Tor-Forge Books got a lot of attention a few months back when they announced plans to allow ebookstores to sell their ebooks DRM free, and they also got a smaller but still positive notice the week before last back when they reported that they’d followed through on the plan.
Sadly, the process of switching over from DRMed ebooks to DRM-free ebooks hasn’t gone as smoothly as Tor-Forge would have you believe.
One of my readers commented last week that he’d found DRMed ebooks by John Scalzi in BooksOnBoard, one of the larger indie ebookstores. I checked for myself, bought an ebook, and it turns out that he was correct. The ebook I bought still has DRM.
What’s more, that’s not the only Tor ebook with DRM. I checked a bunch of different titles at random, and they all showed a permissions form like the one at right. Do you see all those disabled warnings? That’s a sign that the ebook is crippled by DRM.
Considering how much noise Tor-Forge made about going DRM-free, this was a considerable oversight. And while I don’t know how they made this mistake, I have confirmed that it happened.
I’ve just gotten an email from the ebook distributor Ingram, and I was told that they’re still in the process of switching the Tor-Forge backlist over to DRM-free. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll finish the process this week, at which time the test ebooks I bought at BooksOnBoard should be available for download without DRM.
So at the moment Tor-Forge titles are still carrying DRM in at least some ebookstores. So far as I know this only includes the 100+ ebookstores that get their ebooks via Lightning Source (part of Ingram), but there’s a chance Tor-Forge may have missed other distributors or ebookstores. Caution would be a good idea right now; I would be careful if I were you.
There are lessons to be learned here, I think. The process of dropping the DRM clearly required far more work than simply flipping a switch. This could become a stumbling block for other publishers who decide to follow Tor and drop DRM.
image by marc kjerland