DRM-free e-books were given away as part of a test title selection. Between February 2008 and Moon Landing Day (July 20th), Tor Books gave out 1.2 million DRM-free e-books. Foy related that people worried, behind the scenes, “What have we done?  Will this hurt backlist sales?”

But based on what Tor learned about the science fiction and fantasy market, the opposite seems to be true. Since 2007, even excluding number one best-selling Tor author Brandon Sanderson, sales of total units sold (including physical books) actually increased overall. Fears about online piracy simply did not pan out: the books in question continued to sell just as well as before, if not better. This indicates that keeping e-books in DRM formats does not prevent piracy on its own, a publisher still needs an enforcement program. Furthermore, DRM does not allow for a positive consumer experience, nor does it help readers communicate with authors. Finally, it appears that DRM does not encourage a healthy and competitive retail environment. If Tor gave out all these DRM free e-books, and saw sales increase, then clearly DRM is not a tool to help sell books.

In between Foy’s presentation about the big numbers involved, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, and John Scalzi all added their perspectives as science fiction authors.

“Copyright is weird,” Cory Doctorow opined. His analysis of the history of copyright focused on how books predate the concept and are often wrapped up with “candy bars, and blockbuster films.” But Doctorow thinks books are different because, “people of the book. We evolved with books right alongside dogs. And just as we share a visceral revulsion at the thought of eating a
dog, we are all distressed at the thought of destroying a book.” Doctorow feels that wrapping books up in DRM reduces them to only items of commerce and nothing more. He further reiterated the notion that having a DRM business model doesn’t really prevent copying, because there are always ways around said copying. Instead, DRM only serves to prevent healthy competition.


After Doctorow, Charles Stross spoke about why dropping DRM or “software snake oil”  is good from a business perspective. Perceptively, Stross pointed out that “This is at the heart of customer resentment against DRM: once you buy a hardback you are free to do whatever you like with it — read it, lend it, or sell it on...but...DRM e-Books don’t work like that.” Going DRM-free changes this business perspective and makes e-books more similar to their physical counterparts. Stross concedes that this will have little impact on big bestellers, but will help boost sales for more genre-driven titles. “It will make it easier for smaller bookstores to sell e-books.” Science fiction plays a big part here for Stross because readers of genre fiction may be smaller in number but “buy a disproportionate amount of books.”

John Scalzi spoke about his belief that the removal of DRM from e-books improves his relationship with his readers directly because authors are so often on the front-line of questions about the formats of their e-books.  Now, with the removal of DRM, Scalzi is in a better position with his readers than ever before:  “Authors want to tell stories. That’s what we want to do. That’s what we were hired to do. The removal of DRM helps us interface with our readers better.”

All attendees of the launch received a free flash drive with DRM-free e-books included, announcing the launch of the e-book store coming later this summer. As previously announced, Tor Books expects to offer all of their books DRM-free through all retailers by the end of the July. It seems only fitting that a publisher of science fiction and fantasy would be leading the way towards the future of publishing.

Paul Go
1. greyarea
This is fantastic news. I will be buying from the new ebooks store when it is opened, that is certain.
2. ymmv
Will international readers be able to buy books from the new DRM-free ebookstore?
4. politeruin
#2 That's what i would like to know. Time was even the competitions were open to everyone and all this were fields... There is a wicked threat amongst us now that drm has been slain and that threat is geo-blocking.
5. Jon Knight
The most likely outcome is that the store will be US only.
2nd most likely is global but with regional embargoes. (Otherwise they'd be cannibalising sales in other territories.)
Eventually though ebooks will lead to the death of regional release dates. It can't happen soon enough.
6. SamC
This is sweet. Thank you for being intelligent.

