Baen No Longer Alone

In light of Tor Books’ announcement that it is getting rid of digital rights management (DRM) in July, the folks at Baen Books have followed-up by announcing their entire line of ebooks will also be DRM-free – just exactly as it has been ever since the late 1990s. 

Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf commented:

We expect this strategy to be a winning formula for Tor as it has been for more than a decade for Baen. We heartily welcome Tor/Forge to the DRM-free fold.

Baen Books founder Jim Baen, who died in 2006, was known to be a passionate advocate of ebooks without DRM, according to Baen editor Tony Daniel: 

We have mugs and hats from years ago still around the office with our on-going ebook slogan written on them: “Alone in the Fight Against Encryption.”

Baen Books currently offers well 1,500 DRM-free titles at Baenebooks.com, and almost every title is available in all current file formats and many legacy formats as well, including Mobi, Kindle, Palm, EPUB, Nook, Stanza, Sony LRF, Rocketbook , RTF, MS Reader, and HTML Online versions.

The full press release follows the jump.

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Tor’s DRM-atic Announcement

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, will make their entire list of e-books DRM-free by July. The imprints had a combined 30 New York Times bestsellers in 2011.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are designed to give the seller control over the transferability of content after it has been delivered to the consumer. E-books in the Amazon Kindle format, for example, are readable on that company’s devices, but not those of its rivals. DRM is justified as an anti-piracy measure.

“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.”

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing reacted by breezily predicting –

[More] to follow, I’m sure; I’ve had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers…

On the other hand, Laura Hazard Owen at CNN Money questions whether Macmillan itself, the big company that owns Tor, will adopt this policy across the board  –

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, John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, who made the final decision to drop DRM on ebooks from Tor/Forge (according to Charles Stross) will watch how it plays out.

A move affecting only the sf/fantasy market still benefits fans wanting the freedom to store and manage their ebook collections on any device they choose.

One of Tor’s top authors, John Scalzi, is in favor of the change. He thinks DRM is an unnecessary impediment to sales. 

Does this mean it’s easier for someone to violate my copyright? It does. But most people don’t want to violate my copyright. Most people just want to own their damn books. Now they will. I support that.

Charles Stross has posted arguments he was invited to make to Macmillan brass about the decision to drop DRM. He admits DRM makes no difference to those who buy a few top bestsellers a year, however, he told execs it makes a big difference to some of the most devoted book buyers.

The voracious 20-150 books/year readers are a small but significant market segment. These people buy lots of titles. They frequently have specialized interests which they pursue in depth, and a large number of authors who, although not prominent, they will buy everything by… Previously they bought paperbacks and hardcovers from specialist genre bookstores or, failing that, from large B&N/Borders branches. They will go to whatever retailer they can find online, and they find DRM a royal pain in the ass — indeed, a deterrent to buying ebooks at all.

It’s no secret he’s talking about sf fans, since he mentions us explicitly a few lines later…

SF/Fantasy on Cover at Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly features SF and fantasy in its April 12 issue.

JoSelle Vanderhooft’s cover story begins with the familiar black crepe overhanging the publishing business — “Last year was sluggish for book sales and gloomy for publishing personnel, with layoffs, hiring freezes, and cutbacks at an all-time high” — then surprises with examples of sf/fantasy publishers that seem to be immune. Of course, their books are tie-ins to the Star Trek and World of Warcraft franchises, so the cheering may be a little subdued.

All reports on the state of book publishing need comic relief, supplied here by Naomi Novik in her contribution “Why I Write…”  

My grandmother, among other varied professions undertaken during an eventful life, once sold vowels in the market on Tuesdays in Warsaw. Under the difficult climate of the region, situated as it was between Latin and Cyrillic, they were more difficult to raise than consonants and consequently more rare.

There’s also a sidebar on Tor’s 30th anniversary with insights from publisher Tom Doherty and several of the editors:

“We try not to get too far afield of stuff somebody around here sincerely likes and understands,” adds Patrick Nielsen Hayden, senior editor and manager of science fiction. “But we’re a broad church. One of Tom’s strengths has been his willingness to work with an array of editors who represent very diverse tastes, even within particular genres.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link]

Tor Books Moving?

Well, not this week. However, the offices of Tor Books are housed in New York’s Flatiron Building, which an Italian investor has announced plans to convert into a luxury hotel. Reports say hotels take so long to construct that it might be a decade before the Flatiron Building comes online in its new capacity. If the project goes forward, sf’s leading publisher may be changing addresses in the foreseeable future.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Brian M. Thomsen Passes Away

Brian M. Thomsen, well-known for co-writing Julius Schwartz’s autobiography Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics, died suddenly on September 21. Author, anthologist, a consulting editor for Tor, Thomsen was a popular figure in the sf field.

Harlan Ellison has a short, grief-stricken notice on his website. (Coincidentally, Ellison and Thomsen co-wrote this obituary about Julie Schwartz following his death in 2004.)

See more information at http://www.sfwa.org/news/2008/bthomsen.htm.

Moshe and the Archbishop

Archbishop John J. Myers

John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark and a Tor science fiction author, gave an interview to Jeff Diamant that was recently posted to Inside New Jersey. Editor Moshe Feder is also quoted:

“You have to admit, I’m being a good sport about this,” says the archbishop of Newark. John J. Myers, the spiritual leader of 1.3 million Catholics, a man who wears well the stateliness of his high church office, who goes through life addressed as “Your Excellency,” who is revered in Catholic circles as a canon lawyer and a proud, conservative rock of his church, is, at this moment, speaking through the face hole of a costume space helmet he has donned at the request of his guests. In a few minutes, standing in the grassy yard of his summer residence in Hunterdon County, he will even don pointy Spock ears and a pair of alien antennae. The bespectacled archbishop is doing this to promote and discuss a fun and uncanonic part of his life — his love of science fiction and, specifically, Space Vulture, a sci-fi novel he published in March with childhood friend Gary Wolf…

The publisher, Tor Books, loved the idea of promoting a book written by an archbishop and a ‘toon creator. And in what somehow seems fitting for this eclectic project, the editor was a guy named Moshe. That’s Moshe Feder, who enjoyed editing a Catholic honcho almost as much as Myers enjoyed writing the book. “There’s a slight incongruity: ‘Moshe Feder, graduate of yeshiva for 12 years, editing the archbishop,’ ” Feder joked. “It’s like if I went to Notre Dame and was editing a famous rabbi.”

[Via Andrew Porter and Ed Meskys.]

Tor.com: New Online Community

The opportunity to read a lot of interesting posts by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Beth Meacham, Irene Gallo, Alison Scott, Bruce Baugh, Jim Henley, John Scalzi, Jo Walton and others is reason enough to visit Tor.com’s newly-launched community site, but another of the band of contributors, Consulting Editor Moshe Feder, also wants everyone to know there’s a load of freebies at the site: 

To celebrate the launch of the new Tor.com website (a participatory community website as opposed to our corporate face at Tor-Forge.com), we are offering a whole bunch of our books for free download in your choice of PDF, HTML, or MobiPocket formats. I’m proud to say that the very first book on the list is one of my own acquisitions, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

Moshe adds this caution: Note that these are download links. If you try to visit them, you’ll see gobbledegook. Instead, right-click on them to “download linked file.”

The links and other details appear behind the cut.

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