A Programmer's Dream

B&N Draconian eBooks

Posted by Stephen Wrighton on 21 Jul 2009

I want to get on the eBook train. I want to get an eBook reader, and have digital copies of all the books that I read that I can carry with me every where I go. I want this because I read. A lot.

Likewise, I spend a good amount on books every year. It’s a category in my family budget. That’s how serious I am about the things.

So, imagine my joy at hearing about another big-name book seller that is creating an eBook-store.

Especially after the idiocy earlier this week of Amazon stealing files from users of its Kindle service who purchased an item in good faith from their store.

So, of course the first thing I do is head over to Barnes & Noble’s new ebooks site—and proceeded to extinguish the joy.

First off, there is no hardware device there at all. But, I’m actually fine with that.

Or I was until I realized that they’re pushing their proprietary software in order to read the eBooks which you “purchase” from their site.

According to their FAQ, these books are in PDB or PRC formats—a format which have traditionally been used in PALM devices (and more recently the Protein Database format). So, they’re already starting with their own file format attached to their own software.

Software which is only available for a handful of devices, excluding the Linux OS.

All this said, I LIKE the reader software. It’s intuitive and easy to use.

B&N eBook ReaderThere are even themes, so that you can easily change the paper to something that works well with your eyes.

But ultimately, that doesn’t help me.

If I am going to use eBooks I want them easily portable. Otherwise, I’ll continue to purchase actual books.

Let’s be clear here. I don’t want a BlackBerry, and have no intention of getting an iPhone/iTouch (at least until they’re undocked from the AT&T service). Therefore my option to read B&N eBooks is to cart around my desktop and monitors?

Because you cannot use it on an eBook reader such as the Cool-er.

Or at least that’s the impression one receives. I’ve not taken the trouble to attempt to convert those PDB files that come with the reader to find out though.

But on the subject of that, I have to say, that’s the most disingenuous free give-away that I’ve seen in a long time.

Free Offer from B&N

If you look closely, there are a possible of 6 books that Barnes
& Nobles will give you FREE with their reader.

There’s two bundled with the software and then an additional four for signing up for an account.

That sixth on the list I found extremely humorous considering the fact that I don’t own a device that I can mobily carry these files (or their bloat-ware) on.

But the other five? Those I laughed aloud over.

They are as follows:

As I was reading that list, it struck me. Every book on that list has been around for over a century.

So, I headed over to Project Gutenberg and took a minute to look up, and find every one of them.

SpaceBalls - Perriair Freebies are easy to give away when they cost the company nothing. It’s the silliest thing I’ve read about since that canned air thing from over in Japan.

How hard is it for these companies to understand this?

I don’t want DRM. I don’t want to use your software.

If I want to write my own software to read the eBooks I purchase, I want to be able to do that without having to break the DRM, and make myself a criminal (and is that not a fun thought? Creating a piece of software to access files you paid for can be a felony).

Otherwise, what’s the use.

Why should I bother with their bookstore and their DRM?

After all, I can easily make myself a Full Auto Book Scanner and media-shift hardcopies to PDF (or using OCR, ePUB) formats.

Barnes & Noble’s, and Amazon’s and anyone else who is trying to get me to purchase eBooks, goal should be simple. To get me to think it not worth the time and effort to media-shift the books I purchase into digital media.

Ultimately that means that I need quick and easy access to the files I purchase, in an open format that I can move between devices.

And they need to be priced reasonably for what amounts to an electronic file.

After all, I switch back and forth between my iPod and my Zune for music/video consumption. I refuse to be tied down to a single device, and I refuse to allow my media library to be treated the same way.

The lesson here: I’ll buy analog and convert before I buy DRM.

Edit 7/22/09: After a few emails back and forth with the Barnes & Nobles support, I got them to verify that you are only able to use their eBooks with their software

Another fine example of a company that hates (and is actively hostile towards) its customer base.

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