26 May 2011

Musings on ebooks

Even though I've posted a couple of times about ebooks, I'm by no means an expert.  If you want one of those take a look at Librarian in Black or Andy Woodworth or Jason Griffey.  Me? I just have an opinion on what I like and don't like.  And really I don't like the fact that most of the publishers seem to be living in the confines of the 16th century.  But instead of ranting about what publishers aren't doing I thought I'd point out the one publisher that I've noticed that is actually living in the present.  

I've been doing book reviews for O'Reilly's blogger program in part because I like O'Reilly's books (one of the best computer science publishers out there in my opinion) but more than that, because of there stance on ebooks  for personal use. (I make the distinction because they do have a database platform for libraries, but I'm not discussing that here)

For starters they make this statement when you look at your account:
You get lifetime access to ebooks you purchase through oreilly.com. Whenever possible we provide them to you in five DRM-free file formats — PDF, ePub, Kindle-compatible .mobi, DAISY, and Android .apk — that you can use on the devices of your choice. Our ebooks are enhanced with color images, even when the print version is black and white. They are fully searchable, and you can cut-and-paste and print them. We also alert you when we've updated your ebooks with corrections and additions.
First off notice that statement in bold.  Lifetime access.  No cut offs, no you can only download this x number of times and then you have to buy it again.  Lifetime.  Your computer crashes and burns, download the book again.  Need it at work? Download it again.  Need I say more?

Then notice that second statement:  "Whenever possible we provide them to you in five DRM-free file formats — PDF, ePub, Kindle-compatible .mobi, DAISY, and Android .apk."  Now they can't always do this, and I can look at books that I've bought and sometimes there are only two formats available (or just one) but I'm almost always finding at least the PDF format that I can take anywhere.  And no DRM.  None.  Any device that I have that can read PDF can read the file.

And even better when you purchase a physical copy of a book they give you the option of upgrading to an ebook for $5. (I think it should be for free, but still...how many other publishers are doing this?)   Think about that...for $5 more you get the physical book and the ebook.  And the ebook you can have access to anywhere in the world and you don't have to worry about it being destroyed.  How cool is that?

The only real compliant I have is the cost of the ebook, but...I get it they have to make a living so I won't discuss it.

Now surely this cost O'reilly a bit of extra time and a bit of extra money to do this, so why would they?  And here I'm just speculating, but could it be because they realize not all of their readers are alike?  Yes it's a technology company, but they publish books that anyone can use.  Guides to how to use software or operating systems, the Missing Manual series, and even books on public speaking.  They get that their readers are coming from all walks of life and have different ideas of how they want to access their books and they don't want to be limited to one device.  They are thinking about the future and what they can do to make their customers happy so that they keep coming back again and again (and yes the quality of the book matters as well, but so doe this.) 

So why won't other publishers do this?  You know...I'm not really sure.  Sure it might cost them a bit more, but what does it cost them in customer loyalty?  What does it cost them to aggravate their users who can't read in the format they want it in or on the device they want it on? I wonder...

No comments: