Top SF Authors Raise $1m With Pick-Your-Price, DRM-Free E-Titles

In What's the Buzz by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

In a recent issue of The Guardian, Cory Doctorow analyzed in detail the ways in which DRM and price discrimination have harmed the way users interact with all forms of digital media, and expressed how, in the transition from physical to digital space, publishers and distributors seem to be going out of their way to make life difficult for consumers:

“People are especially resentful of their neighbours or friends abroad paying different prices. And in order to make this kind of limited-use model work, the entertainment industry had to deploy DRM – software that lurked in the customers’ devices, ready to swim to the fore and intone ‘I can’t let you do that, Dave,’ any time a purchaser wanted to do something outside of the deal they’d been offered.”

But writing in the Huffington Post, Robert Martinez of Humble Bundle boasts that Doctorow says that his company was one that was getting it right. Humble Bundle has been experimenting with what it sees as a simpler, more honest approach to selling digital goods, which led to their collaboration for the first-ever Humble eBook Bundle.

Participants had to meet two requirements. The first: no DRM. (Ironically, the one exception to this was Tor, Doctorow’s publisher for his latest title, Pirate Cinema, which he selected to be featured in the promotion.) The second requirement was pay-what-you want.

Authors Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, John Scalzi, Paolo Bacigalupi, Lauren Beukes, Mercedes Lackey, Kelly Link, and Cory Doctorow joined with Humble Bundle to see just how a promotion like this would perform. (All primarily fantasy and SF authors, one should note…)

And as of now, the Humble eBook Bundle has brought in nearly close to $1 million from over 68,000 customers in less than two weeks. Customers are also given the option to donate to charities such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Emergency Medical Fund for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Child’s Play.  With the additional support of webcomics xkcd, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and Penny Arcade, the response has been more than the company dreamed of.

As Martinez wrote, “The authors are thrilled, publishers are shocked, customers are thankful, and Humble Bundle is…well, humbled…And the conclusion at the end of the day? Can you reliably distribute someone’s works to the world without DRM? Will customers actually pay a meaningful price for something when given the option to set their own? The answer, which we hope to keep proving with every new promotion, is a resounding yes.”

The offers ends on Tuesday.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.