E-book Headaches

”There’s nothing like the feeling and smell of an old, beautifully bound book”. That’s generally one of the reasons people bring up in discussions against e-books. I’ve too always loved print books. But as much as I love sitting down with a good book though, I do find that in some cases e-books are more convenient.

As a graduate student who divides my life between Sweden and the US, I have started to get tired of dragging around 10 to 20 pounds worth of books with me all the time. Also the vast majority of the books I drag around with me are not beautifully bound classics but rather cluttered softcover textbooks. The clutter side of the books is another reason I decided to try out e-books. I like to underline things and make notes a lot, especially in the textbooks I use, and the way these highlights and notes are organized in e-books is definitely superior to print books.

When I decided to try out e-books I soon realized the selection and formats were a bit more complicated than I had originally imagined. I started out with a few Kindle books as the titles I was interested in were only available in that format. I initially read the books through Kindle apps on my phone and on my laptop, but my eyes were not very happy with that situation.

To solve this problem I decided to buy an e-reader, and as all of the e-books I had at the time were in the Kindle format, I went with a Kindle e-reader. I soon realized, however, that the lack of support for the EPUB format was a big downside. In Sweden one can borrow e-books from library websites and put them on various devices but they only support EPUB and Adobe DRM PDF. So even though I could buy plenty of Kindle books, borrowing e-books was not an option if I wanted to read them on my e-book reader. I also soon noticed that the university library offered several titles as e-books on their website but these were only offered in Adobe DRM PDF and to be read using the Adobe Digital editions software. While many e-book reading software function quite well (if your eyes allow them) the Adobe digital edition software does not, and to read textbooks in that software is a hassle to say the least.

Adobe Digital editions can transfer books to various apps and e-readers but obviously not to the Kindle and it does not support practical services like syncing between devices. I do find that in comparison, the Kindle format have one of the best ecosystem, with apps available for all sort of devices, syncing between the apps and devices and a vast selection of titles. The intentional lack of support for other formats (such as EPUB), is a trouble, especially internationally. In Sweden, where I spend most of my time, the Kindle format hardly exist, and kindle titles hardly exist either. This have put me in a situation where I’m seriously considering getting a second e-reader, one that can handle Adobe DRM PDFs and EPUB titles, but I must say I feel quite frustrated doing so.

Despite all the ways in which actors are strangling the e-book market, there are still a few that are willing to come up with solutions was in which the customer is taken into consideration. Several e-books I purchased straight from the source and not through various e-book sellers have been delivered with Kindle, epub and PDF versions included.

A Swedish e-book retailer offer e-books without DRM, but with a watermark instead. They also encourage their customers wanting other formats to change the format using applications such as Calibre. The watermark will still remain but as the book is DRM free one can use the software to turn the original epub books in to Kindle/mobi format e-books and more. This solution I find refreshing and far from Adobe Digital editions where I can’t even print out one page or copy one single highlight out of an e-book in the program, even if it’s a matter of a book that I purchased for the same price as the print book.