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Old 10-07-2010, 08:58 AM   #1
Krystian Galaj
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To own a book, and what my ideal ebookstore would be like

You own a book, when you can read it any time you want. I mean *any* time - when you're travelling on a plane, when you're on a bike trip, on a beach, at cafe in the center of a city, in another country.
Also when you can fix an error with a book, or reformat it to your liking. Most people won't ever do that, but it's the fact that they can that matters.

Ebook readers have advantage over dead tree books because of weight - they let you take the whole library with you wherever you go.

I wondered what an ideal ebookstore would be like for me, and this is what I came up with.

Ebook source in order of convenience (price of most ebooks is low enough that doesn't really matter for most people - but the nuisance of paying methods does)

1. Stupid e-bookstore
  • have to have Paypal account/VISA/other payment method, be familiar with that tech,
  • DRM: no format-shifting available, only a few formats available, no possibility to fix errors/formatting inside the book, once the store servers go down, your book goes down with them,
  • alternatively, you have to strip DRM (may be illegal), shift-format, have know-how to do it,
  • download only once, or at most a few times,
  • after you download, they forget you (apart from DRM) - you can't download the book again, have to store it for yourself, have to buy it again to download it,
2. Pirated books
  • you have to find the book source, have to find the book, have to spend lot of time searching and to have many sources, you have to know technologies like IRC or Usenet,
  • you have to download and store it (which may be illegal in your country, even though it's practically not enforced),
  • if the book has errors/bad formatting/is raw scan, you have to fix it, or you'll not enjoy the book. Or look for another version,
  • you have to store it someplace, and you have to plan it so you can find it later/be able to easily choose from among many books,
  • you have to secure it against accidents, like hard disk failure, operating system failure, a fire in your house,
  • to have it available when you're travelling, you have to either make it available online and count on Internet availability, or you have to copy it (or a portion of your library) to your ebook reader (unless your library is small enough to fit wholly on your reader, but with pirated books it's usually more feasible to download in bulk, thousands, and only browse them on your hard drive,
3. Ebookstore with non-DRM ebooks (or author's webpage with Paypal, or small indie store)
  • easy to find, legal to download and store,
  • have to have Paypal account/VISA/other payment method, be familiar with that tech,
  • download, often only once, after buying,
  • rest is exactly like with pirated books
4. Ideal ebookstore (or rather, I'd call it ebook bank)

For some natural ideas below, idiot laws and regulation are an obstacle. Just remember all those books are also available free "in the wild". Most of the ideas are already realized somewhere, but not all at the same place, as far as I know.
  • have to have Paypal account/VISA/other payment method, be familiar with that tech (well, not really, see last point),
  • non-DRM book, after you buy the book, you can download it, like in case of 2 and 3 - that gives you all the power 2 and 3 give you,
  • they have it available in as many formats as possible, *not* through automatic conversion (see below),
  • you can download the book directly from ebook readers, ready for reading, without having to use big computer to buy/download/prepare/unpack it,
  • you have an account there, and they remember you bought the book (ideally forever), and they store it for you, and they allow you to download it as many times as you want, forever. That makes the book safer, as even when your house burns down with everything in it, your account with the books is still there. They should have a backup system which looks impressive, and give you the details of it if you want. That's what Steam does, and having downloaded pirated games, and having bought Steam games I know it's their storage system that's worth the price I pay, not the game data,
  • based on the books you have, or a selection of those, you can ask them for recommendations, and they give them to you. That makes searching for books you like easier.
  • you can fix an error inside the book, and submit the fix information back to them. They should react as fast as they can, allowing all other owners of the book to accept or reject your error (or review the error themselves, and fix it for everyone, or forward it to a group of volunteers who like to review such errors so they can reject/accept it, bottom line is - customer should be able to improve the quality of digital product for everyone, it's everyone's win, as it involves people, binds them to store). You can fix more, for example formatting of the whole book in specific format - that's why different formats of the book shouldn't be automatically generated from other formats. It's possible multiple versions of the same book in same format exist, with different fonts/formatting/illustrations (public domain or otherwise legally available), adapted to different hardware, and people can download any version they want. You can also convert the book and upload new format to share with others. Author may be involved/have the final say in reviewing/fixing errors, that involves people with the site even more.
  • book's Author may have an account/small webpage in the store, with contact info, so be reachable,
  • you can comment on the books in store, and comments are available to others, you can discuss the book with everyone else (naturally, Author may choose to particiapte as well),
  • if the book you want isn't available in their store, or in your country, they offer a service to buy the book for you somewhere else, possibly at higher price, and to make it available to you through your account, as if you bought it at that store, handling all formalities/agreements between stores/legal hurdles/geo restrictions for you.
  • if the book you want isn't available, period, you can start a petition of readers, effectively like preordering but initiated by you, telling the store you'll buy the book when it's available, get more people to sign, and when enough have signed, the store will start looking for a way to get the book to you, contact the rights owner on your behalf etc. They'll have the info on how much cash can be gained up front, depending on price (each person signing petition gives maximal price at which they'll buy automatically). When the book is available, the shop takes up the offers of all petitioners, notifies them, gets the book to their accounts (see last point on chargning them),
  • if the book you want is too expensive, you can put it on Watch List/tell the store to notify you when the price drops, or set up the price at which you'll buy it automatically. The second option may, if enough people set it up, persuade the store or book publisher to lower the price (the store should be able to send periodical reports of such automatical gain possibilities to publishers),
  • if you just have the browser with you, you can read your book in the browser, in HTML, or using format plugin, like PDF,
  • will not charge you for the book when you buy it, they prefer to accumulate money you owe them, and then in a week or so, or at the end of the month get it and send you a receipt with a list of titles you bought. That disassociates getting a book from paying for it. Apple does that in AppStore. You don't worry about paying monthly bill so much, do you? And it's so easy to forget how much you already bought when you haven't really paid yet. And if you don't have the Paypal account or credit card, they can send you a paper bill to pay in an old fashioned envelope.
... what else the bank does for you?

