Why I’m excited about DRM-free ebooks

As many of you may or may not know, Macmillan announced that Tor/Forge and many related imprints will be going DRM-free in July. All ebooks sold will be owned by the consumer, not simply licensed to the consumer. As you might imagine, I am doing cartwheels. (Metaphorically. Doing physical cartwheels would be a great way to get more reading time, because I would be in traction.)

I am happiest from the reader standpoint. I love my Kindle, but I don’t want to have to give Amazon all my book money forever and ever just because that was the device and DRM bandwagon I jumped on first. I don’t want to be giving Amazon my money at all, frankly, as a result of their business practices and philanthropic contributions. I welcome the opportunity to be a a responsible consumer and take my money elsewhere if I so choose.

Running a close second with that is something Charlie Stross wrote about in one of his great blog posts. He talked about this being a marvelous opportunity for independent booksellers and smaller retailers to get back in the book game, and rescue the midlist from the “slushpile” Amazon has allowed their Kindle Store to become. This thrills me, dear fellow readers.

We want to read good books. I’m not saying everything self-published in the Kindle Store is by association terrible. I am sure there are some excellent gems in there, but there isn’t a good way of finding them. Amazon-the-corporation isn’t actually interested in its self-publishing writers, it just wants to look like it is. The way to keep as many people as possible putting their books up so that Amazon can take a cut of whatever profits happen to accrue is to have no oversight on the self-publishing process. Anything can (and does, boy, does it ever) get through.

So, back to the point. Whatever our notion of a book is, we want a good one. Our book budgets and time to read are not unlimited. Personally, I think the (again to take a concept from Stross’s post, which you should read) curated bookseller model, which served the reading (and selling) public for hundreds of years, is still the best option. If I see a book for sale, I want to know that someone along the line has read it, edited it, copyedited it, and done their best to make sure it’s ready to go. Not only that, I want to know that someone else has gone, “You know, this is a pretty good book. I think my customers would enjoy this more than they would enjoy that.”

Not only is it quality control, it is community creation. And with that alliterative idealism, I must go start my day.

In short, this is a good thing for all we readers.

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