I prefer to buy my e-books in a DRM-free format. A number of publishers and new online bookshops have long realised that the benefits of DRM-free books can far outweigh the disadvantages, and the numbers are growing. This is a huge benefit to both readers, who prefer to own their books, and authors, who understand that frustrating your customers is not a good sales tactic.
What is DRM?
"Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a class of technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale;"
from the Wikipedia page on 'DRM'
As one author puts the benefits of buying books free of DRM:
"A DRM-free book is forever, not just for Kindle."
from The Book Bird by Sakina Murdock
Here is a list I've compiled of online bookshops that sell DRM-free e-books and comics, usually in multiple formats. Happy (DRM-free) reading.
"Phase 5 endeavors to publish art and fiction firmly rooted within the genres, or their in-between spaces, cross-overs, mish-mashes and descendants. The goal is not to publish "what's hot today" or focus on a particular type of plot or character, but to publish what will be timeless."
Publishing horror, science-fiction and fantasy, Phase 5 has a small but interesting range of titles available as ePub or PDF. So you'll need to convert the ePub to make a Kindle compatible Mobi file.
Many e-books are priced at US$0.99, so well worth a visit and a dig about.
The founder, Rebecca Ledford realised she was:
"Tired of the formulaic 'theme of the year' trends that flooded bookstore shelves, I began Phase 5 to enable the wonderful artists and authors I knew and met at conventions to be able to reach their potential fans."
I love their periodic table-based symbols for book genres and content tags.
"The bookHaus is an independent bookshop dedicated to travel writing and literature from around the world."
Based in the UK, Bookhaus offer a huge range of titles. And while not all of their books are available as e-books, the range is well worth a look. I'm still hoping to find some Gavin Maxwell titles as e-books...
Their titles cover the globe and provide in-depth insights into the cultures, customs and lives from the past and present.
Bookhaus e-books are available in ePub and Mobi formats and are priced sensibly less than their paper counterparts.
They also provide a guarantee to match Amazon's price. Can't go wrong there.
"We guarantee to match amazon.co.uk prices when you order online or we'll refund the difference."
"Valancourt Books is an independent small press specializing in the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction."
And specialise they do. Founded in 2005, they stock a wonderful and informed selection of gothic horror and supernatural fiction. I have my eyes on The Cormorant by Stephen Gregory.
Another speciality of their is gay interest, where they are constantly re-releasing out-of-print LGBT titles and classics.
And the covers... the beautiful covers.
Books are available in ePub and Mobi formats and are sent manually after purchase.
Founded in 2010 by two partners with experience of the e-book industry, Untreed Reads is home to over 1,500 titles from a range of authors. They stock fiction, non-fiction, children's books and foreign-language titles.
This particular book, Waves in the Wind, caught my eye with it's nicely designed cover. That's all it takes sometimes.
It's clear from the blog that Untreed are constantly trying out different approaches and are doing their best to get their books in front of readers. Take a look and see if there's something for you.
Most books are available in ePub, Mobi and PDF formats, but check each listing first, since the options vary.
It's good to see another bookshop that allows authors to upload and manage their own books.
Best Indie Bookstore provides 80% royalties and allows authors to personalise their own author page. As you can imagine, the quality varies greatly. But with over 200 titles listed so far, there's bound to be something for everyone.
Most books are available in ePub, Mobi and PDF formats.
There's a good chance of finding a hidden gem here.
Wildside Press mainly concentrates on reprints, books originally published between 1930 and 1990.
They have an interesting approach where they compile Megapacks around particular themes, eg. 'Sherlock Holmes', and publish them as e-books. Think of it as a bundle approach that resurrects lost titles.
Their e-books are usually in ePub, MOBI and PDF formats.
Invisible Publishing is another not-for-profit publisher, this time based in Canada.
They produce contemporary Canadian fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry.
"Since releasing our first fiction titles in the spring of 2007, our catalogue has come to include works of graphic fiction and non-fiction, pop culture biographies, experimental poetry, and prose."
Books are available in ePub format as well as physical copies.
"Dzanc Books was created in 2006 to advance great writing and to impact communities nationally with our efforts to promote literary readership and advocacy of creative writing workshops and readings offered across the country."
Dzanc Books is a non-profit publisher, based in the US. They primarily publish literary fiction and host a range of other projects, including a monthly online literary journal, support emerging writers and conduct an annual prize.
Their titles are award-winning, sold in physical as well as e-book formats and you know that the revenue goes back into the business of creating more books and supporting authors. A great cause.
A multi-genre bookshop that gives 100% of the profit to the publisher. 0s&1s ('zeroes and ones') currently sells titles from 35 different publishers and in genres ranging from cerebral, classics and drama to sci-fi, short stories and suspense.
