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Old 04-11-2009, 04:47 AM   #1
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My Run-In With Topaz

The other day I decided to purchase a book I had been holding out on for my Kindle. While I do plan on reading the book eventually, what got me to buy it was that I knew it would be helpful for an assignment I was working on. I wanted to search through it quickly and and find snippets I could use.

The book is Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse by Thomas E. Woods Jr. and I didn't check to see if the file size was listed. I only purchase ebooks with DRM if the DRM can be stripped. This is my personal rule. Some of you might not agree with it but it's the only logical course of action from my standpoint. After purchasing and downloading the book I realized it wasn't mobipocket format. I went to the page and saw that the file size wasn't listed. "Damn it!" I thought to myself.

An ebook I can't open on my computer is almost useless to me. Reading on the Kindle is great but I only buy ebooks to get full functionality out of them. If I wanted the same limitations as a paper book, I'd buy the paper book!

I never got a topaz book from Amazon before. It didn't make sense to me. Usually when I see topaz referenced on these boards the format is being used for graphic intensive books. This book is just text, mostly. I looked up another book I had been looking at, The Reasons of Love by Harry G. Frankfurt. This ebook had no file size listed either. I own a paper copy of this book (purchased from Amazon a few years ago, actually) and know that the book is all text. I don't recall any different fonts so I don't know that there was any need for embedded fonts. I promptly looked up several other ebooks and they all had file sizes listed. It's odd that the first two books I looked up happened to be topaz. It still makes me curious, though: is Amazon increasing its topaz titles to combat the stripping of DRM?

After realizing I purchased something that was virtually useless to me, I looked into Amazon's return policy. I knew I had heard something about it. I didn't know at the time they had a 7 day return policy on all ebooks. I was excited to find out about it. About ten minutes after buying and downloading the book, I sent Amazon's customer service a message saying that I wanted to return it. When I woke up the next morning I had an email message saying the $9.99 had been returned to my card and that the book was removed from my library. It's the only thing I've ever returned to Amazon and I'm very happy that it went smoothly.

I don't want people to end up like the guy on here currently talking about getting his account banned (this mostly seems to happen with big ticket items, though) but I think if you unwittingly buy a topaz book and you can do without it or find it somewhere else, return it to Amazon. Amazon knows mobipocket DRM can be removed. If they get an increase in returns of topaz books or notice sales of those books declining, they might be able to make an intelligent assumption about people preferring not to have restrictions on their ebooks. They might see DRM as bad for business. Who can tell, though? Hopefully Amazon never removes the file size thing. I don't want my file format to be a surprise when I buy a Kindle book. If Amazon is, in fact, stepping up their topaz quantity, they can expect fewer sales to me. I don't mind DRM when I can remove it but I do not buy books I can't strip. It's something I will never compromise on. Amazon should hope topaz is cracked.
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Old 04-11-2009, 05:46 AM   #2
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Sorry, Matt, but in what way does a Topaz book not give you "full functionality"? What can you not do with it that you can do with a MobiPocket book?
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Old 04-11-2009, 05:59 AM   #3
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Sorry, Matt, but in what way does a Topaz book not give you "full functionality"? What can you not do with it that you can do with a MobiPocket book?
You cannot strip the DRM from a Topaz format eBook.
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Old 04-11-2009, 06:07 AM   #4
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Would you really consider that to be something that affects the functionality of the book? Kindle books are sold to be read on the Kindle, not other devices. Is there anything on the Kindle that you can do with a MobiPocket book, but not with a Topaz book?
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Old 04-11-2009, 07:25 AM   #5
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Is there anything on the Kindle that you can do with a MobiPocket book, but not with a Topaz book?
Yes. On the Kindle, you cannot search the notes of a Topaz book and you cannot change the line-spacing.


To the OP: The free sample will also tell you whether a title is Topaz or not, so that you don't have to make a return after purchasing one.
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Old 04-11-2009, 07:49 AM   #6
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What can you not do with it that you can do with a MobiPocket book?
Quite often they are hard to read. TOPAZ is typically used as an "enhanced" OCR of a scanned book where the bitmaps of the scanned characters are used as the basis for the "font". The fonts are therefore at best not anti-aliased, and at worst they include scanning artifacts like inconsistent descender thicknesses.