BTW, I think you should bundle the ebooks with hard-copies for a small fee. If I could get both for an small additional fee (a buck or two), I would not hesitate.
7. Core23
Thankyou TOR, this will save me the three minutes it takes to strip the DRM when I buy your books.
Jay Franco
8. Jayf44
Very cool news. I can't wait to check out the store.
9. Blake Campbell
I'll be stopping by the table tomorrow. Any chance there are some extras of those flash drives laying around (beyond the 100 you're giving away in the other thread) that you'll have available?
Irene Gallo
10. Irene
I’m not sure if the table will have any but if are at this event, I'll have some on me. Look for anyone with a button.
12:00 PM - Tor Books at the Uptown Stage: Science Fiction Panel with John Scalzi (Redshirts), Jeff and Ann VanderMeer (The Weird) and Walter Mosely (Gift of Fire/The Head of the Pin). Moderated by’s Staff Writer Ryan Britt.
11. MarkB
re "2nd most likely is global but with regional embargoes. (Otherwise they'd be cannibalising sales in other territories.)"

How does this cannibalise sales - Most TOR books aren't published as ebooks outside US even by other publishers (Doctorow, Scalzi & Stross are exceptions as well known - although Redshirts is US only currently) - also the author gets the money if I pay to US.

(Oh well there are other non DRM sources which just require a search)
Irene Gallo
12. Irene
We should have all our retailers selling drm-free by the end of July, and then our own store launched by the end of the summer. We are launching in addition to, not instead of other e- booksellers.
Fredrik Coulter
13. fcoulter
I have one suggestion for the eBook store. Baen's ebook store will email an ebook to my Kindle's email address. That way I don't have to download the book to my computer, then get it to my Kindle. I can have it mailed directly when I buy it, thus having it show up within 60 seconds without any other work. (I don't know if nook's have the same capability.)

Please have this capability as part of Tor's ebook store.
Ken Stith
14. VengeanceNight
Will this also be the end of agency pricing? That needs to end for me to come back to Tor books. Also, will the new store have an option to automatically email purchased books to my Kindle like Baen currently does on there site?
15. Magess
Does this mean that Tor books will work with the Lend Me function on B&N/Nook?
17. Janice Moore
Thank you so much! I love ebooks and am looking foward to this new method of reading. I have over 2,000 hardback books and close to half tha many paperback books and am absolutely running out of room! Ebooks are the way to go. Please put me on the list.
Tom Svinarich
18. rubytom
how do you guys feel about PayPal in connection with e-book sales?
Tracy Walters
19. Tracy
Thank you Tor! Really looking forward to the opening of the DRM free store!
20. Pam Z
Thank you Tor. My favorite publisher . Wish I could have been @ the event.
Katherine Page
21. taconista
Wow. It's already been four years since those first free e-books were released by Tor. I think this is a great deceision. I've been a bookaholic since oh about the time my parents read "Pat the Bunny" to me. Those free e-books introduced me to new authors and got me hooked on For whatever reason, the introduction to new authors spurred me to want to read more. And more. And more. (Oh, this one looks good! And that one! And that one too!) I've bought a greater percentage of books (Tor and otherwise) over the past few years than in previous years. While I love my little Kobo e-reader, that some books aren't available for it ticks me off. That Kindle has its own DRM and some of the books I want electronically that Kobo doesn't have ticks me off. If I want a book, I should be able to buy it. Poo poo on DRM. Then there's the sharing thing. I pass my real books to those who want to read them. I paid the cash for them; they're mine. Folks sometimes get lured into sci fi or meet new authors that way. Those inductees become book buyers. If I can pass the e-books along, that's just one more way to spread the word about a good book. Way to go Tor! Thanks! I'll be buying from you!
23. markus baur
please, Please, PLEASE - dont lock out international buyers ..

having to jump through umpteen hoops to be told: "we are sorry but this content is not avaialble in your region"gets seriuosly annoying ..

markus from austria
P Early
24. SimpleSimon
An excellent idea. It has certainly taken Tor long enough to embrace the reality of modern publishing, but at last they have. Personally, I prefer e-books, being nearly blind - a 42" flat screen monitor and 26 point type makes reading a lot easier. It has always irritated the daylights out of me that a retailer would presume to tell me how I might dispose of their product once I've paid for it - it's very like government telling you that you have to pay continuing rent (property taxes) in order to enjoy the use of property already paid for.
25. blue4dogs
This is truly fantastic. I read more science fiction/fantasy books than any other genre. Tor publishes a lot of books by authors I like but I refused to buy DRM ebooks. If I pay for a book, I want to be able to read it however I choose instead of being limited because the bookstore or retailer only offers ebooks for their brand of reader. I am thrilled that I can soon buy DRM-free ebooks from you.
Beth Young
26. zbyoung
Wow, DRM free from all retailers? So I can order Tor books DRM free through Barnes & Noble or wherever? Of course I won't have to worry about other retailers because I'll be able to buy books right from you. :)
27. yasiru89
Well done, Tor! Hopefully this will catch on soon (as it should). I might now seriously consider buying more e-books.
28. Bruce W Cassidy
Awesome stuff. I already buy a lot of my SF from Baen, which has a DRM-free e-book store already. Seeing Tor following along, there is hope yet to get all of my favourite authors on my reader.

