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Old 06-22-2006, 02:43 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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How much purchased content is locked up in proprietary e-book formats?

Even with the exciting recent developments in e-book standards, we have some hurdles to overcome before we see true interoperability across the board for e-books.

I wonder how much e-book content is at risk in the e-book libraries of Mobileread readers. In other words, among us as e-book fans, how many e-books are in proprietary formats that will likely be unreadable as the technology shifts?

There is always the possibility that eReader, MS Lit or MobiPocket files might be supported by a majority of e-book hardware and software in the long run, but I'm not sure the odds are all that good. Especially, when you consider that even in their current prime of life, they are not widely supported by reader hardware and software.

I have stuck mostly to non-DRM'd books exactly for this reason. What a wonderful library of public domain classics we can get for free! There are so many books I would have purchased, but when push comes to shove, it's just way too expensive for a book that I consider to be essentially a throw-away, except for the occassional impulse buy. There's one set of about 20 novels in a series that I would buy today if there was a decent price on the set and no DRM, but with DRM it just doesn't make sense. Unfortunately, what sellers can do to sell e-books to me might not be what is in their (perceived) best interest for the marketplace in general.

As a result, the content I have purchased is mostly some eReader books, plus some Bible and Bible resources for which I paid way too much. I like the eReader DRM because it's not tied to a device, but future support of the format on new devices worries me. The eReader store also allows you to re-download your books if you lose the files, which I think is not hard to do unless you are a very diligent individual with regard to backups. But updates of the eReader software even on PalmOS and Windows Mobile devices seem to be rare, so it doesn't give a warm and gushy feeling about future support.

What about you? Have you been hesitant to buy DRM'd e-books even though you would, in general, like to shell out some money for e-books? Do you have a lot of content that may not be supported in the next generation of devices? Did you realize at purchase time that the content was at-risk, or do you feel a bit shafted now that you realize you might not be able to read the e-books in the future? How much money do you have tied up the books that are at-risk? Are you reading more and better quality classic public domain books because of DRM?

This is a hot topic, maybe I should say painful topic, but we'd love to hear your thoughts. As always, please keep them polite. Expressing frustration is fine, but please no personal attacks or gratuitous slams on e-book sellers.

And remember... as frustrated as we are with DRM'd e-books, you have to appreciate those resellers like eReader, Microsoft, Fictionwise, MobiPocket, etc because they are pathbreakers in a difficult market, and they are the only reason some of our favorite books are available in electronic form at all.

So - what do you think about all this?
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Old 06-22-2006, 03:31 PM   #2
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Yes, I definately am reading more classic public domain books because of DRM (so, in a backhanded sort of way DRM is good for my intellectual development). The only DRM books I will buy are either ereader, which uses a credit card number, or Mobipocket books from Fictionwise. I have never had a problem changing the DRM key at Fictionwise when I change units. I am a bit less secure about buying them from Mobipocket, itself, because of the recent changes of ownership. In any event, of the many, many books I've bought from these two sources only 5 or 6 have been DRM. I try to stay away from these if at all possible. It is really amazing how many of the books on these two sites are not DRMed.
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Old 06-22-2006, 04:15 PM   #3
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Hi,

Personally I do not buy ebooks I know I cannot read anywhere I want and WILL possibly want, hence no books that are not or cannot easily be converted to open formats.

I spend quite a lot of money of books and books related stuff (3-5k year including children books for the past 7 years at least, since buying the bulk of my books from Amazon.com/uk/fr makes it easy to check) and I started spending a good chunk of this money on ebooks, especially Baen Earcs and Fictionwise multiformat.

I do not see myself doing anything else in the future too whatever common format will be.


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Old 06-22-2006, 05:11 PM   #4
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I never buy DRM e-books. Classics are also enough for me. Being bilingual (french) I have access to two great prolific cultures. I have enough as it is to last the rest of my life. I might occasionnally buy a recent great book but their scarce that meet my criterium. I also buy paper techno and work related stuff, but none are available e-wise.

Now I just wish they'd get these e-ink readers out !
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Old 06-22-2006, 06:51 PM   #5
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I've tried enough DRMed eBooks to know that unless they are really cheap (i.e. less than $1), they aren't worth it. So I no longer read DRMed eBooks.

Mostly I get stuff from Project Gutenberg, Blackmask (when it was online) and DRM-less eBooks from Fictionwise.

But that hasn't stopped me from reading non-Public Domain eBooks. Unfortunately, the only way to do that isn't legal (although I do buy the paper version after I've tried the non-legal eBook version).
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Old 06-23-2006, 01:24 AM   #6
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I will buy a DRM'd book, but only if I can use software to decrypt it into the format I like. I was reading a Star Trek two parter. The first part was available in Mobi format, which was great, since I use a Cybook. The second part could only be found in lit format, so I converted it to text and then converted it to Mobi to read on my Cybook.

I don't know the legality, nor do I personally care, but If I pay for a book I want to read it on the device of my choice. These competing DRM'd formats are a nightmare and this is coming from someone who prefers ebooks over paper. Imagine what ebook virgins think when looking at all these formats and limitations.
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Old 06-23-2006, 08:32 AM   #7
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Apart from the problems caused by a multitude of proprietary formats, ebooks from some of my favourite authors have never been available or there are too many titles missing.

