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Saturday, February 09, 2008

It's the space age dammit! Stupid publishers

I started using my Iliad E-book reader again last night. I'd like to get into the habit before I travel to Canada later this year and despite being a bit slow and clunky it really does have an excellent e-ink screen and can hold quite a few books.

My problem however is the awful lack of decent legal e-books to put on it. I really do think the publishers need to start embracing digital print media. I have 5 Iain M. Banks books that I'm working my way through. I'd rather read them on my Iliad but I'd have two problems.

1. You don't seem to be able to buy them as electronic versions
2. DRM is a pain in the arse.

Perhaps the publishers could start creating ebook versions of every book they publish. They already have the text in electronic form so adding the rest of the stuff they need to create a fully featured ebook wouldn't add much expense to the procedure. What I'd suggest they do then is give purchasers of the dead tree edition a coupon to get a free ebook version. Or you could go online and buy just the ebook version. Of course then you get the problem that the publishers that do produce ebooks seem to think they can get away with charging exactly the same as for the paper edition.

I think the situation is similar to the music industry. They're locked into a state of fear about the new technology. Books do have one advantage over music or movies. They're definately non-trivial to pirate but when your book is still getting pirated what's the point of hiding in the corner and lashing out with lawyers? It hasn't done the music industry any good. Work with the IT industry to create good, cheap ebook readers. Start using drm free formats. Give people the option of downloading their purchase in the format they want. See Manybooks.net for a perfect example of how to do this.

Real books are good. I love real books but I also think we need to be seriously looking at digital books. With the right reader they offer a world of convenience (Full text searches, multiple bookmarks, notetaking without scrawling all over the paper, downloadable updates).

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