I like to buy books not only because I am an avid reader, but because when I find a good book, I like to lend it out. DRM-free books will let me do that. I'm a little concerned, because when you lend a paper-based book, you expect to get it back 50% of the time. So if the person you lent it to likes it, they will go and buy their own copy. With e-books though, once you've given them a copy, there's no need for them to buy their own. That means we'll have to rely on more of an honesty policy, and as the online music industry shows, people aren't that honest about this stuff.

So somewhere in the middle there is a good format for authors and readers both. I'm not sure DRM is the answer, but I'm not sure DRM-free is the answer either.
29. Karen from New Zealand
I love this idea, but I have to second other comments about international sales. The simple fact is that very few Tor/Forge books are sold in NZ in either ebook or hard copy format. For example, I had never even heard of John Scalzi before coming onto this forum, and I've been reading SF and fantasy for over 20 years. I would like to see publishers give regional sellers an option - either you offer this title or we will make it available to people from your region on our website.
30. reader
I have never, ever bought an ebook. DRM made the whole idea seem like a rental, not a purchase. A rental with handcuffs.

Suddenly, I'm starting to wonder how quickly I can recreate my 7-shelf library of Tor hardcovers in digital form...
31. NickM
Just another vote to try to get the international ebook rights for this. And that goes for the authors too - make sure your ebooks are available overseas. It's absurd in this day an age that I can order the paperback from Amazon but not buy the ebook from the same site.

Last time I asked about this I was told 'book contracts are complicated' but that's a copout. Most other publishers manage this, at least for recent releases.
32. sanofi
In Australia we get ripped off by everyone, paying 50% plus for most US sourced items. Computer OS's and software being a great example. ebooks are yet another example. so it's no surprise when I try to buy online I find the region locked. And DRM on top of that! One day that will all change. and pigs will fly..
33. Lerandia
If it wasn't for the last round of free ebooks that Tor launched, I would have never gotten addicted to so many authors and series that I currently read.

I think this is an awesome marketing tool. Why didn't someone think of this before?
John Cullen
35. thedailycommute
Occasionally, just occasionally, I wish I had a US postal address (I live in Europe) ... but the news that Tor/Forge will be opening a DRM free E-Book store more than makes up for not having one!! :-)
38. TimH
I agree with the previous poster about being able to order it for the Kindle and supply my Kindle e-mail address. I am willing to pay the Amazon price for sending it over Whispernet (3G as opposed to the free address which is WiFi only), too, rather than having Tor eat that cost, but you do whatever is best for your business. I would prefer if it were in the Kindle/.mobi format of other Kindle books, rather than PDF - but again, choices are yours.
39. tachyon42
I buy all my sci-fi ebooks from baen because:
-they allow me to download to Australia
-they have ebooks in various formats including for my preferred ebook reader Mobipocket ( .mobi / .prc format)
-they are reasonably priced (mostly $4-6 except for pre-release ebooks, known as ARC )
-no DRM
-they have the first few (4+) chapters online so I can read and decide if I might like the story.
-they have some great authors.
-I don't want to spend the time, or have the inclination, to hunt around bookstores or wait on mail order to arrive (In the last two years I've bought one sci-fi book via mail order and one at a book store; in the last 6 months I've bought 25 ebooks from Baen)

If your online ebook store offers similar features to the baen website then I know I'll be buying some of my ebooks from you - you've got some great authors like John Scalzi.

