I saw a post on audiobooks, where a frequent contributor was lamenting the fact that he couldn’t find newly released books on Amazon, yet could find them on audiobooks.com (sells audio versions of books). That caught my attention, and it reminded me of another point that I’ve observed about the ebook phenomenon–high prices. And it’s mostly caused by the fact that publishers now pretty much have a monopoly on ebooks.
Publishers insist on putting DRM (copy protection) on their ebooks. That translates to the fact that if you buy a Kindle from Amazon, you’re pretty much stuck with buying books from them. If you have a Nook (from Barnes and Noble), you can’t read an Amazon ebook.
There are a few exceptions, depending on what format you download in, but for the most part, you’re locked into one vendor or the other. If you have a smart phone, tablet, etc., you can download the software for either vendor, but then you have to have two different apps that you need to switch between. As a result of all these problems, I’ve sworn off both vendors and only buy from sites that give me a DRM free, epub version. I can then keep all my books in one place, and I can easily share them between devices via dropbox. Or (horrors), give one to a friend.
The site I buy most of my books from now is fictionwise.com. The books are generally under $10, and you can download books in a variety of formats, including epub, which is probably the most universal ebook format. Amazon will tell you their format is epub too, but it’s also got DRM as part of the format, so you can’t read on any device except theirs.
There are other sites, too, that are, unfortunately, looked on as pirate sites, although they aren’t really. For instance. tuebl.com lets you download many popular books free. The same books that you have to pay to download from Amazon or B&N. Tuebl is trying to educate people to the concept of sharing books without impediment. Any impediment, including DRM protection. Their premise is that unless the author specifically asks them to remove a book, anyone should be able to read it. It’s a very refreshing idea, especially seeing how publishers have manipulated the simple concept of buying a book into a technical nightmare.
Has the publishing industry not learned from the lesson of the RIAA’s attempt to squash people copying music? We’ve all heard the stories of the RIAA suing a mom whose children downloaded music from Napster. As a result, a person who has done nothing wrong (but had a child who found a way to get free music), is sued by the RIAA for thousands of dollars. The RAII did this to hundreds of moms and teenagers over the years. Did it stop people from downloading music? Not in the least.
But as a result, we now have iTunes and Amazon selling music by the track instead of having to buy a whole album, at reasonable prices. If the music industry had tried that tack originally, they would have saved a lot of families a lot of grief. And made more money during the time they were trying to resuscitate a dead approach.
Does the book industry not see a parallel to this? And incidentally, the movie industry tried (and failed) to copy copy protect VHS tapes the same way.
I realize that Amazon and B&N are just trying to make a buck, and the book publishers are enforcing this on them. But at the same time, the only way to protest is to stop buying books from them. Alas, I miss being able to download the latest copy of the latest hot book, but I refuse to buy into their game.
I’ve recently downloaded Zinio, which is a huge marketer of emagazines, and there’s more than enough material to keep my reading habits fed. And their prices are very reasonable. Unlike Amazon and B&N that want me to pay hardback prices for new books. Come on, $15 for an electronic version of a book that I can buy a year later for $8 or $10 is ridiculous. The original idea behind that is that hardback books are costlier to produce than paperbacks. So, why is it perpetuated for an electronic file? Ridiculous.
So, as far as I’m concerned, die Amazon, die.