iPad is bringing new life to the e-book debates

With Apple’s announcement of the iPad and the Apple iBook store, people have been noticing the ongoing debate about e-books, e-readers and the ugly concept of DRM, which assumes that paying customers are thieves.

Joining the fray, is is Stephen Green, also known as the Vodkapundit.

Of course, I had join in.

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Best tech rumor I’ve heard lately…

From what I’ve read, there was nothing really eye popping at CES this year.  Some cool stuff, but nothing to really thrill anyone.

Apple is having their own press announcement next month.  So of course, Apple tablet rumors have been running hot and heavy again.  I heard the name “iSlate” dropped several times.

My favorite rumor was on a recent episode of TWiT, where one pundit quoted his inside Apple source as saying that there will be a lot of Kindle’s on e-Bay after this announcement.

Barnes and Noble enters the e-book reader market

Barnes and Noble has announced the Nook, their e-book reader.

This is in direct competition to Amazon’s Kindle.  It’s a very similar bit of technology, the major difference being that the B&N Nook will allow users to “share” e-books with other Nook users.  It works this way.  You purchase an ebook from B&N on your Nook.  You like it.  You think your buddy, who also has a Nook, would like it. So you can “loan” that book to said buddy.  It will be available to be read on his Nook for two weeks.  My bet is that this will generate a lot a ebook sales.

Now, some may argue that Amazon already owns the  mind share for e-book readers, having crushed the Sony E-Reader in the market.  The Kindle took off because Amazon was already seen as a major e-retailer of books and they had the ability to buy books immediately on the Kindle using mobile Internet technology.  Sony wasn’t known as a book seller and they had no such “instant buy” option.  The Nook has a similar broadband connection to the Kindle and B&N is seen as a major retailer of books by the public.  The fact that B&N has a much larger ebook library than Amazon doesn’t hurt either.

There are two major flaws I can see with the Nook.  First, the whole DRM thing. Second is that it only supports three formats, EPUB, eReader and PDF.  A few more, including unencrypted Mobipocket, would be nice.

Amazon has responded, quietly, with the announcement that they will release free “Kindle software” for the PC platform, so people can read Amazon’s DRM crippled ebooks on their desktop or notebook computers.  MAC and LINUX users are not supported in this release.  Amazon is also selling refurbish (i.e. used) first gen Kindles for $150.

Bad PR for the Kindle

As I’ve noted before, it is my theory that Amazon does not actual sell e-books on it’s Kindle device, it leases the book to the reader.

Another point of evidence to support that theory has just come out. According to this New York Times story, Amazon can delete e-books off your Kindle, that you have “purchased” from them, without your knowledge or consent.

One of the books removed, George Orwell’s “1984

Keep in mind that Amazon was the first company to grab a noticable portion of Apple’s iTunes digital formated music business by offering MP3 files without copy protection.  Amazon is using it’s dominate position in the online bookselling business to force an ugly “DRM” scheme on its customers that assumes that they are thieves.

Amazon, and publishing companies, need to recognize that they make most of their money off avid readers who are willing to spend money to support their favorite authors.  Their fear driven reaction to the fear mongering of the RIAA is pushing them toward a business model that is hostile toward their best customers.  They would better serve their customers, and their stockholders, by working with the customer instead of treating them like criminals.

Portions of this post were first published on the Urbin Report.

You lease ebooks from Amazon, you don’t buy them.

I came to the conclusion a while ago that you don’t buy ebooks from Amazon, you are only leasing them.

First off, the highly restrictive Amazon DRM not only limits access to the ebook to their proprietary Kindle device, it restricts it to your specific device. Once you are done with the ebook, you can loan it to friend or sell it at used book store. If you want your friend to read the book, you have to give them your Kindle, because that is the only place that ebook will be displayed.

Second, Amazon doesn’t pay it’s associates a fee for any Kindle books “sold” through them. Why not? They pay the associates for just about everything else sold through their sites. Could it be that Kindle owners really are not “buying” the ebooks, but are just paying for a very restrictive lease in order to access the ebook?

Next, Megan McArdle just discovered a catch in the Amazon ebook fine print.

…there is always a limit to the number of times you can download a given book. Sometimes, he said, it’s five or six times but at other times it may only be once or twice. And, here’s the kicker folks, once you reach the cap you need to repurchase the book if you want to download it again.

I know people who buy paper books in both hardcover and paperback, but that is a different scenario. You have two separate versions of the book in different formats. One for the shelf and one to carry around and load to friends. Amazon wants its customers to buy the exact same content, in the exact same format, multiple times, because their business model assumes that their paying customer are thieves.

That is not a consumer friendly business model.

Also posted at the Urbin Report.

Update:  July 2011.  I’ve noticed for the past several months that I’m now getting associate fees from ebooks now. I don’t know if it is for all ebooks or only certain ones.  It is a change in the Amazon policy.  I do know the sale of ebooks is way, way up since this article was originally published.

Fujitsu enters the e-reader market

Before you get too excited, it won’t be released until next month, it’s only available in Japan, and it has a $1,000 price tag.

The FLEPia will however have a color screen with touch capabilities.  Old School Palm OS stylus touch control though.

The display uses a variant of LCD tech that doesn’t use a backlight.  The backlight is the power hog that has kept it from being used in a ebook reader yet.

I wouldn’t call this a threat to the Amazon Kindle or the Sony EBook reader, but it shows the market is opening up.

Another good iPhone etext reader

I’ve tried Stanza, which has the advantage of being free. 🙂

It takes advantage of the nice big screen on the iPhone nicely.  Easy to read and page back and forth.

They have a large number of public domain books to download, including ERB  and H. Beam Piper. Two of my favorites.

I haven’t looked into what other libraries are available, but what they have is sufficient to keep many voracious readers busy.  It makes a good replacement for the dog eared paperback in the back pocket.