I was very early when it came to eBooks. I had one of the first e-ink devices from Sony even. And by early I am talking about the year the original Kindle even out. (Sony PRS-505 I believe is the model) This was a time period where page turns were measured in seconds and nobody was talking about backlighting e-ink or high resolution. Back then though there was something very different. You wouldn’t buy an eReader based on the store (unless you bought the Kindle) it supported. I mean when it came to stores Sony’s was really never good. The difference was that Sony could play books from pretty much every store online (not Amazon but who cared since Amazon barely had any eBooks at that pooint) now a bunch of those was through some crazy Adobe DRM scheme or you had to find some DRM free books.
Now this may not sound very different but lets look at where we sit today. Now we are down to two major eBook stores. Ok there is Kobo but they really aren’t as big. The only real players anymore are Amazon and Apple. Now why does this really suck? I mean you can read your Amazon books on pretty much any platform and Apple well those can be read on a bunch. The real issue in my mind is the book stores have moved 100% cloud based. Ask anyone how to get the ePub from Apple or the Kindle azw. I can promise you nobody knows how. Most don’t even realize there are alternative readers like the Kobo which while sounding pretty cool is just the 3rd of the evils in this whole fight.
So why does this matter? Lets start by talking about issues with the two main platforms first.
Now Amazon has always been the lockdown king. They started with mobi and have only gotten worse when it comes to DRM. To make matters worse Amazon eBooks seem to be horrible formatted and any older ones are in a pretty sad state when it comes to editing. Why is this? It really seems like Amazon wants quantity and really doesn’t care if it looks all that good. I mean look at the Kindle fonts and app. It would be awesome if they would give us one amazing font and a clean app. I mean its 2015 and I have a tablet or phone why is it I CANNOT scroll through a book? Really I still have to flip pages on a phone? This isn’t an e-ink device I have to wait a second to render the screen. And on the Kindle devices why such big margins? It’s not paper Amazon the text can goto the edge of the screen and my fingers wont go over the text (unless I’m holding it wrong).
Apple is also a lockdown king. I mean you still have to authorize your computers for iTunes. The craziest thing though about Apple’s eBooks is that you CANNOT read them on non-Apple devices! Now why would I want Apple’s eBooks in the first place. I mean it’s so locked down. First off it has scrolling which call me crazy but it changes how you read a book when you can just keep scrolling till you get to the end. Second, they are the only company which seems to realize now that we have HiDPI screens we can have some amazing fonts and that formatting matters. Apple eBooks generally have seemed better put together and they do something really crazy they seem to update more. Now this could be that I have just more recently bought Apple eBooks that are more popular then the books I got while using the kindles. Third, did I mention you can scroll in their app instead of flipping pages? Crazy I know!
So basically Amazon has some great e-ink devices which really need a UI expert (all the e-ink devices have needed this since they got HiDPI screens). At the same time I could live with Apple if it played in more places. But overall the issues comes down to one think DRM and the lack of easy exporting has made the whole ecosystem worse. Vendor lock-in is horrible. I mean I have book in Kobo (Sony books transferred there), Amazon and Apple along with some random publishers who are awesome to distribute DRM-free eBooks. If there was just a way for me to pull down an epub even if it had to be authorized would be awesome. (Part of Apple’s formatting advantage is epub)
So eBooks are backwards since they haven’t picked up on what saved the music industry with DRM-free music. If you really want to read eBooks try and find a DRM-free source of epubs. That is the best long term option to speak with your wallet. As for what to do right now if just must jump into the DRM lake? Well if you got a iPhone and iPad personally I would with iBooks but just cause it is a better experience for me. If you’re using Android or really paranoid about switching (and don’t care about scrolling) jump on Amazon. I mean the only reason I would avoid eBooks right now is just cause you have to choose one which sucks.