Like many bookworms, I tend to read everything written by a particular author until I have exhausted the list and then find another author I like and do the same. Even if some are out of print they can usually be found through second-hand dealers such as Abe Books.

I live in hope that publishers will, eventually, address the problems associated with ebooks. In the meantime I overcome it by purchasing a paper book, and scanning and proofreading it in an open format that I prefer. Usually HTML or RTF.

This is time consuming yes, but I find it very therapeutic and I can produce an ebook suitable for my eyesight. Many paper books I cannot read because the text is too small and the line breaks too narrow.

I am looking to buying an e-ink reader when they become available. At the moment I use an EBookwise 1150 or a Cybook for indoor reading and an old Fujitsu Stylistic 1200 monochrome tablet pc with Win98 installed for reading in the garden. The latter is a wonderful old dinosaur that most ereading software can be installed on. I mostly use uBook because it can read xml style sheets. I have never found MobiPocket reliable in this respect. It will open my plain html files but not the xml ones.
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Old 06-23-2006, 09:01 AM   #8
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I have bought several drm-protected books from ereader but I also read free books. I think that you can spend all your life reading good literature with public domain books, but there is inavoidable to use some drm-protected content when you read in a foreign language.

I mean, English is not my mother tongue, and for me is very useful to use a dictionary with a e-book reader. When I don't know the meaning of a word, I select the word with the stylus and the meaning or the translation comes in an emergent message (mobipocket) or a new one (ereader). Then, I have purchased ereader pro with two dictionaries (one english and another english->spanish) and one dictionary for mobipocket.

L.
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Old 06-23-2006, 09:18 AM   #9
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i guess i do not like to buy DRMed books, because i want to have the same freedom as with my normal books. Read them anywhere. And since ebooks are usually way overpriced, i think i will go a probably just buy the pbooks and get myself an undrmed ebook copy to read on my mobile ebookreader of choice. That gives me the nice filled bookshelf and the convenience of carrying all the books around.
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Old 06-24-2006, 10:18 AM   #10
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Big Issue for me on unDRMed bookes, ie pirated ones, is the quality varies greatly. Makes reading a pain. Ive heard there is a way to unDRM a lit file into html. That would seem a good way to insure your property does not become obsolete, although it may violate the DMCA or equivaelent in your country.
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Old 06-24-2006, 02:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by volwrath
Big Issue for me on unDRMed bookes, ie pirated ones, is the quality varies greatly.
The same applies to the legal ones - although the quality gap isn't as large

The books I get from Fictionwise frequently have scanning mistakes. Compare that to Blackmask which rarely has mistakes.

I would argue that non-DRMed ebooks get better over time. In my case, the Palm app that I use to read them also lets me edit them. So as I read the book, I correct the mistakes. I can then re-post the corrected version. You can't do that with DRMed eBooks. (Although, I can imagine what many authors think about letting the general public edit their work and effectively republish it. )

Quote:
Originally Posted by volwrath
Makes reading a pain. Ive heard there is a way to unDRM a lit file into html.
Convert-LIT works (sometimes) but many times the resulting .html file is just a poorly converted text file.
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Old 06-24-2006, 04:34 PM   #12
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I have purchased a lot of DRM'd content over the years, and the majority of it is not available to me right now, forget about in the future.

Take, for example, Mobipocket. I have a large Mobipocket library. I don't particularly care for the reader itself -- it has WIERD pagination problems, so that you can never get back to a page by going to its number -- but they were early publishers of the Oxford dictionary series, and I like those. I am also a major gadget freak. I buy upwards of 4 new gadgets a year, and a new pc every year. Mobipocket's DRM has never been tolerant of this. It allows you to use your content on just a few devices, and after that it assumes you are stealing it, and that's all there is to that. I have dropped PIDs, added PIDs, sent emails, etc, etc, but the sum of it all is that right now I have no access to a bunch of content from Mobipocket on the devices I am currently using.

I have also purchased DRM'd content for Microsoft reader. I have a similar problem with that, since they too refuse to activate the reader after you reach a device limit. You can send them requests for more devices, but this being Microsoft, good luck on that. Also, some of my DRM'd content for Microsoft reader simply doesn't work. Bad DRM, I suppose, but it seems to have authenticated for a particular device and I can't read it any any other device, even if activated.

I do have some non-DRM'd content, but as an earlier commenter noted, it tends to be poorly formatted. My bottom line is that I love reading books on mobile devices and I am Mad As Hell at the mess that publishers have made of it.
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Old 06-24-2006, 04:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LauretteBradley
I do have some non-DRM'd content, but as an earlier commenter noted, it tends to be poorly formatted. My bottom line is that I love reading books on mobile devices and I am Mad As Hell at the mess that publishers have made of it.
My Pet Conspiracy Theory is that publishers are doing this on purpose: making eBooks cost more than the hardcover verson from Amazon, promoting the Tower of eBabel, promoting bad DRM.

Why? Because the last thing that they want is for eBooks to become a success. If everyone has an electronic reader, then the need for publishers goes away. Authors will be able to create content and sell directly to the readers.
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