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Old 06-20-2010, 06:38 PM   #1
robinson
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Future-proof buying choice-- which e-book format, e-bookstore?

We're starting to explore the brave new world of purchased ebooks. It's for all the standard reasons (replace books whose fonts is now too small to read, save space, get rid of several bookshelves, buy some books and series we haven't read yet, etc.).

I thought it would be fun to start with getting a bunch of old science fiction stories by Ray Bradbury and Ben Bova, to have a full or nearly full set on our i-devices. But there's the rub... which format to buy them in? And which ebookstore to get them from? (Our ereaders of choice are the Stanza and eReader apps.)

I've read lots of discussions about ebook formats (ePub, etc.) and understand that things are a morass of competing, incompatible formats but, as an exclusively free ebook reader, I hadn't really focused on what the best, future-proof, buying choice was. (OK, "future-proof" might be tough, so how about decent longevity?! )

I really see things changing rapidly in the next couple of years, with bookstores going by the wayside or certain formats discarded. I really don't want to get locked into a particular bookstore or ereader...or buy a bunch of books that won't be readable in the future on some new device!

So, what's a person to do? What's the advice these days?

I have the suspicion that the answer will involve ePub and Calibre and lots of manual effort! (Keep in mind we're e-couch potatoes! ) We live in the Mac world, if that matters.
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Old 06-20-2010, 06:47 PM   #2
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Any that you can strip DRM off of. No DRM is future proof.
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Old 06-20-2010, 07:59 PM   #3
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Excluding DRM, I'd guess longevity may be:
.txt
.html
.epub
.pdf
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Old 06-20-2010, 09:38 PM   #4
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The key to future-proofing is buying DRM-free ebooks.

Even stripping the DRM isn't the same, because by buying DRM-restricted ebooks, you're voting in favor of DRM. And if the booksellers find that we're willing to accept DRM, they'll just make it harder and harder to break, until they finally succeed with their goal of total device lock-in, and probably renting us books on a weekly basis instead of selling them at all.

Aside from that, I'd bet on epub. It's being pushed as a universal standard, which might give it an edge over the more proprietary formats. PDF is good, too, except that it really blows for ebooks, at least on 6" or smaller readers.
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Old 06-20-2010, 11:33 PM   #5
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epub also converts well and easily to most other formats in Calibre.
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Old 06-21-2010, 07:21 AM   #6
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ePUB has the advantage of being:

1) An open standard
2) Based on well-known and well-defined formats (XHTML, CSS)
3) Capable of decent formatting, and storing metadata
4) Easy to convert from and relatively human-readable

So, even if at some point ePUB becomes obsolete, chances are you'll still be able to retrieve with minimal hassle all the text, formatting and metadata.

Of course, I bet PDF will also have a long life, but I wouldn't buy books in PDF format. PDF is good if you create it with your own preferences, for your own reader, from some source content, but as a source format itself (for future use or conversions) it has many drawbacks.
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Old 06-21-2010, 07:44 AM   #7
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PDF will live for a long time because of its exceptional handling of some complex documents. I'd like to see a standard established for straight novel reading, though, and it does seem that ePub is making the introads it deserves. Best wishes. Neil
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Old 06-21-2010, 01:42 PM   #8
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Support publishers who are DRM free

I too have wondered what to do about the whole DRM issue and I am convinced that the conflicting, restrictive efforts currently out there are going to hurt books and reading more in the long run than if publishers just got rid of DRM.

I have a couple of bookcases of hardcover and paperback books that I re-read every few years. Additionally, when guests come to stay or friends come over they can easily look through the books and borrow a book to read if they find one they like. This is not really possible with ebooks unfortunately.

I have bought ebooks from a number of sources in a number of formats (eg. mobi, ereader, fictionwise, etc) and it bothers me that many of these formats require specific reader software or devices and each uses a different DRM mechanism. How many years will I have access to these ebooks before the software or hardware is no longer available? It certainly won't be anywhere near the length of time I have had my paper books!

One thing that I have been doing for some time is purchasing my books from a publisher who does not use DRM. I am lucky in that my preferred genre is SciFi/Fantasy as one of my most read publishers, Baen Books, does not agree with DRM. I think that they have a truly enlightened and positive attitude towards DRM on ebooks and their Prime Palaver section which talks about their position is well worth reading (http://www.baen.com/library/ and http://www.baen.com/library/palaver_index.htm). Not only do they not put DRM on their ebooks, but they also provide a free library with complete ebooks for readers to download and read samples of an authors work. They say that the $'s show that this has actually helped sales, not hindered them. They also have no problem with someone giving a copy of an ebook to someone else to read as they believe that this also actually spreads the word and again increases sales, not, as most other publishers seem to believe, causes them to lose money!

I believe that people who are true readers will always be inclined to support the authors that they read. If I like reading David Weber books it is in my interest to buy his books, even if I could get them all for free, in order to support him and have him write more. Sure there are people who just want a free book here or there, but I don't think casual readers are ever going to be the ones who provide a real income to a publisher anyway. And besides, there is always the chance that if a casual reader get to read a particular authors book and become hooked they will start to buy the books they read. I also know from my experience as an avid reader that the ability to sample the full works of other authors I have not read before has lead to sales that Baen would not necessarily have got if it hadn't been so easy to explore new authors.

