Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen have indicated that they will be going DRM (digital rights management) free with their e-books. Tor UK joins publishers like Baen, another sci-fi publisher, and O'Reilly, a publisher of technology titles, in delivering DRM free content. It's a move in the right direction but major publishers and distributors like Apple, Amazon and Barnes and Noble still cling to DRM. If you've read some of my earlier blogs then you know I am not a fan of DRM/copy protection.
Macmillan is one of the big publishers and it also owns Tor, etc. It looks like it will be following suite across the board and that could have a major impact. You should probably check out the blog post More on DRM and ebooks by Charlie Stross. He talks about this change as well as what the impact of going DRM free would have on walled gardens like those implemented using Amazon's Kindle line and Apple iPad/iPhone.
The typical justification for DRM is piracy. In general, it adversely impacts customers that actually buy an ebook. It usually means that the content can only be read on restricted hardware using a particular software package. As much as I like my Kindle, the menu interface sucks. Unfortunately there is no alternative. If you are using other hardware then you have to use Amazon's software. The hardware might be nicer but the software usually suffers from the same limitations. DRM keeps these restrictions in place. I think this is one reason education ebooks suffer because e-reader software is rarely tuned to these kinds of applications.
If you want to see experimentation then don't look where DRM is. Look where it isn't. For example, if you want to manage your devices and ebooks you should check out Calibre.It is free and supports dozens of plug-ins.
I am hoping the industry moves in the direction of tossing DRM. The movie industry might even follow suit but I doubt it. It hasn't hurt the music industry depending upon who you talk to.
For me, I am still trying to avoid buying any books with DRM. I've actually skipped some titles because I cannot legally get DRM free versions. I am also trying not to buy paper books although a hard cover title may catch my eye one of these days. I have not picked one up in over a year.