eBook industry: Lest we never learn…

I was really looking forward to today.

Today, the Sony PRS-505 eBook reader finally gets sold in Germany. Now, I already have mine since January, but the more exciting fact is that libri.de also announced selling their ebooks in the open epub format standard.

When I bought my first eBook at libri.de in January, I unfortunately only discovered after the buy that you can only read it with the Mobipocket reader. Sure, I bought this great eBook reader device so that I can read eBooks under Windows XP in kvm in this silly Mobipocket reader! (The Sony can’t run arbitrary programs like Mobipocket).

That’s why I was really excited about libri.de finally seeing the light and selling epubs. So off to libri.de, and order Ken Follett’s “Die Tore zur Welt” (“World without End”). But aaaaaaaaaargh! Not only that they use DRM (which, frankly, I expected them to, but after all, .epub has DRM capabilities, and the Sony reader has a serial number), but I’m again faced with a vendor lock-in: I can only download and convert those books with a thing called “Adobe Digital Editions”, which again of course only runs under some Windows versions. I didn’t try whether it works under kvm or wine yet (mobipocket didn’t run under wine, and Sony’s own library software doesn’t even run under kvm).

Goddammit, I just want to give you my credit card number, you give me the epub, I save it to the reader, and I want to be done with it! Pragmatically, if it’s DRMed and I don’t notice it, so be it. But jumping through hoops like that, installing a different library program for every eBook shop out there, and none of them even running on Linux? No, thanks.

But there is hope. It only took the music industry a couple of years before they saw the light and sold mp3s with no strings attached. Let’s see when the eBook industry stops repeating these errors and stops doing a format and vendor lock-in war as well. Then I hope eBooks will really start to soar.

Until then, Gutenberg and a lot of other great internet sites provide enough content for me to read.