Their site is beautifully designed and the purchasing process is smooth as silk. E-books are available as a package of ePub, MOBI and PDF and almost all cost $6.
0s&1s also host conversations around books and their subjects. The site is well worth a read for the articles alone.
A leader in how to create a modern bookshop.
Serialised books have been making a comeback for a few years now. Serial Box are taking that model and turning it into their unique selling point.
The founders include former Tor and Penguin Random House staff.
In their own words:
"Serial Box is here to change all of that: artfully blending together the best of series television and the convenience of ebooks and audiobooks to bring readers a new form of story telling. Releasing fiction serials over the course of 10-16 week seasons, Serial Box is about delivering addictive episodes straight to the user’s digital device to be read or listened to anytime, anywhere."
Episodes are available in ePub, MOBI, PDF and Audiobook formats and cost $1.99 each for individual purchases and $1.59 each for a subscription. Each episode in a series is written by a different member of the book's author team - in a similar way to a television series - and has an estimated reading time of 42 minutes.
Another example of an e-book business to watch.
I'm still not sure about including Kobo in this list. They're not a dedicated DRM-free bookshop, but they're the only place I can buy certain unencumbered books. For example: Kobo is now the only shop where I can buy DRM-free titles by Tor, since they closed their own online shop and I boycott Amazon.
Founded in 2009 in Toronto, Canada, Kobo has since been bought by the Japanese company, Rakuten. They make the excellent Kobo e-reader device, so have a stake in the e-ink device market too.
Books are available in ePub format and to ensure you are buying a DRM-free title, check the Download options near the bottom of each book page.
JournalStone was founded in 2009 in California, USA and publishes in the science-fiction and horror genres for both adults and young adults.
They also publish Dark Discoveries magazine and the Hellnotes horror news website, so they're truly embedded in their genres.
Their titles are available in ePub, MOBI and PDF formats and samples are available for immediate download.
And nobody is allowed to run a horror press without some nod to the Old Gods...
"Aqueduct Press dedicates itself to publishing challenging, feminist science fiction. We promise to bring our readers work that will stretch the imagination and stimulate thought."
Based in Seattle, USA, Aqueduct have an active stream of publications on the way for both 2015 and 2016.
Their books are available in both ePub and MOBI formats and cover categories such as fiction, non-fiction and poetry, as well as a few specific imprints especially for convention events.
Aqueduct provide a large and growing catalogue that supports an important area of discourse.
"Atomic Fez Publishing is the Canadian press that provides hard-to-categorize but eminently readable fiction, including horror, humour, fantasy and noir, with an occasional dash of erotica."
Founded in 2009, Atomic Fez provides titles in ePub, MOBI and PDF formats.
Their book product pages have a nice amount of information with enough detail to make an informed purchase - such as clearly stating that books are DRM-free.
Sleepless Knights by Mark H. Williams looks like a fun read.
"Bundoran Press publishes quality science fiction novels and anthologies."
It seems they also publish fantasy novels.
Their titles are available as a zip file containing both MOBI and ePub formats.
Many people will recognise New Internationalist from their ground-breaking magazine, Their bookshop is just as important.
"New Internationalist reports on issues of world poverty and inequality. We focus attention on the unjust relationship between the powerful and the powerless worldwide in the fight for global justice."
New Internationalist also manage the online shops for other organisations, including Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth.
They also sell the exposé of the illegal practices of the construction industry, Blacklisted, which is definitely worth a read.
All their books are DRM-free and usually available in ePub, MOBI and PDF.
Operating out of Alpena, Michigan, in the USA, World Weaver Press publish fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction titles.
In their own words:
"We believe in great storytelling. We believe in challenging genre boundaries and engaging the fundamental human drive to tell stories that resonate emotionally."
The host a strong selection of anthologies and collections, of which I have my eye on Corvidae.
Their books are available in both ePub and MOBI formats and are usually significantly cheaper than their dead-tree counterparts.
The Emma Press is an independent poetry publisher based in the UK. Founded in 2012, its titles have beautiful covers and the founder, Emma Wright, clearly loves each one.
Categories include anthologies, pamphlets and children's books, and are available in ePub and MOBI formats.
"OpenBooks.com is an independent eBookstore where readers read first, then decide how much they want to pay based on what they feel a book is worth and how much they can afford."
Do you see how different this is? This next bit is extremely important for authors to digest and understand:
"Take a moment to imagine that each copy of your book, shared by your readers, works for you. Imagine that you can get paid by each reader who appreciates your work."