I read Old Man's War a couple of years ago (ebook) .
Am looking forward to buying more of John Scalzi's books from your e-store.
41. rms
Most commercial e-books are worse for our freedom than ordinary
paper books in three ways. DRM impose secret restrictive technology,
EULAs attack our right to give, lend or sell them, and the lack
of a way to buy them for cash attacks our privacy.

Tor's decision to eliminate DRM is an important step forward, but two
other injustices remain.

Tor has full control over one of the two, the EULAs. It is not easy
for a publisher to provide a freedom-respecting way to buy a book over
the Internet, but once the EULAs are removed, any physical bookstore
could sell copies to customers for cash.

I therefore call on Tor to cease asking its customers to sign away the
right to give, lend or resell their books. Baen books has already
done so.

Ron Kaminsky
42. Awekam
@ Bruce W Cassidy : "and as the online music industry shows, people aren't that honest about this stuff."

Er, Bruce, how exactly does the online music industry "show" that? Have you been listening to RIAA statistics with a mind so open your brains fall out?

Anyway, congrats to Tor, and here's seconding ymmv's hope that international users will be able to buy, also (so I can make good with my promise to buy a title, even if just for encouragement).

NB. I have no problem to buy from Baen internationally.
Kay Shapero
44. Anansii
Great! I suspect the fact that Baen is doing just fine and has always had this policy doesn't hurt either. Now I can buy stuff from both of you for e-reading.
46. NR
I'm very happy to hear this. E-book DRM is a royal pain in my ethical, paying, customer tookus. Most recent example: I wanted to buy the e-book version of Mongoliad. Problem? I have a Nook, and Mongoliad seems to only have a Kindle version (as of a week ago). So, I didn't get to take Mongoliad with me on vacation. If there was a DRM-free ebook I could purchase, I could have just bought it, downloaded it, and put it on my Nook with Calibre.

Ah, well. Elizabeth Bear's Range of Ghosts was available for Nook, and it's proving to be well written and interesting.
Anthony Pero
47. anthonypero

Love this! Little behind in my TOR news, recently, but I caught this when it came across Twitter. Selling digital direct to consumers just makes too much sense.

Question: Will the new Tor eBook store keep copies of my Tor collection for easy redownload? Most of the other direct sales eBook channels are doing this. You buy the book and can download the book in any, or as many, formats as you choose: ePub, mobi, pdf, lit, etc... If you need to redownload the book, you simply log in and grab it again. I recently downloaded a mobi copy of a book I bought from Packt Publishing 3 years ago, because it was in PDF, and I bought a Kindle. IT was no problem to go on and grab the mobi file from them.

Packt Publishing also honors sales from other channels. If you bought the book at B&N or Amazon, you can add it to your collection on Packt Pub, and redownload it directly from their site DRM-Free.

It would be awesome if the TOR download store worked that way.
48. Andrew Armstrong
It will be good to be able to purchase e-books that Baen Books don't sell. Experience has led me to avoid DRMed anything if at all possible, so Baen, and a coupld of MP3 sites such as 7digital, have had virtually all the money I have spent on downloads of any sort of media.

I kow, could remove the DRM, but I'm not enthusiastic. Becoming a criminal, if trivially, to read something I bought? Too creepy!

I wonder how many people see it the same way, and will become willling to purchase with no DRM?
Frederic Hugot
51. Priscus

Say, if anyone at Tor is listening, could we please have some news about the fabled ebook store coming this summer? I know publishing work is not always on time, and computer work... somewhat less so.
Still, the most frustrating is not the store being late, it's being kept in the dark. The first was expected, but I had the impression this site was rather good at keeping us informed.
So, please, could we have some idea how things are?

Thank you if you're reading this, and best regards.
Nate the great
52. thDigitalReader
So whatever happened to the ebookstore y'all were supposed to launch 12 months ago?
Anthony Pero
53. anthonypero
Total speculation: Tor's parent company ended up settling with the DoJ after this announcement was made. Its possible that something in the settlement prevented this from happening, or necessitated a reevaluation of the budget needed to pull the development of an e-commerce store off, and postponed such development.

Whatever the reason, is there an update on this Tor? I'd ben interested in knowing!
55. mbourgon
Ditto to the question, over a year later. Went to buy a book, realized I despised the DRM rigamarole I had last time with Amazon, and went looking for the store again.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment