Image by Christoph Michels
via Wikimedia Commons.
|Are e-books really here to stay? Not yet…|
There have been many articles coming out of the publishing industry, both for and against the inevitability of e-books replacing print books. Most have focused on the industry impact e-book sales are making to publishers’ bottom lines, which e-book formats are selling best, and what the pricing on e-books should be. What the e-book industry is neglecting, however, is the end user’s experience. They’ve forgotten that, as in the case of the Daewoo Matiz, that customer satisfaction drives sales, not the other way around (that and decent engineering).
I’ve been quietly enjoying my Sony large-format e-reader for over a year now, and the hardware itself seems to be stable. The software interface, or “library” that is maintained on my Mac, not so much. Whenever my e-reader’s memory has been zapped, It it needs to synchronize the whole library all over again, choking up every time. But this is a time inconvenience — I can leave it to synch overnight if need be. At least I haven’t lost any of my books. Or so I thought.
Enter the Borders.com e-book store. A while ago I purchased a few e-books online from Borders.com, and loaded them into my library without a problem. Then my computer crashed in January. Aside from the nightmare of rebuilding my system disk and reinstalling my software, I suddenly realized that some of my e-books were no longer available for reading. What did the missing books all have in common? They were all .pdf files purchased from Borders.com. So, I logged into my account there to download those files again. The deal was that Borders.com was supposed to remember what I had purchased and make sure that those licenses were available to my home computer. But, surprise, the files are now registered to another user — i.e., not my rebuilt system.
I’ve emailed Borders asking for a way to fix this but have received no response. This in itself should be no surprise since the IT department was gutted in the last reorg before they declared Chapter 11 (my source is Publishers Weekly’s Borders Watch column.)
Purchasing e-books from other sources can be fraught with frustration as well. Amazon requires either owning their Kindle or downloading a free kindle-reader app. Similiarly, Barnes and Noble does the same thing with their Nook.
The obvious problem that all these companies are overlooking is that no one wants to pay $100-$300 for three different devices so that they can read the books they want to read. That’s why the open-source .epub format exists — it’s a free format that allows people to read e-books on Sonys, Libres, and all the other third-party e-readers. The problem is you can’t buy an .epub book on Amazon or B&N, and if you purchase on Borders its linked to one machine and can’t be shared or loaned out.
So, ignoring the other reasons for not purchasing e-books (like the lack of tactile materials, dimensionality for pop-up books, and ability to have a favorite author autograph your copy), until a single usable universal format exists, I’m going to have to keep killing trees, or risk losing my library in an EMF event.