OpenBooks is a new model that is not only dependent on authors understanding how best to use it, but also on readers appreciating and rewarding authors for the work they produce. The effectiveness of the pay-what-you-want model has already been proven in approaches like online digital bundles and computer games, and the founders of OpenBooks have pedigree in that area (one founder was co-founder of the "world's second largest independent platform for games distribution", GOG.com).
Apex is a small press that publishes works of science fiction, horror, fantasy and non-fiction. At the moment, they have around 40 e-book titles for sale, available in ePub, MOBI and PDF formats, all included in a single Zip download. They have beautifully crafted cover images and are heavily discounted compared to their paperback counterparts.
For twenty years, Tachyon have been publishing award winning smart science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. Famous for their anthologies, such as The Sword and Sorcery Anthology, Lovecraft's Monsters and Treasury of the Fantastic. Their e-books are available in ePub, MOBI and PDF formats.
If you need a critical read about the classic computer game, Jagged Alliance 2 or perhaps a discussion of the innovative gameplay introduced by Galaga, look no further than Boss Fight Books. Their Kickstarter to create the books was funded to over 900% and it's easy to see why. Take a look the next time you're wondering about the origins and development of Earthbound.
Founded in 1988, Cemetery Dance is a horror and dark suspense publisher. Their authors include Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub, William Peter Blatty, Clive Barker and many others. They started selling e-books in 2010 and now have a large collection of DRM-free titles on their site, available in both ePub and MOBI formats supplied in a Zip file.
As well as their comic shop (see comic section), DriveThruFiction sell from varied publishers, including Solaris, Monte Cook Publishing (of Numenera fame) and Onyx Path Publishing (publishers of the World of Darkness setting). There's plenty of choice here, across genres, publishers and formats. Driven by its link to the RPG industry, the selection is strongest in that area, but is growing all the time.
Rosenfeld Media claim: "We don't publish books; we publish expertise." Their expertise is in the field User Experience. Alongside their books, Rosenfeld also provide consultation, so are embedded in the UX industry and apply UX to their business practices. Continuing this ethos, their books are provided in paperback, PDF, ePub, MOBI and DAISY (an accessible format for blind or dyslexic users) formats.
Emily Books want to:
"...carve out a space in the retail environment for independent ebookselling by proving to publishers that it can and should be done."
Emily Gould and Ruth Curry wrote why DRM is crushing indie booksellers online and did something about it by opening Emily Books. With a delicious variety of titles and passionate descriptions for every book, Emily and Ruth have created the online equivalent of your favourite local bookshop. Bring your own coffee.
Created as a spin-off from Brooke Bond tea in 1968 after the success of their collectible aviation cards, Osprey Publishing is now a well known "military history brand... covering history from ancient times to the modern day". Their history is an interesting read in itself, but Osprey is primarily an enthusiast press. Their detailed reference titles on military history, units, vehicles and aircraft are the go-to books for military hobbyists and tabletop gamers alike. The e-books are available in both ePub and PDF - with the PDF format probably being the best choice for their well illustrated reference titles.
Candlemark and Gleam publish science-fiction, fantasy and anthologies. They intend to experiment with both new and old forms of publishing, such as the Victorian serial; a book released chapter by chapter, available individually or as a subscription. Great ideas like that make Candlemark and Gleam a publisher to look out for. Their reasoning behind going DRM-free is a joy to read:
"Pirates will share books illegally no matter what; keeping you from reading a book you've paid for on your computer, your e-reader, and your iPhone just complicates matters for you, not for them."
Founded in 2001 to publish a poetry book in response to the 9/11 attacks on New York, Melville House is an independent publisher of factual and fiction titles. They've also innovated quite a bit in the e-book and publishing field by creating something they call Hybrid Books:
"Each book in the HybridBook program features not only the core text of the novel, but extensive additional material rendered in digital form - the Melville House Illuminations. The Illuminations consist of highly curated text, maps, photographs and illustrations related to the original book."
"Girlebooks is your resource for classic and contemporary ebooks by female writers."
A nicely designed site (a rare thing in online bookshops) with a large selection of free and paid-for e-books in multiple, DRM-free formats. The books are predominantly classics in the public-domain, but many have had additions and illustrations added, creating paid-for alternatives to the free titles. They've also started their own Proofreading Initiative where they digitise public-domain texts for distribution on their own site and on Project Gutenberg. I'm going to grab myself a copy of Pride and Prejudice. Oh, Miss Bennet!
Belgrave House, and their sister site Regency Reads, sell over 800 e-books in various genres. You can probably guess that they concentrate on Regency-related titles, but not only that. The titles are mainly by self-published authors and come in a variety of formats, including PDF, ePub, PRC/MOBI, MSReader, Palm, HTML, Word and RTF.
