Ebooks, an evolving landscape

I read a lot. Amazon made a fortune out of me over the years as the most convenient place to buy technical books; but eventually I hit a tipping point. Physical books, particularly technically ones, take up a lot of space, and I literally ran out of room. Luckily technology has finally caught up, and I’ve bought into the ebook (r)evolution over the last year or so.

I decided to stick to the open ePub format, which meant leaving Amazon behind as they are the only major vendor not to support ePub. Unfortunately Amazon makes things very easy, if you decide to go elsewhere you may have to put in a little more effort.

I started with iBooks on my iPad, a great application. I bought a couple of books in the iBookStore. And all was well… until I tried to transfer them to a Kobo. Both use ePub, but Apple’s DRM means I can only view the books on the iPad or iPhone. No-one has yet reliably cracked Apples DRM, so I cut my losses, and don’t buy there anymore.

These days I buy directly from publishers where I can. The upside is access to beta versions pf some books and occasional chances to pick up eBook versions of physical books I bought long ago, sometimes at a huge discount. The downside is I now have at least 6 separate accounts to manage. You may find it worth your while to buy direct from the publisher even if you use Amazon, as they all support Amazons Mobi format as well as ePub.

For general books I tend to go to Kobo or Diesel. Another two accounts to manage… 😦

For managing books I use Calibre. It’s free, open source, works with just about all e-readers, and allows converting between most formats.

Most of the technical publishers books are either DRM free (OReilly) or watermarked (PragProg, Informit) which is great. Most publishers using DRM tend to use Adobe which is easy to crack if you are so inclined. You will probably have to install Adobe Editions so the procedure is download to Adobe Editions, and either use that as your library manager or fish the books out of there, remove the DRM, and pull them into Calibre.

An unexpected side effect is that I now buy even more books than before. However doing the above does require effort. No one else has yet replicated the magical mix of good hardware, ease of use and sheer breadth of content that Amazon has; though plenty are trying.