Why I still don’t own an eReader
Recently I had some awesome conversation over beer with Sid Burgess, and we started talking some on ereaders, he mentioned that he was looking for a an alternative to reading on the computer. I would love to own an ereader, I just want to see some capabilities added to them before I spend money on them, and maybe some changes in the market and how they’re sold.
The two most popular, or most publicized, ereaders the Kindle, from Amazon and the nook from Barnes & Noble (B&N) are using a store that is missing features that I consider to be core and that shouldn’t be ignored. Though, B&N has implemented one, kind of.
I love books (real, dead tree, hard copy, etc). I love that I can pick up a book at the library, read it, and if I want can then go out and buy it, read it again, give it to a friend to read, rinse and repeat. Currently there is no way I can do this with most ebooks. The files you purchase from Amazon or B&N are packaged with DRM that prevents you from doing anything but reading the book on devices they authorize where you can verify you are in control of that device. B&N has implemented what they call LendMe™. With this service you can lend an ebook to a friend one time for a period of 14 days, they have to use B&N software or a nook to read the book, but you can lend it. This sounds great, but the publishers have severely crippled the feature: the book has to be approved to be in the LendMe™ program by the publisher, you can only lend it to a friend once, during the 14 days you cannot read it (I don’t mind that, I can’t read a hard copy that I’ve lent), after the 14 days it’s “returned” automatically. Amazon has yet to implement any kind of lending technology for use on the Kindle.
Let’s say that I have a book I’ve read multiple times and just love it, I know someone that would love to read it, would be moved by it, or whatever. I want to give them my copy, can I? No. What allows us to do this with real books is something known as the first-sale doctrine, which is a limitation on copyright that has been Supreme Court tested. Software gets around this with EULAs, you don’t actually purchase a copy of most software programs, you license it’s use on your computer or device. Personally I don’t feel that ebooks fall under the same category as software and hope that it changes soon.
B&N has an entry in their FAQ that reads:
Can I buy an eBook for a Friend?
No. When you buy an eBook, the eBook is encrypted with your personal B&N account information and requires that same information to unlock it. However, you can give a Barnes & Noble Gift Card or Online Gift Certificate to someone so they can pay for an eBook.
Amazon has a similar subject within their support pages, but it doesn’t address lending/giving specifically:
Downloading to Multiple Devices
Content purchased from the Kindle Store can be downloaded to your Kindle, iPhone, or iPod touch as long as you’ve registered the device to the Amazon.com account that purchased the Kindle content. There is no limit on the number of times a title can be downloaded to a registered device, but there may be limits on the number of devices (usually 6) that can simultaneously use a single book.
That means you can download and read your books on any Kindle device you own as long you’ve registered each device to the Amazon.com account where your Kindle library is stored.
So, even if I want to give up my rights to the copy I’ve purchased and transfer them to someone else I’m not allowed. I have to pay for the book twice to allow the person to download it for themselves free of charge.
Why not print the books? Ah, I thought of this as well. Both Amazon and B&N do not allow printing or text-clipping from their desktop software and unless someone starts hacking the nook or Kindle to send books to printers you can’t make a real copy of a book.
Sid and I also discussed possible solutions and options regarding this, I planned on discussing those in the same post, but didn’t realize I’d ramble for so long. I’ll try to get the other post up after this coming weekend.
A friend on twitter pointed out to me the price was an issue for him as well as the things I mentioned. I can’t believe I left this out, it’s an issue with me as well. Once a publisher has developed a tool, or purchased (licensed, I guess) a program to convert the books they have on file to formats compatible with the Kindle or nook they really don’t incur any more cost related to the sale of an ebook other than marketing it along side the hard copy. Amazon and B&N is providing the store front and bandwidth. Amazon even subsidizes books so they can sell at $9.99, I doubt they continue this forever. Let’s take a look at a book that I’ve been wanting to read lately, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, sold here at Amazon and here at B&N, both have the paperback selling for $9.36 which isn’t a bad price at all. Take a look at the ebook prices though, $8.25 for Kindle and $9.99 for nook. So I’m getting just over a dollar discount at Amazon and actually paying more at B&N. Maybe I’m wrong, but I would be happy paying $4.99 and I think that still leaves room for profits for both the publisher and the retailer, there isn’t shipping to give away, no paper to mill, words to print, nothing. Just the added blurbs along side the marketing of the hard copies. I’m not a fan of paying that much for ones and zeros.
Thanks for the smack upside the head, Wes!