2008-02-15 15:27:00

Tor gets serious about ebooks

While looking high and low on the internet for a legal ebook of John Scalzi's "Old Man's War", I stopped by the author's blog to see if he's mentioned the availability of his work through a particular net retailer. I discovered a pleasant surprise: The author is apparently well aware of Baen's success with un-DRM'd books, and his publisher, Tor appears to be willing to follow Baen's trailbreaking lead.

In this post, Mr. Scalzi announces that his book will be offered as a free download, as part of a promotion of some sort by Tor. What kind of a promotion? Well, we don't really know (and he didn't say), but most people have guessed that Tor is either going to open their own ebook store ala Webscriptions or extend their current relationship with Baen, based on the fact that titles, previously unavailable in any electronic format, are being offered for free and without the stigma of DRM.

Needless to say, I am quite excited by this discovery

There is, of course, a catch. By going to Tor's website and signing up for their promotion, you are, according to the privacy statement, agreeing to being spamed by not just Macmillan (who owns Tor), but also any 3rd parties they chose to share your information with. The ebooks are not free; the payment is becoming a marketing target. You do have the option of opting-out of the 3rd party marketing, but not Macmillan's.

Quote from Tor's privacy policy:
"We may share the information you provide with companies that are related to Macmillan through common ownership. We also share information provided by our website visitors with service providers we have retained to perform services on our behalf. In addition, we may share information about you with non-affiliated third parties whose products or services may be of interest to you. These third parties may contact you about their products and services."

So, the question becomes: Are 12 ebooks (quality books, such as Scalzi's "Old Man's War", and Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn"), worth becoming a marketing target for a behemoth like Macmillan?

My answer is "Yes, as long as the things that are being marketed to me are of interest." In other words ... I don't want spam, I'm not interested in Viagra, time shares, or warez software. But marketing for books of authors and genres in which I have expressed an interest would be just fine. So, naturally, I quickly created an email account to sign up for the promotional event, and forwarded the mailbox to my real account. If I begin to receive spam emails targeted to the address I gave Tor, I can easily kill the mailbox and forget it ever happened. If the marketing proves to be useful, then everybody wins! Hooray!

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James Conner