Cautiously optimistic

I've described myself as "cautiously optimistic" about a decision by a set of Macmillan imprints, including Tor/Forge, to go DRM-free on their titles. Dropping DRM makes sense for the types of titles they have chosen, and by trying DRM-free sales on some titles, Macmillan can gather real-time data to guide subsequent decisions for other imprints.

Yesterday Macmillan's EVP of digital publishing, Fritz Foy, went a step further. Speaking as part of a panel at BookExpo America, Foy announced that Tor/Forge would start a DRM-free bookstore for its titles. A statement on the Tor web site reassured retailers but went on to say that the DRM-free bookstore will at some point sell books from other publishers

A DRM-free bookstore isn't news; O'Reilly and Baen Books have been selling their titles this way for quite some time. Somewhat forgotten, though, is where Macmillan was early in 2010, when it used a keynote presentation at the inaugural Digital Book World to marshall the trade book business in a "war on piracy".

After that presentation, I wrote "A modest proposal", calling on Macmillan (and others) to focus on "building a viable consumer marketplace". Frankly, I didn't hold out much hope at the time I wrote the post.

Jump ahead 29 months. Macmillan has apparently shifted its focus from "stopping piracy" to trusting readers. Their digital publishing head not only announced a DRM-free bookstore; he did so as part of a panel that included Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross and John Scalzi, all known for their skepticism about the value of DRM.

Maybe somebody is actually looking at the data. Continue to count me as one of the cautiously optimistic.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.