I don't know what ratio of returned TOPAZ ebooks are for readability vs DRM, but I'm sure Amazon sees higher returns in TOPAZ than AZW.
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Old 04-11-2009, 07:55 AM   #7
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Thanks, wallcraft.
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Old 04-11-2009, 07:58 AM   #8
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I don't want people to end up like the guy on here currently talking about getting his account banned (this mostly seems to happen with big ticket items, though) but I think if you unwittingly buy a topaz book and you can do without it or find it somewhere else, return it to Amazon.
I don't think returned ebooks cost Amazon anything. At most other ebook stores there is the issue of whether you really returned it, but Amazon could actually remove it from your Kindle via Whispernet (although I'm not sure if they actually do this). Also, other stores would already have paid for adding the DRM but Amazon is its own DRM provider.
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Old 04-11-2009, 12:09 PM   #9
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I don't think returned ebooks cost Amazon anything. At most other ebook stores there is the issue of whether you really returned it, but Amazon could actually remove it from your Kindle via Whispernet (although I'm not sure if they actually do this). Also, other stores would already have paid for adding the DRM but Amazon is its own DRM provider.
It costs them a sale and Amazon is in the business of making money. If they care about their business, they should care about selling products people don't like.
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Old 04-11-2009, 12:17 PM   #10
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Would you really consider that to be something that affects the functionality of the book? Kindle books are sold to be read on the Kindle, not other devices. Is there anything on the Kindle that you can do with a MobiPocket book, but not with a Topaz book?
I said I buy ebooks for full functionality. Not functionality on a single device. As I pointed out, there's not much of an advantage to an ebook that can only be read on the the Kindle over a paper book. I can search it but that's about the only thing different that I can do. What I like most about ebooks is being able to open them on my computer. I like copying and pasting excerpts and quotes. I like format shifting for various devices and programs. I have no interest in buying an ebook multiple times. I refuse to do it. If you buy content once, you should own it for life. That's really what I meant. A couple people above pointed out limitations on the Kindle itself, which I wasn't even aware of. That makes me even happier about returning the book.
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Old 04-11-2009, 01:31 PM   #11
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I said I buy ebooks for full functionality. Not functionality on a single device. As I pointed out, there's not much of an advantage to an ebook that can only be read on the the Kindle over a paper book. I can search it but that's about the only thing different that I can do. What I like most about ebooks is being able to open them on my computer. I like copying and pasting excerpts and quotes. I like format shifting for various devices and programs. I have no interest in buying an ebook multiple times. I refuse to do it. If you buy content once, you should own it for life. That's really what I meant. A couple people above pointed out limitations on the Kindle itself, which I wasn't even aware of. That makes me even happier about returning the book.
Although you cannot open the Topaz book on your computer, you *can* copy and paste from them. Use the "highlight" function to select the text you'd like to copy. Then, download the "My Clippings" file from the Kindle to your PC. You'll find the highlighted text in that file ready for you to copy/paste into another document. Here's a piece I highlighted to show a problem with the OCR conversion for a Topaz book:
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A Fountain Filled With Blood (A Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery) (Julia Spencer-Fleming)
- Highlight Loc. 813-14 | Added on Friday, June 20, 2008, 06:47 PM

"I know some of you think we're doomed to be
exposed to PCBs because we're near Hudson Falls,"
Mrs. Van A]- styne said through her megaphone. "I
know some of you think the jobs that'll come out of
the new spa are worth a few extra chemicals in the
That was supposed to be "Mrs. Van Alstyne"
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Old 04-11-2009, 02:08 PM   #12
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Although you cannot open the Topaz book on your computer, you *can* copy and paste from them. Use the "highlight" function to select the text you'd like to copy. Then, download the "My Clippings" file from the Kindle to your PC. You'll find the highlighted text in that file ready for you to copy/paste into another document.
Yeah, I actually did use that method for my assignment but it's a roundabout way of doing things and hardly qualifies as "full functionality," in my opinion.
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Old 04-11-2009, 02:40 PM   #13
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While I'm as anti-DRM as anybody (probably more than most), I feel that if you own a Kindle there is no point in complaining. Its limitations are well known. Just because you cannot skirt the rules any longer because of Topaz is besides the point.

I know all this, I'm a Kindle owner. I bought it used knowing the limitations so I'm not going to complain, it's my own fault for supporting them I suppose. The real answer here is to not buy a Kindle or ANY DRMed book if you disagree with their licensing scheme. Personally I have never bought an ebook from Amazon for more than $2 and I doubt I ever will. But if I do I won't complain about their DRM policy because I will have implicitly agreed to it by purchasing from them.
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Old 04-11-2009, 02:56 PM   #14
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While I'm as anti-DRM as anybody (probably more than most), I feel that if you own a Kindle there is no point in complaining. Its limitations are well known.
For me, a big feature of the Kindle is that the experience is ubiquitous in terms of ease of reading (font/spacing) and convenience (no carrying hefty books). The occasional appearance of a Topaz book negates this.

I find Topaz books harder to adapt to and takes away from my ereading experience. If Topaz were more prevalent, I would likely switch to a reader that supported another format.
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Old 04-11-2009, 03:33 PM   #15
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I find Topaz books harder to adapt to and takes away from my ereading experience. If Topaz were more prevalent, I would likely switch to a reader that supported another format.
I agree. I did end up finishing my last Topaz book but I was tempted to return it and buy a paper copy. It was about 1000 pages so I ended up deciding to tough it out and read it on the Kindle. I figured even though it was more to read, I hate holding books that big. It was slow. There were big scanning errors and I absolutely hate the fuzzy look of the scan.
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