I recently got a hold of an ebook reader. Not to purchase ebooks, but to aid me as a tabletop roleplaying tool. The reason that I did not plan on purchasing ebooks is because of Digital Rights Management (DRM). Whenever I want to read a book I paid for, the ebook reader has to make sure I am not some filthy thief, often by contacting a server provided by the store.
And many vendors (I’m looking at you, Amazon) would want to lock me into using their electronic gadget to read their ebooks. And if the thing broke? Well, I would have to get a new one from the exact same vendor … or lose access to my purchases. And if they were to go out of business, or shut down the authentication servers for some reason, I would lose access to the books I paid for. Moving to another vendor would also be difficult as conversion can be both difficult, time consuming and maybe even illegal. This comic illustrates the issue.
As noted by Charles Stross, this is not only harmful for the customer, it is also harmful for the publishers. Notably, it has allowed Amazon to gain a virtual monopoly on ebook supply as well as a monopsony on being the distributor as well. So, Amazon is well on its way to being able to dictate terms to publishers and customers alike. If publishers want to break Amazons dominance, they have to lower the bar for independent stores to sell ebooks. This requires going DRM-Free.
The people at Tor Books must have come to a similar conclusion. A few days back, they announced that come July, they are going DRM-Free on their ebooks. So, there is a good chance that I am going to be using that ebook reader to … well … read ebooks. Thanks, Tor.