Earlier today Tor/Forge Books continued its tradition of letting others innovate for years before following suit. They announced that sometime on or before July 2012, all titles published by Tor/Forge will be available DRM free. Um, yay.
“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 ereader to another.”
As important as some might make this sound, it's really not all that new. There have been any number of successful publishers and ebookstores who have been DRM-free for years now. You will probably think of Pottermore, but they were simply the latest in a long line.
Fictionwise (founded in 2000) has sold DRM-free ebooks via their self-pub ebookstore for as long as I've shopped there. But an even better example would be Baen Books. Baen started selling DRM-free ebooks in their Webscriptions store way back in 1999. They've never had DRM on their store and piracy has never been an issue.
Baen Books is a particularly good example because Tom Doherty, founder of Tor Books (until he sold it to Macmillan), owns a chunk of Baen Books. So for Tor/Forge to continue to use DRM for a full decade after Baen abandoned it required that Macmillan maintain an active effort to deny or ignore the evidence. Of course, this is a multinational publishing conglomerate so it's not a big surprise.
If anything, we have Amazon to thank for this. The growing hysteria over Amazon killing publishing is pointing more and more publishers to the idea that going DRM-free would break Amazon's grip. It won't have that effect but it will be the next thing that the Big 6 publishers try.
I would not be surprised to hear that one or more of the major publishers decided to follow suit some time in the next month or so, they're that panicked.