Pirated books can't provide most of these services, and that's how I feel ebookstores should compete with pirates - by making piracy unfeasible, and inconvenient.

Food for thought (you'll probably see more things I don't see):
  • register with Steam, browse their store, buy a cheap game or download a free demo from them, run it, observe. You don't have to play. (aside: Steam forums aren't as easily available as they might be. Stupid.)
  • if you have something with iTunes (PC/Mac/iPhone/iPad), buy something in their store. Observe the notification email and credit card charge. May take a while.
What do you think?
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Old 10-07-2010, 05:21 PM   #2
Kali Yuga
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I think you have way too much time on your hands.

Otherwise, the overwhelming majority of what you're asking for is pretty much provided already by Amazon (and possibly B&N, I don't know their service as well). Buy and download right on the device, account services, repeated downloads, server-side storage, recommendations, author pages, international purchasing, an automatic "I'd like this in ebook form" button, wish lists, all done.

Ebook formatting and proofing isn't perfect yet, but IMO it has improved quite a bit since I got into this mess (~18 months ago). I rarely spot typos any more. I also have less than zero interest in fixing an ebook; that's the publisher's job, not mine. You can't do it with a paper book, and you shouldn't need to with an ebook either.

The biggest issues are DRM and a credit card requirement. Those aren't going away any time soon. Sorry.

Nor will you do any better than Amazon in terms of international rights. They've got as much clout as any retailer in the book biz, so that's as good as it gets. Fortunately, as ebooks take up more of the market, international availability issues will get resolved.
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Old 10-08-2010, 09:37 AM   #3
Krystian Galaj
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Thank you for answering

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali Yuga View Post
Ebook formatting and proofing isn't perfect yet, but IMO it has improved quite a bit since I got into this mess (~18 months ago). I rarely spot typos any more. I also have less than zero interest in fixing an ebook; that's the publisher's job, not mine. You can't do it with a paper book, and you shouldn't need to with an ebook either.
Some people like to format ebooks, making them better in the process. Public domain books library here wouldn't have happened otherwise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali Yuga View Post
The biggest issues are DRM and a credit card requirement. Those aren't going away any time soon. Sorry.
As for DRM, we'll see in a few years. As for credit cards, well, there's slow but continuous progress, like for example this item: http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/new...check-capture/

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali Yuga View Post
Nor will you do any better than Amazon in terms of international rights. They've got as much clout as any retailer in the book biz, so that's as good as it gets. Fortunately, as ebooks take up more of the market, international availability issues will get resolved.
I just hope they're working on it, and also on adding a service to provide their customers with ebooks from other ebookstores somehow. It's not like rights owners specifically want to lose money by not selling books, I hope...
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