Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ramblings on Electronic Books

Of recent, I've been doing a little studying on the issue of ebooks, primarily because I tend to be tighter on shelf space than disk space. For some stuff of interest to me, I must say, the digitial solution is usually cheaper: perhaps up to 40% or less the list price. Although that being said, I usually prefer "Used" books on the cheap to new books at full price, but the nearest decent used bookstore for years has been is Amazon \o/.

Two major retailers of books in general exist that are worth my investment: Amazon (Kindle) and B&N (Nookland). Kobo looks intensely interesting but within minutes of checking their website, I do not trust them with my billing information.

Now I may be a major cheapskate but I don't mind buying what I want, in fact, I prefer it—if it gets me exactly what I want. In the case of the Kindle and Nook stores at least, it is pretty much there. The problem is DRM. You can read it on a PC, a Mac, iOS, Android devices, and their own reader devices.
Well guess what, I prefer a PC but their software doesn't work on mine. My PC's run Linux and BSD based operating systems :-).

This creates a bit of a irk for me: why should I give them my money, if they will restrict what I can do overtly? Generally, I would choose the Kindle store as a matter of taste. The problem is each store's DRM prevents me from using the devices that ***I*** wish to use at my leisure, so it is little better then requiring their hardware. Given the choice of using my cell phone or remoting to a windows or OSX box to read from Linux and BSD, isn't what I call fair enough versus the cost of a real old fashioned book I can lay in bed and read.

Honestly, I am not against DRM in concept, only how it is typically executed. Because if it is much more complex then email + password + auth token = decode and enjoy content, ala setting up Dropbox on a new PC (to access your content). It is not managing my digital rights, it is removing them. IMHO the only practical form of DRM for books and the like: would be the kind where someone is unable to access the material in _any_ form, unless their DNA matches the DNA of the person licensed to access (read) it, and any violation results in automatic punishment; such as content erasure, imprisionment, etc. Even if locked down expicilitly to the ebook reader's hardware, and somehow hardware hacking was prevented from being possible—it would still be a failure: because you could just photo copy the screen the same way as pages in a paper book. So in the end, we end up having to pay the price of assholes trying to outfox assholes \o/.

The subscription model is better: pay x/cycle for such and such content. That is probably closer to what some DRM-folks like in the music indrustry want anyway, making profit off each playback rather than each distribution of content 8-).

It is very strongly worth noting that in general: I am very against dedicated devices like the Kindle or Nook, when you could spend more and get a more general purpose device like an Android tablet or iPad. I'm not willing to buy one of those for myself until after Ice Cream is mainstream, so I really should just buy a darn Kindle 3. It's only like $140 with the 3G option, and I am more applicable to buying a Kindle then dealing with trying to get around the DRM issues.

While it's limited to technical books, I really would consider something like Safari Online Books to be a much better investment but I want more than what it can offer. I'll likely begin evaluating things more closely in the near future, as well as setting up Safari for a trial. Safari has the best techy publishers in my experience.

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