Verso, named after the left-hand page of a book, has been publishing a huge selection of radical books on progressive topics for 40 years. They publish around 80 books a year from authors like John le Carre, Naomi Klein and Tariq Ali and cover topics from Anthropology & Sociology to Political Theory on a global perspective. Their books are watermarked and come in both ePub and MOBI formats.
"OR Books is a new type of publishing company. It embraces progressive change in politics, culture and the way we do business."
OR's founders, John Oakes and Colin Robinson, both have 'elite veteran' status in the publishing industry. They use print-on-demand and e-book publishing to stay agile and respond to current affairs. OR Books also accept payment via Bitcoin. :)
They're baaaack! Web professionals almost lost a great British learning resource when Five Simple Steps closed down. Luckily Craig Lockwood and Amie Duggan stepped into the breach and took it over only a month after the closure. I own a couple of these little beauties and the targeted web design and development titles are essential for anyone in the industry looking for specific help. From Colour Accessibility to Web Performance, they've got you covered.
Leanpub is a site that allows authors to use online tools to write, publish and sell their book. It even provides ways for them to donate a portion of their income to certain causes. It provides a huge variety of programming books, but also stocks a number of other genres. Leanpub's niche is that authors can sell their books, even if they aren't finished yet - their motto is Publish Early, Publish Often. If you can't afford the high price of some programming books, you may find a cheaper alternative on Leanpub - or you might want to write one yourself.
Snowbooks has been around since 2003 and is one of the best designed online bookshops I've seen. It may be something to do with their award-winning approach to the business of publishing and selling books. They stock a wide range of genres in paperback, hardback, e-book and wonderful-looking slipcase editions. There are plenty of novels, anthologies and non-fiction titles to choose from (including the mandatory Cthulhu) and I have my eye on a copy of Sharkpunk! ...but why the specific and separate section on cycling? Snowbooks also develop and sell the award-winning (again) Bibliocloud.com, their "enterprise-level publishing management system", that also powers the Snowbooks shop.
Baen Books offer their titles in the widest range of formats I've seen, including: Mobi/Kindle/Palm, EPUB/Nook/Stanza, Sony LRF, Rocketbook, RTF, MS Reader and HTML/Online. They predominantly offer science-fiction and fantasy.
Need some Tamil Pulp Fiction? Blaft is for you! These guys are independent, based in Chennai, India and offer "...bestselling Indian and Pakistani crime novels, Nigerian soyayya fiction, experimental writing, pulp art, folktales, graphic novels, and picture books about girls who are in love with monsters." What more could you ask for?
Book View Cafe is a cooperative publisher, whose members are comprised of the authors themselves. They cover a broad spectrum of genres. Here's how the sales revenue is split, according to their site: "At BVC, 95% of the cover price goes to the author. That's more than at any other online bookseller (Amazon, B&N, iTunes)."
When the description of your DRM-free bookshop begins with "Available now through our website is Tor's entire catalog of 2,500+ eBook titles, including the entire Wheel of Time series." you know you're in for a treat. As well as their existing selection of science-fiction and fantasy novels, Dragonmount also sell independently-published titles, including ones from new authors. Their e-books are available in ePub, Mobi and PRC formats. Unfortunately, this bookshop only serves customers in the US.
A great source of computing books, Manning also provide you with the e-book version for free if you already own the paper book - even if you didn't buy it from them! Their books are available in a number of formats.
Momentum Books are a digital-only and DRM-free imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia. Being based in Australia and being digital-only means they are able to publish titles with less overheads and from authors we wouldn't usually get to read in the Northern hemisphere. They provide a wide selection of genres and seem pretty up on geek culture. :)
As the finest in geek entertainment, No Starch Press produce excellent books on computing. From programming in Scratch to 3D work in Blender, No Starch has you covered. I still have my eye on Wicked Cool Shell Scripts. You get the e-book for free with most purchases of the paper book. Not all books come in all formats - many are only available in PDF.
"Originally focused on open source software, Packt pays a royalty on relevant books directly to open source projects. These projects have received over $400,000 as part of Packt's Open Source Royalty Scheme to date." Packt's e-books usually come in multiple DRM-free formats, including ePub, Mobi and PDF. They also provide a subscription service (PacktLib) which allows users to search for relevant information from their online library of digital books - a huge benefit when all you need is that obscure script.
PS Publishing don't seem to offer a large selection of e-books, but what they do offer is unique and interesting. Great for essays and horror; or even essays on horror.
