Tor ditches DRM-protection from its e-book library

image captionTor UK said that many of its authors had wanted DRM dropped

Science fiction publisher Tor UK is dropping digital rights management from its e-books alongside a similar move by its US partners.

DRM is used as an anti-piracy measure, but limits a user's ability to read a title on different devices.

Tor UK, Tor Books and Forge are divisions of Pan Macmillan, which said it viewed the move as an "experiment".

The firm said it was in discussions with e-book store owners to implement the action within three months.

The business said its authors had been pushing for the action for more than a year.

"We know that this is what many Tor authors passionately want," said Jeremy Trevathan, Pan Macmillan's fiction publisher.

"We also understand that readers in this community feel strongly about this."

Tor's writers include China Mieville, author of fantasy title The City and the City, and Peter F Hamilton, author of the Void trilogy.

Unrestricted access

The move means users will not be restricted to using only one firm's technology to read purchased titles.

At present a user who buys a DRM-encoded book via Amazon, for example, can only read it on one of the firm's Kindle e-readers or a device running one of its Kindle apps. They cannot transfer the title to a Sony Reader, Kobo eReader or use it with Apple's iBooks.

A spokeswoman for Tor told the BBC that said she thought ditching DRM would serve as a "precedent" for the wider industry.

It is not the first to take the action. Fellow science fiction publisher Baen Books has long opposed DRM's use. Its late founder, Jim Baen, had said he thought it made it harder for people to read books.

JK Rowling also opted to offer her Harry Potter books free of traditional DRM protection from her Pottermore store last year, instead adding a digital watermark to discourage users from copying them illegally. However, if bought through third-party stores DRM is added at the publisher's request.

In addition, genre publisher Angry Robots releases its title in the ePub format without DRM.


Apple helped shake up the music industry when its former chief executive Steve Jobs published an open letter in 2007 urging music publishers to drop DRM protection. It is now industry practice to sell tracks without the limitation.

However, many publishers remain unconvinced that they should follow.

"It is fair to say that DRM as a principle is now up for debate within the book trade - I have heard views both for and against it from senior members of the industry within the past few weeks," said Neill Denny, editor-in-chief of the Bookseller magazine.

"Some people think that it is an impediment, and has been cracked anyway so we don't need it. But others say that it continues to restrict piracy.

"The key difference with the music business is that the book trade can see what mistakes the record labels made and avoid them."

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