Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why I'll never buy a Kindle, or an eBook from Amazon or Apple

I've long stayed away from buying an Amazon Kindle or buying eBooks on Amazon or Apple. I recently read something that sums up my own reasons for doing so really well. Rather than rewrite it, I'm just going to copy and paste the whole thing:
Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what ADEPT EPUB is and why it’s important (footnotes at the bottom for extra stuff that isn’t required knowledge but is still interesting).
The first thing you have to understand is that the vast majority of ebooks sold in the United States are encumbered with DRM. This is done at the publisher’s or rights holder’s request.(1)
EPUB is a standardized format developed by the IDPF for reflowable electronic documents. The specification is open for anyone and everyone to use, and it has thus been adopted as the standard format for ebooks by everyone except Amazon (more on that later). On top of the standard file format, Adobe developed a roughly standardized DRM schema called ADEPT that allows a consumer to unlock an ADEPT EPUB for use on any device that supports the format, regardless of where the book was purchased.
As of right now, every ebook vendor that sells DRM encumbered ebooks in the United States exceptAmazon and Apple use a form of ADEPT EPUB DRM on their ebooks.(2) This includes Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Sony, Smashwords, and dozens of other smaller vendors. Apple uses EPUBformatting for their books, but encumbers them with a proprietary DRM (“Apple Fair Play”). All ADEPTEPUB ebooks can be used on any reading device or app that supports the format.
Amazon is the only major vendor that does not use EPUB format for their ebooks. They instead use an older format, Mobipocket, encumbered with a proprietary DRM to create the .AZW format. The DRMschema for .AZW is a trade secret of Amazon – no other vendor has access to the encryption codes and thus can not legally sell books in .AZW format.
The advantages to ADEPT EPUB over .AZW should be immediately apparent.
1. Nonexclusivity- If I own a NOOK or Kobo ereader I have the ability to shop at any vendor who sells books in ADEPT EPUB format. So if Google Play is having an awesome sale and a book I want is far cheaper than I could get it at BN, I can simply buy the book from Google and load it onto my NOOK.(3) This is not possible with a Kindle device. Since Amazon uses a proprietary DRM that they do not share, it is impossible for another vendor to sell a DRM encumbered ebook for Kindle owners. Buying a Kindle ereader means you have a single choice for who you buy your books from – forever.
2. Portability- Just as with shopping around for books, ADEPT EPUB users can shop around for devices. I personally own one of the old NOOK Simple Touches, and my girlfriend is strongly hinting that I’m going to be getting an upgraded model with a light for Christmas. I have a choice for what device I want to buy – if I’m not enamored with this new NOOK model I can happily go buy a Kobo Aura HD or a Sony PRS and transfer all the books I have previously bought onto the new device. This, again, is not possible with a Kindle. If I was a Kindle owner I could only buy a new Kindle device or have to give up every book I had previously purchased.
3. Futureproofing- One of the main reasons I hear people on the internet don’t want to buy a NOOK device is because they are “not sure if BN will be around in 10 years”. With ADEPT EPUB books this isn’t a problem at all. All the books you’ve purchased can still be easily read on any other compatible device. So even in the unlikely event that BN goes under, I can purchase a nice new Kobo or Sony or whatever else have you and still read my books. Amazon, while dominant now, could eventually face the same pressures that BN is seeing today. If Amazon did fold someday in the future, the proprietary .AZWbooks would be useless on any other device. And that isn’t even dealing with their incredibly draconianDRM schema that prevents the user from legally backing up their own books.(4)
EPUB is a major point in favor of going with vendors other than Amazon (and Apple) when buying ebooks. It is a standardized and open format that lets vendors compete on price, experience, and extras, without hurting the consumer with locked-down systems. It should be the main selling point of devices like a NOOK, and yet it is never once brought up in any of the articles on The Verge (and rarely elsewhere, sadly).
And that is why I’m going to keep bugging them until they acknowledge it.
(1) As of right now there is only a single imprint of one of the “big five” publishers that doesn’t use DRM on their ebooks – Tor/Forge, an imprint of St. Martin’s Macmillian. The “big five” publishers – Random House Penguin, Harpercollins, Hachette, St. Martin’s Macmillian, and Simon and Schuster – are responsible for roughly 85% of the trade books published in the US. There are smaller publishers that choose not to use DRM, famously Baen and O’Riley, but they are small and cater to niche markets.
(2) BN technically doesn’t use ADEPT DRM, rather opting for the BN Social DRM. However, the only difference is the encryption code – BN Social uses a credit card number, while ADEPT uses an Adobe account ID. The two DRM schemas are completely interoperable and thus can be treated as the same format.
(3) Loading an ADEPT EPUB book onto a different brand ereader requires going through a free computer program called Adobe Digital Editions, which unlocks the DRM on the ebook for a device. It is also the software used for library lending for devices without access to the Overdrive/3M library apps.
  • Amazon’s DRM schema encrypts each file with a different unlock code for each device. So even if I have a Paperwhite, a Nexus 7 with the Kindle app, and a PC with the Kindle app all buying books from the same account, the files will only function on the device they were downloaded on. I can not, for example, download the book onto my PC through the app and then sideload it onto my Nexus – the Kindle app on the Nexus will not unlock the book because the encryption code is different despite both being tied to the same account. It makes it legally impossible for a Kindle owner to back up their files on their own – they have to rely on Amazon’s magnanimity, which has hurt consumers in the past.
Lastly, I’m well aware of how patently easy it is to strip DRM and convert ebooks using programs like Calibre. However, at the moment this is still illegal in the United States. I in no way endorse the use of DRM (it’s a stupid anti-consumer technology), but I do accept the world as it is right now.
Source: Barnes & Noble's new Nook GlowLight is lighter, faster, and full of ideas


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