opinion So here I was trying to write a nice dry article on the state of the eBook marketplace leading up to the release of the iPad and the iBookstore from Apple iAustralia.
I was glad to see websites with a strong passion for e-book news and issues like Bookbee, e-book.com.au and Bookseller+Publisher Online. All these sites are informative, up to date and showing trends both in Australia and the rest of the world.
And I saw that large Aussie publishers such as Pan Macmillan have launched or are working on (such as Random House Australia) eBook retail stores. There are also lists of independent and vanity/small press eBook publishers:
Then I started to look at these e-book retailers. And cried. Big Fat Girly Tears. DRM. Lots of DRM. Lots of formats with DRM. Why is this a problem you ask?
Many of these e-book retailers use a plethora of book platforms. Many use Mobipocket, others use Microsoft Reader others yet use Adobe ePub (a DRM layer on the open ePub standard). While DRM is optional on these platforms, many of the retailers use it. As a result, the usage of these books are heavily restricted.
How restrictive? Let’s do a comparison on some of the commercially available eBook readers:
Now lets look at some of the retailers who sell eBooks.
So, in order to read an eBook, I am forced to choose an eBook platform, and then look for a retailer who will support the platform. Of course, some of the DRM is so draconian that if I download it onto my PC, I cannot copy it across onto my eBook reader or mobile device. Another issue is that Amazon (and some other retailers) do not have the full range of eBooks available to Australians.
It is worth noting that smaller retailers like Writers Exchange and Poseidon do not use DRM. However the books here are small self-publishers or vanity publishers, so if you’re looking for a Harry Potter book, these sites are not for you. However, given the ability for you to read these books on most devices, this becomes the equivalent of an indie band putting their music out in non-DRM mp3 files.
I am getting some nasty déjà vu here, as if I was seeing a repeat of the music industry before iTunes came to Australia. And I can see the booksellers on the wicket like a fat, contented Mike Gatting, with Steve Jobs about to bowl the ball of the century around the booksellers’ leg.
Some feedback from when I posed some questions on eBook readers on Twitter:
- @DaMana: [On using a Kindle] It is good actually. I buy fiction and non-fiction and haven’t found a problem finding what I want. Prices are better than paperbacks. Great to travel with too.
- Tom Dullemond: [On using Stanza on iPhone] “That’s the point thou – I use Stanza’s built in bookshops (they have a few) but only download free books. Don’t want DRM files at all.”
- Rob Byrne: “Using MS reader and uBook on Windows Mobile. Supprisingly MS Reader is really good, but only read MS format (.lit). uBook is good, but I don’t like the display.”
- And a comment from me on Twitter: “I use the Stanza bookstores as well, I did come across some region issues, but the current selection of US sellers (including Books on Board) have a good selection and are reasonably priced.”
So, dear reader, what is your experience with eBooks in Australia? Do you use local retailers? Do you use a eBook app or device? How do you view the iBookstore coming with the iPad? Let me know via Twitter or the forum here about your views.
Darryl Adams is a government worker and internet tragic. A former IT worker, he still pines for the days of IBM keyboards that go CRUNCH and the glow of green screens. He can be found on on Twitter or on Facebook. The views expressed here do not reflect the views of his employer, the ATO.
Image credit: Amazon