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Old 07-01-2010, 10:00 PM   #1
Crell
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Really open eBook reader?

Hi folks.

My mother recently indicated that she's considering being in the market for an ebook reader. However she is, bless her soul, firmly insistent on open format, DRM-free, and the ability to "really own" a book she's downloaded. She doesn't even want the potential for a Kindle-1984-type remote-wipe or an inability to move a book to another device later. (Yes, my mother has grown up to be a Free Software evangelist. I'm so proud of her. *sniff*)

Of course, she doesn't know the ebook market all that well, and frankly neither do I. She's considering the B&N Nook, but from what little I know it has the same lock-in problems as the Kindle.

So my question is, I suppose, two-fold:

1) Are there any ebook stores or services available for any device that don't treat customers are criminals waiting to happen, and use a DRM-free format without revocation ability? Are they bound to a given device, or are there any that work on an arbitrary Android device? A good ebook reader app (for a phone) or use of the open ePub format (for which I understand there are several readers available) is a plus here.

2) Given the above restrictions and format limitations, what's a good reader to consider? Android-based phones are on the table (but not iPhone; wrong carrier and same issues as Kindle) if they would work. Have people had good success with the larger form factor phones (3.7" screens and up) as ebook readers? I don't think her purse wouldhandle an iPad-sized device comfortably, but at the same time a 2.5" cell phone as an ebook reader is a non-starter as well. Any good/bad experiences here, or at least things to look for?

Help a freedom-loving lady out! :-)
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Old 07-01-2010, 10:57 PM   #2
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any 5 or 6 inch device from someone who isn't B&N or Amazon or Apple. that leaves you literally about 50 devices to choose from just in the e-ink category. Most all bookstores that you can buy an ebook from are going to have it wrapped in some form of DRM. ePub is the most common format now and the DRM is from Adobe. If she wants to purchase current copyrighted books that will be her best bet. Im sure someone else will chime in about secure mobi.

All of the "other" ereaders will support the Adobe DRM ePub. All the books you DOWNLOAD that you can make backups of are yours forever. No one can grab them back because they are files in your computer or reader. If the DRM is still intact though you will need the Adobe DE program to authorize devices and move the book to the device.

There's is more to it than that and Im sure I left something out.


But there are also many wonderful books available for free all over. Some new material that authors give away free as well as all the public domain works.

As for suggestions- well I have a dog in the fight- I would suggest reading about the PocketBook 360 and 301. Of course you can check them out on my website as well.

Last edited by Dulin's Books; 07-01-2010 at 10:59 PM.
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Old 07-01-2010, 11:08 PM   #3
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The situation isn't great for ebook stores. Five of the six largest US publishers are setting their own ebook prices and requiring stores to sell at that price. They all include DRM on all their ebooks at all sites, as do many other publishers. There are some recent DRM-free ebooks, for example: many romance titles are DRM-free, FictionWise sells DRM-free "multi-format" ebooks, and Baen Webscriptions science fiction is DRM-free.

If you want to keep the DRM intact, then B&N has the least restrictive version but it uses your credit card number as a password which some people don't like. There are no limits on the number of reading devices per ebook, and B&N has reader apps for popular smartphones as well as the two Nook device variants.

The best option, though, is to immediately strip the DRM. This is probably legal to do in the US, providing it is only for personal use of ebooks you bought. It is easy to do with B&N DRM, and is equally easy to do for Adobe ePub DRM and Adobe ePub ebooks are available at many stores.

Once DRM-free the most open device is a Hanlin V3 (EZ Reader Basic) with the OpenInkPot open source firmware. This is what I use every day. The V3 is getting hard to find, because it is old technology. Other good alternatives include any of the PocketBooks, which support Adobe ePub but also have FBReader software both for DRM-free ePub and other formats (OpenInkPot also uses FBReader).

On Android, there are at least two good DRM-free reading apps, Aldiko and FBReaderJ, and several mainstrean ebook store apps. See Android eBook reader clients. I am very interested in the Dell Streak, with a 5" screen, which will be sold in the US direct from Dell this summer (likely on AT&T, which isn't what you want). However, I'm not sure they will price it low enough to compete.
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Old 07-02-2010, 01:26 PM   #4
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At the moment not stock device is truly open, but on the same coin no device is truly closed. All devices have some sort of hack to personalize the device, though some are more customizable than others. The irony here is that most eInk devices are built on top of Linux or Android(which is built on top of Linux).

So aside from taking extreme measures like wallcraft suggested, such as buying a device with the intent to install OI then most of the eInk Devices are on the same playing field.


If your concern for 'openess' is more along the line of book format, then you really want to steer clear of DRM. There are stores like Oriely(tech), Bean (a SF/Fantasy store), Smashword, and a few others, that sell DRM free books. These store also tend to sell the major formats like Mobi, ePUB, and PDF which cover the majority of the readers out there. There are also a multitude of sites that offer free books that are either in public domain or fall under common license. A great site is Feedbooks.com


The 1984 incident really had a terrible effect on Amazon and they have promised to never do that again. However this kind of remote behavior is not unique to amazon. Google has recently removed applications that it considered 'malice' from remote devices(smart phones).