The sooner that publishers, movie studios and music studios move away from restrictive practices like DRM and geographical boundaries the sooner they will find that they will actually increase sales, not decrease them!

Last edited by go4thetop; 06-21-2010 at 01:51 PM.
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Old 06-21-2010, 01:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmaul1114 View Post
Any that you can strip DRM off of. No DRM is future proof.
Exactly. Once you get rid of the DRM, converting between different/future formats is relatively easy.
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Old 06-23-2010, 05:38 PM   #10
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I have gone for EPUB and a Sony Reader as I believe that EPUB has a chance to become the standard for ebooks for all the reasons above.

I think what will happen is that there will be 2 camps left, Amazon & EPUB, in the same ways as Apple & the Ipod haven't removed all other music players from the market (you can still buy creative, and numerous chinese makes), I don't believe that Kindle will wipe the floor will all other formats.

On the DRM side, it is important to remember the difference between an ebook and a 'realbook'. With a real book you are given a physical item you can hold and touch, which can be lent to friends etc.

With an ebook you are effectively acquiring a license from the publisher to access the 'software' (the ebook) on your 'hardware' (the reader) in the same you acquire a license from Microsoft/Apple for their operating systems, you never 'own' Windows you merely have a license to use it from Microsoft.

I'm afraid the answer is this, if you want to be able to hand your book around to friends you have to buy a book, not a license for your reader.

DRM is a blunt tool currently to deal with the threat of piracy (and we know from Pirate Bay and ripped MP3 that piracy is a real issue - if people can get stuff for free they generally will - accepting of course that most people here on the boards care passionately about reading and authors), if DRM were removed something else would take it's place to ensure the rights of the publisher are upheld.
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Old 06-23-2010, 05:43 PM   #11
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With an ebook you are effectively acquiring a license from the publisher
Not according to the law in the US. I don't know about other countries though.
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Old 06-23-2010, 07:14 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
ePUB has the advantage of being:

1) An open standard
2) Based on well-known and well-defined formats (XHTML, CSS)
3) Capable of decent formatting, and storing metadata
4) Easy to convert from and relatively human-readable

So, even if at some point ePUB becomes obsolete, chances are you'll still be able to retrieve with minimal hassle all the text, formatting and metadata.
Agreed. Open standards is the way to go. People more easily adapt it and trust it more because it's not tied to any one particular company. And by being based on XHTML and CSS, it's something that you won't have to worry about ever losing the text and all it's formating. XHTML and CSS will be around for a while and any half decent programmer will know how to transform the text any way you want.
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Old 06-23-2010, 09:14 PM   #13
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epub (drm free)/pdf will outlive me, I am pretty sure.
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Old 06-23-2010, 09:16 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by robinson View Post
I thought it would be fun to start with getting a bunch of old science fiction stories by Ray Bradbury and Ben Bova, to have a full or nearly full set on our i-devices. But there's the rub... which format to buy them in? And which ebookstore to get them from?
Ray Bradbury doesn't believe in selling e-books. He is a "darknet exclusive."

Last edited by Teddman; 06-23-2010 at 09:18 PM.
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Old 06-23-2010, 11:48 PM   #15
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But there's the rub... which format to buy them in? And which ebookstore to get them from? (Our ereaders of choice are the Stanza and eReader apps.)

I've read lots of discussions about ebook formats (ePub, etc.) and understand that things are a morass of competing, incompatible formats but, as an exclusively free ebook reader, I hadn't really focused on what the best, future-proof, buying choice was. (OK, "future-proof" might be tough, so how about decent longevity?! )

I really see things changing rapidly in the next couple of years, with bookstores going by the wayside or certain formats discarded. I really don't want to get locked into a particular bookstore or ereader...or buy a bunch of books that won't be readable in the future on some new device!
You are planning to buy the books today and read them in the foreseeable future, right? Then shop at the bookstore that provides a decent savings and experience; and use the e-reader that ditto provides the best reading experience.

I don't believe DRM should play a role at all in your decision. In the short-run, DRM is irrelevant since you are buying for devices you intend to use to read current material. DRM or not, you can still read the stuff today, right?

Amazon and Kindle are considered "closed" and therefore "bad". But my Kindle works fine today; I can read these purchased ebooks on a variety of platforms, including iPad and Blackberry and Android and Mac and Windows .... The risk is if Amazon goes broke and all my books eventually become unusable as the Kindles and apps being obsolete.

ePub with DRM is considered an "open" system and therefore "good". But it still requires co-operation between my supplier, the publisher and Adobe to make sure all the pieces work, and work for me. It's still just as "closed" as Amazon -- the books are "locked" and can only be read on Adobe sanctioned devices tied to my personal account.

So, what happens in ten years when I want to re-read my purchased DRM copy of Buddenbrooks? And my Kindle or Kobo has long since died? I simply do not believe the underlying formats will be orphaned and the investment lost: there will be a solution and it could easily be the Kindle 6 or the iPad 3 or the Kobo 4. Or, perhaps, DRM for e-books will have evolved so all devices gracefully handle DRM in any case -- like DVD and Blu-ray players do today (the content is locked but no one notices).

To each his own: but I'm going to read the stuff that's of interest to me, on devices that enhance the reading experience, and at competitive prices in today's marketplace. The future will take care of itself.
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