WHSmith Breaking Trust Putting DRM in eBooks without permission from the authors


Update: 10:18pm Bangkok time

Very pleased to see that WHSmith have now removed the DRM notice from books on WHSmith. I do not know why this happened, I can only speculate, as no-one from WHSmith or Kobo have contacted me. And they don’t need too – problem solved – all cool, I’m happy. There are various emails floating around as to why this happened…. here’s one:

Thank you for contacting Kobo Writing Life.
There is a known error on the WHSmith website that is showing DRM-Free books as DRM ePubs. They’re working on fixing this issue when they update their website in May.
Even though your books appear as DRM ePub’s, any customers that want to purchase your book from WHSmith are directed to our site to make the purchase. On our site your book is correctly listed as DRM-Free.
I’m sorry for the inconvenience that this may cause and hope that this has clarified things for you.
The Kobo Team

Move along now, nothing to see here 🙂

Original Post below

As a self-published author I rely heavily upon my supply chain partners doing the right thing. From when I hit upload to that point, three months from sale when I get paid, there is an inherent trust (quite aside from contract) that keeps faith and books flowing in the system.

Recently, a Google Alert popped up with notice that my books were for sale at WHSmith – this was a little “icon moment” for me, because WHSmith was the first bookstore I can remember going in when I was a young boy. I clicked the link and I didn’t like what I saw.

WH Smith BB 2013-03-20_203109


The big red oval is my addition. DRM had, without my knowledge, been added to my book. I quickly checked my other books; same thing. Then I checked the books of authors who, because of their vocal and public opposition, I know are against DRM – Konrath, Howey, and Doctorow, to name a few – same result. ALL books on WHSmith have DRM in them.

Rather than assume WHSmith where at fault, I checked with my distributor, Draft2Digital. They send my books to Kobo, who in turn send my books to WHSmith. D2D assured me the DRM was not being added by them and were distressed to hear that this was the case. Kobo haven’t replied to any of the messages in this thread: “WHSmith putting DRM in books distributed via Kobo”. I’m not holding my breath.

At this time I don’t know who is putting the DRM in the books, but I strongly suspect it is WHSmith. If I’m wrong I’ll change the title of this post and apologize, but only if I’m wrong. You see, I HATE DRM with a passion and this is an abuse of the “system of trust”. 

My books are pirated – all of them. If you want to read my books for free you can. I’d prefer it if you got them from me or Amazon, or iTunes or any of the vendors where I have uploaded my books, because I can control the quality of the finished product and I make some money for my words. But that’s what I prefer – I’m fully aware that my books are pirated and that there’s nothing I can reasonably do about that other than waste my time.

What I will NEVER do is penalize the people who DO buy my books with a stupid piece of software engineering that doesn’t work. All you do is to encourage people to type into Google, How Do I strip DRM from an ebook? Or Simon Royle Bangkok Burn torrent – that’s all you do.

Kobo and WHSmith please understand me – I want you to distribute my books, I really do. I want your readers to discover my writing, that’s the only way I’ll get ahead in this writing game – but if you don’t take the DRM out then I will be forced to delist my books from your catalog. Why? Because you’re encouraging people to pirate my books.

Do the right thing.