I've own the SONY PRS-505 and the Kindle 2 and both offer a great experience, as a person who also grew up on the "open" foundation, I can say these devices are pretty open. So long as you are willing to liberate your DRM books.

If you are open to smartphones there are a great amount of devices coming out that offer 3.7", 4.3", and 5". Such as the the HTC Incredible, Evo/Droid X, and Dell. With the great app support that exist for the Android market you can read pretty much any format and any DRM on these devices.


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Old 07-02-2010, 03:00 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Dulin's Books View Post
any 5 or 6 inch device from someone who isn't B&N or Amazon or Apple. that leaves you literally about 50 devices to choose from just in the e-ink category. Most all bookstores that you can buy an ebook from are going to have it wrapped in some form of DRM. ePub is the most common format now and the DRM is from Adobe. If she wants to purchase current copyrighted books that will be her best bet. Im sure someone else will chime in about secure mobi.

All of the "other" ereaders will support the Adobe DRM ePub. All the books you DOWNLOAD that you can make backups of are yours forever. No one can grab them back because they are files in your computer or reader. If the DRM is still intact though you will need the Adobe DE program to authorize devices and move the book to the device.

There's is more to it than that and Im sure I left something out.


But there are also many wonderful books available for free all over. Some new material that authors give away free as well as all the public domain works.

As for suggestions- well I have a dog in the fight- I would suggest reading about the PocketBook 360 and 301. Of course you can check them out on my website as well.
The Nook also supports Adobe DRM ePUb. With the Nook you can buy DRM e-books at almost every e-book store, except Amazon.
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Old 07-02-2010, 03:14 PM   #6
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The Nook also supports Adobe DRM ePUb. With the Nook you can buy DRM e-books at almost every e-book store, except Amazon.
The Nook supports only THEIR version of drm Epub, so you can only access it via pc or the Nook.

I bought one of their books and was unable to transfer it to my Adobe Digital Editions to open it so that I could transfer it to my Sony reader.

If she wants to be able to transfer her books to other readers she needs to stay away from the Nook, Kindle & Apple otherwise she will be permanently tied to their stores.
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Old 07-02-2010, 03:47 PM   #7
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The Nook supports only THEIR version of drm Epub, so you can only access it via pc or the Nook.

I bought one of their books and was unable to transfer it to my Adobe Digital Editions to open it so that I could transfer it to my Sony reader.

If she wants to be able to transfer her books to other readers she needs to stay away from the Nook, Kindle & Apple otherwise she will be permanently tied to their stores.
No it doesn't it ALSO supports Adobe's drm as well as their own, which by the way is being adopted by Adobe too. So in the future other devices will be compatable with B&N's drm. But you can buy any epub that has ADE drm and use it on the Nook. What you can't do is buy an epub from B&N like you did and use it on other devices, at least not currently, not until Adobe updates their version of ADE.
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Old 07-02-2010, 06:44 PM   #8
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What her reading, tech and budget preferences are will determine how "open" she can be.

Would she want to read mainstream authors published by the big 6 publishers? Is she willing to ADE and Calibre her books before she can read them? Does she travel a lot and want instant access to bookstores? Any budget restrictions? Willingness to purchase online and accept long distance service? Library ebooks?

Maybe she can test a few out locally and see if she likes holding and using them then work from there with the questions I asked and the other helpful posts.
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Old 07-13-2010, 05:03 PM   #9
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My mother recently indicated that she's considering being in the market for an ebook reader. However she is, bless her soul, firmly insistent on open format, DRM-free, and the ability to "really own" a book she's downloaded.
Most DRM is trivial to remove. That should solve your problem.
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Old 07-13-2010, 05:25 PM   #10
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Seems to me that in addition to public domain, ebook libraries are the future. My local library has DRM-protected Adobe EPUB & PDF eBooks that work on the Nook, Kobo, and the Sony readers, and also on my PocketBook 360 (and probably on many others). Then there's always P2P like emule.com.
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:57 PM   #11
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Seems to me that in addition to public domain, ebook libraries are the future. Then there's always P2P like emule.com.
I concur with mdmorrissey
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Old 07-16-2010, 12:58 AM   #12
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DRMed libraries are still DRMed, and therefore a non-starter. DRM is unacceptable restraint of trade and violation of Fair Use.
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Old 07-16-2010, 01:27 AM   #13
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DRMed libraries are still DRMed, and therefore a non-starter. DRM is unacceptable restraint of trade and violation of Fair Use.
DRM is appropriate for a library book. After all, you aren't buying the book and are only renting it for a short period of time. And you can't beat the rental price.

If they weren't DRM'd why wouldn't people just keep them forever? If you keep a pbook you take out from the library forever you have to pay for it.

I am pretty anti-DRM, but I definitely support it for a library. If library ebooks aren't DRM'd publishers would never let libraries have them, and I don't blame them. It's one thing for a pbook that you can't make an exact copy of in under 10 seconds to be loaned from a library. But an ebook is a whole other thing.

-Marcy
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