Simon & Schuster announced this week that they are taking a tepid half-step towards releasing DRM-free ebooks. According to PW, S&S's newest SF imprint will be releasing its ebooks DRM-free.
tor.com)., which is scheduled to publish its first books next spring, is described by S&S as "an all-inclusive fantasy and science fiction imprint publishing great books across the spectrum of genre, from fantasy to science fiction, commercial to literary, speculative fiction to slipstream, urban fantasy to supernatural suspense." This blandly generic SF imprint was announced in February of this year and has 4 titles scheduled for the spring launch (more details at
"The science fiction and fantasy community were early adopters of electronic formats, and have enthusiastically embraced DRM-free content while showing great respect for authors’ works under copyright," said Joe Monti, executive editor of Saga. "In launching our imprint, we are pleased to offer this convenience to our readers and test the waters of DRM-free publishing."
Color me underwhelmed. When I first read this story I was all set to say nice things about S&S for considering the idea, but as I lined up all the details I came to realize what a slow and ponderous dinosaur they are.
They're going DRM-free with 4 titles which were acquired in early 2014 but not published until over a year later? By modern digital publishing standards, that is positively glacial. I know of authors and small publishers which would had those 4 titles out in 4 months, not a year later.
While I'm sure S&S was hoping to look "with it" by testing DRM-free ebooks, all they've really done here is to show just how behind the times they really are.
Do you know what I think they should have done?
Take one of their major imprints, for example Pocket Books, and released those ebooks DRM-free. Now that would at least be a strong move, albeit a relatively safe one. Macmillan already took this step with Tor Books a couple years ago with no known negative consequences.
Speaking of Macmillan, do you ever wonder why they didn't follow up by going DRM-free in more publishing units? I used to think they were being overly conservative, but as I sit here writing this today I am beginning to wonder whether they did not see any positive gain from Tor Books going DRM-free, and thus had no reason to change their current practices.