An e-book imprint of Solaris books. With categories ranging from Apocalypse to Zombies and Gore, you know what you're getting from Rebellion. Along with lots of Judge Dredd titles, they also stock the latest by Juliet E. McKenna.
The Robot Trading Company only offer books in the ePub format, but have a firm belief in the strength of DRM-free publishing. If you're happy to convert the books to Mobi yourself, for use on a Kindle, you should be okay. A large selection from a variety of genre publishers, including plenty of science-fiction; fantasy; steampunk; alternative history, as well as some really interesting magazines.
Smashwords provide a huge selection of indie books, directly from authors or through publishers. They make their titles available in a wide selection of formats and this is the only source I could find for a DRM-free version of First Blood by David Morrell.
SpaceWitch is an UK company that specialises in genre fiction, and whose stated aim is to help the reader "discover the best of British independent publishers." Their site layout is very different and imaginative, which is great in the current world of online bookshops ;). They provide DRM-free titles in epub, mobi and pdf formats. In response to my e-mail query, they stated: "We don't believe in DRM in principle", which helps me feel confident buying from them.
"StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers." StoryBundle run regular, themed and DRM-free e-book bundles at fantastic prices. All the titles are provided in multiple formats. You can decide the price, split it between the authors and StoryBundle and even donate a portion to charity. A great way to discover new authors.
You'll recognise this publisher's computing books immediately, even if the name doesn't ring a bell. One of their greats is Designed for Use, by Lukas Mathis. They also provide discounts if you already own the paper book.
Tomely is an interesting one. It isn't a bookshop, so much as an e-book sales platform. Which is fantastic. Publishers and authors can sign-up to Tomely, add their DRM-free book(s) and produce widgets to sell the books from their own websites. Tomely also sells bundles of DRM-free e-books. Keep an eye on this exciting venture.
An independent bookshop, Weightless Books seem to mainly sell science-fiction and fantasy works. They also offer a number of magazines and anthologies, such as Clarkesworld and Lightspeed. Their direct-to-Kindle delivery system is a great feature.
As Tim O'Reilly says:
"At O'Reilly Media, we've always published our ebooks DRM free, following the advice of Lao Tzu, who said, 2500 years ago, 'Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you.'"
You can't argue with that, and when O'Reilly sells over 8,000 e-books from top publishers all over the world, why would you. They predominantly publish technology reference titles, but that can cover a wealth of topics from Arduino and Raspberry Pi to digital art manuals. Free updates and discounts on the paper book if you own the e-book keep me coming back to O'Reilly.
Josh Centers provides a great intro to drm-free comics in his article, The World of DRM-free Digital Comic Books, including the best reading software and the most suitable introductory editions for new readers.
The British comic book publisher, 2000AD have been providing DRM-free versions of their comics in both PDF and CBZ (Comic Book Archive) formats since 2007. A great alternative to online comic services that don't let you download what you've bought. Along with the Rebellion bookshop they have your Dredd covered.
The introduction of DRM-free titles by Image Comics has been big news. While not all their titles are available at the moment (they're starting with new books before hitting the back catalogue), there's enough to get you started. Comics are available in high quality PDF, CBR, CBZ and ePub formats. I can't wait for a DRM-free version of Nonplayer to go with my paper (and comiXology... ) copy
According to the creators, Mark Waid and John Rogers, Thrillbent is "...an experiment in new-media publishing." The experiment seems to be a blend of free-to-view webcomics with DRM-free PDF download versions available to buy. The webcomics are different from the usual static panels, though. They've been designed to seem dynamic when viewed online, but still work as PDFs when bought and downloaded. A very interesting direction, that I hope takes off. And, of course, there's plenty of Cthulhu-related content.
Top Shelf have followed the other great comic book publishers and retailers by starting to convert to a DRM-free model. They have a few ready right now, including title by Jess Fink, Robert Venditti, Brett Weldele and others. They'll be making many more books available DRM-free in the future. Another great addition to a growing trend.
A part of OneBookshelf, DriveThru provide a number of online shops for digital comics, RPGs, fiction and card games. Their comic shop is another place where the comic-hungry fan can discover titles from their favourite publishers. From 2000AD to White Wolf, there's plenty from across the genre spectrum, all in DRM-free PDF format. If you can't find your comic anywhere else, try DriveThruComics.
Dynamite's CEO and Publisher, Nick Barrucci explains that:
"Expanding into DRM-free content, made available directly to consumers from our website, is simply giving the consumers the option for what they want and how they want it, and continues to reach out to a non-traditional comic-reading audience."
Dynamite have a massive selection of comics. From Battlestar Galactica: Zarek to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, there's a range and depth to their collection. I'm going to dive into the Pathfinder titles and maybe some Bob's Burgers.