Sunday, October 18, 2009

Google editions or why I'm glad I haven't bought a Kindle yet

(Please click on the photo to see the full size comic on Milt Priggee's Web site)

If you follow my blog (and if you don't, why not) then you know that before we returned to Israel from California I debated about getting a Kindle. Of course, right before we left the states Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle making me very tempted to buy one but in the end I decided against it. One reason is that at $259 it is still expensive for an indulgence that is not a necessity and that I can't use on Shabbat (when I do the bulk of my reading) but the even greater deterrent is the whole digital rights management (DRM) issue. DRM is how companies protect content and restrict its use. They use a proprietary format that can only be used with their firmware, as in the case of the music downloaded from Apple's iTunes store which could only be played on Apple products before they started offering DRM free music this year.

When I want to read a book I have the option of borrowing it from the library or a friend, buying it new from a bricks and mortar store or an online shop, or buying or mooching it secondhand. If I've bought it, when I'm done with it I can do what I please with it. Loan it to a friend, donate it to the library, swap it, or leave it on my shelf so if I feel like it I can read it again. And again.

Not so with an Amazon e-book. There's a limit on how many times you can download an Amazon e-book that you've paid for before Amazon forces you to pay for it again. That's what Dan Cohen found out to his surprise when he tried to move some of his books to his new iPhone via the Kindle app. And after talking to a customer representative he discovered that "there’s no way to find out in advance how many times a book is able to be downloaded." 

And with the Kindle you're limited as to what books you can read. You have to buy them from Amazon. You can't download an e-book from your library and read it on  your Kindle. There is a hack to allow you to read MobiPocket books on your Kindle but Amazon threatened to sue the site which linked to it.

With the Kindle, you can't share your e-books with friends. So even though you've bought the book and it's supposedly yours, you can't do what you'd like with it. Not only that, in July, Amazon really brought this fact home when they remotely deleted George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from users' Kindles (ah, the irony)

So I decided to wait and see what develops in the e-reader market before shelling out a few hundred dollars for a Kindle. And I've been heartened by the articles I've been seeing about other alternatives to the Kindle, including the iRex the cool-er, Plastic Logic, Cybook, and the Sony Reader.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, Google announced that they will launch an e-store, Google Editions, that will offer electronic books that can be read on ANY web enabled device including laptops, smart phones, and e-readers. Consumers will have the option of buying the book directly from Google Books, from a retailer, or from the publisher. This will give users freedom to buy from whomever they please and read it however they please. Once the book has been accessed once, you'll be able to read it offline.

If you're not sure that e-books are for you, and you want to just stick with the paper version, check out the NY Times commentary, Does the brain like e-books, in which five professionals weigh in on whether reading is different when done on paper or a screen.

As for me and my Kindle, I'm still going to watch and wait but I am looking forward to the new developments that seem just around the corner.

(Please click on the photo to see the full size comic on the Social Signal Web site)


Baila said...

Fern!!! I love the new look of the blog! Can you teach me how to do it???

I still can't see enjoying a book on a screen. But then again, back in the day, I was skeptical about audio and I love (and miss!) that...

Fern Chasida said...

Thanks Baila,

I chose a theme from this site: and edited the code a bit. Nothing too fancy and it's not perfect but I'd be happy to help you.Find a theme you like and let me know.

Rob Cottingham said...

Hi, Fern -

I'm glad you liked the cartoon - and thanks for sharing it with your readers!

For what it's worth, I find my Kindle's completely immersive... except for the lag in page-turning (it's a first-generation model), which keeps yanking me out of the book and into the interface, if that makes sense.

OneTiredEma said...

This is good to know, thanks. I am not up on my digital media...maybe someday.