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Old 09-08-2007, 04:44 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Tricky Question of the Day: I want a book... where should I buy it?

It's a typical question these days for owners of e-book reader. Where should I buy my next book? A simple question, but difficult to answer, so I'm not going to provide the answer. I'm simply going to share my last decision process.

First the situation... I wanted to buy Jerome Bettis' new book The Bus. I prefer to read on my Sony Reader, but I also like the read on my Palm Treo which has a backlight and is always with me. Paper is my last choice for reading, but has the advantage that I can simply pass on the book when I'm done. This is a book that I want to read, but don't want to keep, and do want to share when I've finished.

So, you say, if you prefer to read it on the Sony Reader, then just buy it at Sony's Connect e-book store. Well, first of all it didn't appear there as quickly as some other places, so that kind of ruled it out as it was sort of a time sensitive thing for me. I was in the mood and didn't want to wait to read it. But even if I did want to wait, I don't have any other people on my Sony Connect account, so the book would be worthless after I finished reading it.

Price was similar whether delivered from Amazon (I'm a Prime member), or Connect, or eReader. I didn't check on a MS Reader or MobiPocket or Adobe Reader version because I haven't recently read with any of them and don't currently have the software on my smart phone for them. I've been meaning to try MobiPocket again now that I have more memory available, but I haven't gotten around to it.

I tried Barnes And Noble's web site (because there is a local store by where I work). Same price. So even though I prefer electronic, I know quite a few people that would enjoy reading the book, so I decided to read it in paper form and pass it around. The good old fashioned way. Well, I walked into Barnes and Noble at lunch the other day and found that the in-store price was about $7 more. Forget that!

Amazon was the next logical choice, but here I got selfish. I just didn't want to wait for delivery, and I wanted to read it on my Treo rather than in paper. So I found a compromise... eReader. I didn't care too much about DRM because I don't care if I can't keep the book permanently for myself. I just wanted to pass it on. I knew I had at least one friend that I could give it to when I was done, even if I had to enter my credit card number on his device to enable it. Unpleasant process, but now I could both read it and share it at least once. Plus I could read on my Treo and get it right away.

Problem solved. But what a nightmare for the average first time prospective e-book purchaser! I think that they will just accept whatever way they discover first.

But what if the next book I want to buy is not a throw away item? What happens 10 years from now to my collection of Sony Connect books and eReader books, and MobiPocket books? They probably get thrown out like the hundreds of cassettes that I got rid of today. It makes you sick to think of the waste.

So for reading, I've come to the conclusion that DRM basically rules out e-books if you want to stay legal. That's pretty sad. And I hate to say it because it's sort of like the deep, dark ugly secret stink about e-books. I want e-book sellers to succeed wildly. I hate to tell the ugly secret out loud. But it's real and it affect you the reader, and we need to acknowledge it.

Doesn't matter, you say? Well, I'm one of the biggest e-book fanatics around, and I'm forced by DRM to buy paper unless it's a book I'm willing to basically "read and trash" in the e-sense of the phrase. I'd say that's like the elephant in the living room of a dysfunctional household that nobody wants to talk about or confront. But if you're a MobileRead reader, you undoubtedly already know that, and yet you love e-books anyway. Good for you!

Still, it's no wonder I'm learning to love the classics again!
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Old 09-08-2007, 05:59 PM   #2
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Well, I just looked up The Bus and there is no MobiPocket version. BooksOnBoard have it for $14.00 in MS Reader, eReader, and PDF. Sony Connect Store has it for $14.36 in BBeB.

What you could do however is purchase the MS Reader version, break the DRM, convert to LRF and PRC and read away on either your Sony Reader or Treo.

This is the first time I've come across a book that's available in BBeB and MS Reader and not MobiPocket. This just proves that DRM is a crock of shite that needs to just go away and leave us with one non-DRM format that every device that reads ebooks can handle.
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Old 09-08-2007, 06:39 PM   #3
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I would recommend the MSReader format.

The really nice thing about lit2lrf is that it will work on DRMed LIT files if it has a copy of keys.txt. This is generated when you run ReaderKeyRecoveryTool (which is part of convertLIT).

I would just download another copy of MSReader for your PDA.
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Old 09-08-2007, 10:31 PM   #4
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Some interesting conundrums you've got there, Bob.

You and JSWolf are right by saying DRM is causing many of these problems. Multiple formats aren't helping, but at least if you can get past the DRM, you can recreate the file in a standardized format, save it as that, and transfer it to any reader (or any friend) you want to in the future.

That said, it still sucks that you have to go through the trouble that you did, or that you'd potentially have to weigh every book decision against whether or not it's available in a crackable format. And finding a $7 discrepancy between B&N's website and store for the same product, to me, is inexcusable!

