His Majesty’s Starship, Jeapes Japes, and absolutely no DRM

Now I’ve signed the contracts (as of today) I’m delighted to announce the republication of His Majesty’s Starship and the first-time publication of Jeapes Japes, my short story collection, both by the wonderful Cheryl Morgan’s Wizard’s Tower Press and both as ebooks. Check out the online book store shortly, and behold Andy Bigwood’s excellent cover.

I remember in one of my first serious writing efforts, c. 1984, imagining people reading something off a book-sized handheld gadget – and I was imagining the image being something more sophisticated than a cathode ray tube which was pretty well all that was available back then. Go me! What I didn’t foresee – though anyone who actually knew a thing about computer files could have worked it out within minutes – was the whole DRM thing.
One of the great things about Cheryl’s contract is that it specifies the books have noDRM protection. Now, you can see why publishers want to protect their books. In principle, with a paper book, anyone could take a photocopy and pass it on to friends; in practice, they probably won’t. With ebooks – indeed with any kind of software – they very easily can and do, and the publishers lose a sale. The publishers lose many sales. So, publishers want to make sure that doesn’t happen and they slap protection on – which effectively criminalises all the innocent readers, i.e. the majority. People don’t like that. Would you buy a paper book that you could only read in your own house, or your own house and that of a designated friend, just in case you photocopied it? Of course not.
But what about the lost revenue, you ask? Well, yes, that is a tough one and it’s a strong argument – but it will never, with existing technology, get over the point that people simply don’t like being treated as potential criminals just because of the minority (raking in huge sums) who actually are. Even Apple, which is pretty good at using its weight to get its own way regardless of everyone else’s feelings, was forced to drop DRM on iTunes. The successful publishers will be those who acknowledge there will be leakage of revenue, and work with it.
I’m hugely grateful to Cheryl for her principled stand on the matter, and for giving the books this chance.
Going back to the books, I did this cover myself (photo by Derek Walker) and take full responsibility for any sub-optimal awesomeness.