Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Conflicted about my new Kindle

After more than a year of purchasing and reading ebooks on the small screen of my phone I have finally acquired a proper Kindle reader with a 6" e-ink display. In a previous post I concluded that the books you can read are far more important the the device you read them on but my middle aged eyes are grateful for the larger screen while e-ink's excellent battery life and ability to be read in direct sunlight make reading a bit more convenient.
I was and still am quite conflicted about choosing a Kindle rather than one of the competing (mainly epub based) readers. Don't get me wrong I like Amazon, I have bought many things from them and I will readily admit they are the World's best book store. I just don't want them to become the World's only book store. By buying a Kindle I am re-enforcing Amazon's dominance of the ebook market and probably hastening the demise of other competing booksellers. I know that you can still download free books to the Kindle and I am even prepared to admit I am aware of software which can be used to transfer DRMed books between Kindle and non Amazon sources but for the majority of readers having a Kindle means that you are  going to buy most of your books from one shop and that worries me.

In the end I chose a Kindle for a few reasons. I genuinely love the design of the product. I got the entry level Kindle 4 and it is a masterpiece of design simplicity and functionality. It aspires to nothing other than allowing you to read books and it does this to perfection. In my opinion the minimalist simplicity of the base model Kindle 4 easily outclasses the klunky Kindle DX, the grubby Kindle touch and the redundant Kindle fire. It also  leaves competing e-readers far behind.

My daughter has had one of these for a few months and I have admired it from afar. I had hoped we might be able to share books using Amazon's lending scheme but I have yet to come across a book that actually allows lending. DRM scores over customer sastisfaction once again.

Another reason for choosing Kindle is an unusual quirk in Amazon's current licensing arrangements. As yet there is no Irish Kindle store. We are quite used to this as many organisations treat Ireland as a small adjunct to the much larger UK market. Amazon do have a Kindle UK store but for some reason they do not lump Ireland in with the UK instead they send Irish customers directly to the US Kindle store. I already have access to any book I want from British publishers but now I can avail of the US book market as well. Some titles are only available on one side of the Atlantic, others are published in different formats while yet more are subject to pricing variations so it is quite useful to be able to buy from both sides.

The final thing which convinced me to buy a Kindle is the knowledge that Amazon's DRM can be cracked. While I am happy with Kindle for the moment I may well want to change to a reader from a different manufacturer in he future. Indeed I woudln't be surprised if in years to come readers become virtually disposable items that cost less than  books do today. I don't want to acquire a large collection of ebooks that cannot be read by whichever new reader I choose. It is important to me to know that Kindle DRM can easily be overcome and that my investment in ebooks is not irretreivably  locked to Amazon. It is also comforting to know also that I could buy books from other stores and move them to the Kindle if I wished. The current legality of the above steps is murky and I am not going to admit to having done anything illegal but I will say it is important to me to know it is possible.

EDIT: I just spotted that JK Rowling, who only sells electronic versions of her books through her own "Pottermore" site has struck some kind of deal with Amazon which allows kindle owners to buy fom Pottermore and get it converted to Kindle format. Furthermore Rowling's books are listed on the Kindle store but you get a link to purchase at Pottermore instead of from Amazon. This is an interesting development that hints that Kindle may not be as exclusive to Amazon as it might once have been. On the other hand just because JK Rowling can strike a deal with Amazon doesn't mean that a minor league Author has a chance.


Wilhelm Arcturus said...

The one thing about the Kindle is that you can use other formats. It isn't as open to that as the iPad (which has a Kindle and a Nook app, as well as its own iBooks) but it is pretty open.

I have been grabbing things to read from http://www.baenebooks.com/ which is not only cheaper usually (or free in some cases), but gives you the book in a .zip file, so they cannot slurp it back up like Amazon can. And, of course, it cuts Amazon out of the loop on that purchase.

Stabs said...

I really like my Kindle, I got it last November. I'm happily reading through the free Baen library and will certainly throw some money their way once I've run out of free stuff. And the free stuff isn't junk - it includes some of the best sci fi I've read.

Other free links include the Gutenberg project or just google free e-books [topic] and there's quite a lot. It's becoming like youtube, a way to self-publish and many quite talented people do it for free.

Eutheos said...

You might find this article interesting: http://www.economist.com/node/21552599 .

mbp said...

Baene books looks like a great site. thank you for recommending it @Wilhelm, @Stabs.

@Eutheos intersting article. I find it had to pick a side in a fight between Amazon and he Big publishers. As the article points out whichever side wins it isn't nessecarily going to help readers. I do think that big publishers have had too much power in the past and I think that there power is going to be much diminished in the new digita era. On the othe rhand I am not sure I want to see control of the market go to a small number of mega stores instead. Ideally I would like to see authors and readers benefit.

Anonymous said...

From Slashdot - http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2012/04/more-on-drm-and-ebooks.html

DM Osbon said...

Had my Kindle for a short time & found it great for certain circumstances ie travel & holidays. But I still prefer print.