Though JS and Nate make it sound easy to "break" the DRM on an e-book, it's still more than anyone should have to deal with, just to read a friggin' book. Knowing that I would have to do that, has been the tipping point for whether I bought the book in the first place. And DRM shouldn't be chasing honest consumers away.
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Old 09-09-2007, 05:09 AM   #5
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I saw someone mention paperback digital on another thread, very useful. Is there actually a list of all the shops you know of with lots of books like those?
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Old 09-09-2007, 10:11 AM   #6
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I like to purchase books but object to the assumption by ebook manufacturers that i'm a potential thief (which in essence what DRM implies)
Therefore i ALWAYS strip the DRM off my files.
Either by using a specific 'cracked' format, or utilising the 'analogue hole' (Photoshop, PrtSc, Wintask, Crop, AbbyFinereader)
Would I sell or share my resultant DRM free file? Nope.
Have I lent my Eink device to family with file on it so that they can read it? Yup.
As i have not acted any differently from the way I treat a paper book, a don't feel any remorse whatsoever.
The ease which I a computer literate person deals with DRM means that I have no qualms about buying ebooks either, whilst some members of my family view buying an ebook with horror, as they have enough knowledge to understand that they can't move the file about from one device to another or even 'archive' it onto cd etc. and so therefore the concept of buying an ebook doesn't look promising to them.
(They all have ipods and won't buy from Itunes for the exact same reason, buying cd's and ripping them instead)
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Old 09-09-2007, 10:40 AM   #7
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...whilst some members of my family view buying an ebook with horror, as they have enough knowledge to understand that they can't move the file about from one device to another or even 'archive' it onto cd etc. and so therefore the concept of buying an ebook doesn't look promising to them.
You've slightly lost me there. Why can't they archive it onto CD?
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Old 09-09-2007, 10:45 AM   #8
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I saw someone mention paperback digital on another thread, very useful. Is there actually a list of all the shops you know of with lots of books like those?
Paperback Digital only carries MobiPocket format books. So as for the book in question, they won't have it as it's not available in MobiPocket format. Only PDF, eReader, MS Reader, and Sony BBeB.
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Old 09-09-2007, 10:51 AM   #9
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You've slightly lost me there. Why can't they archive it onto CD?
Because unless you have a device that will be able to read it sometime in the future, the DRM backup will be very useless.

You buy a MobiPocket book now. You can read it on say your PDA and iLiad. You archive this book to CD. Now say 3 years down the line you want to pull this book back off CD to read on your new portable reader that has color and foldable screens and A4 PDF view perfectly. But you bought the book from Amazon and they (at the moment) do not give you access tot his book past one year. You can't do it. You cannot download it again to add a new PID to authorize this book. So basically, all you can do is read it on the devices that were authorized at the time of purchase. DRM has screwed you over but good.
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Old 09-09-2007, 11:05 AM   #10
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Because unless you have a device that will be able to read it sometime in the future, the DRM backup will be very useless.

You buy a MobiPocket book now. You can read it on say your PDA and iLiad. You archive this book to CD. Now say 3 years down the line you want to pull this book back off CD to read on your new portable reader that has color and foldable screens and A4 PDF view perfectly. But you bought the book from Amazon and they (at the moment) do not give you access tot his book past one year. You can't do it. You cannot download it again to add a new PID to authorize this book. So basically, all you can do is read it on the devices that were authorized at the time of purchase. DRM has screwed you over but good.
Yes, I am well aware of all that, but that doesn't mean that it can't be archived onto CD in the first place, does it? That's what I understood the original poster to be saying, but perhaps I misunderstood.

With MP, you just need to take care that you keep up to date with "regenerating" your books for new devices. That means buying from reputable sources who do let you re-download your books indefinitely, rather than ones with silly policies like Amazon have.
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Old 09-09-2007, 01:01 PM   #11
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But part of the problem is that once Amazon release the Kindle and have there ebooks going on their website, people will purchase from them. Especially if they have lower ebook prices then their dead tree editions. So I see this as a problem later on this year if the NYTimes article is correct about timing.
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Old 09-09-2007, 01:48 PM   #12
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But part of the problem is that once Amazon release the Kindle and have there ebooks going on their website, people will purchase from them. Especially if they have lower ebook prices then their dead tree editions. So I see this as a problem later on this year if the NYTimes article is correct about timing.
Yes, I completely agree with you - it will be a major problem!
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Old 09-09-2007, 03:25 PM   #13
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The MobiPocket format is very close to being completely cracked. Aenea's Secure Mobipocket Decoder currently relies on MobiPocket code and produces a HTML variant of the book, but igorsk's demobi is written in python and just strips the DRM. The latter did not work on the one e-book I tried, but it did detect good PID's from unauthorized ones. For archiving, DRM stripping is all that is really needed.

If publishers were rational, they would stop distributing e-books with cracked DRM, although I suppose they can argue that DMCA still protects even inadequate DRM. It does not seem to have harmed LIT to be wide open (in fact it has probably increased sales), so perhaps cracking MobiPocket won't effect that format either. It is obviously a plus for readers, providing publishers continue to release new titles in the format.
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Old 09-09-2007, 03:28 PM   #14
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Actually, it is better to convert the MobiPocket book into HTML as it's a more universal format for then converting into whatever other format you want.
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Old 09-10-2007, 10:20 AM   #15
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I have the same feelings: I want to be honest and pay for the books I read - but often my favorite books do not have an e-book version available or is in a very strange format... as an iLiad user, I would prefer PDF, but the DRM-PDF is not supported in the iLiad...

Of course I could hunt on the "dark-side" of the internet for a PDF of my already bought paper-book, but that's not really a solution....
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