An avid reader calls it as she sees it on books, publishing and the written word in general.

Friday, August 5, 2011

How I learned to read without paper

Today I am interrupting normal transmission to tell you how much I love If you are the kind of person who goes to bed clutching a paper book to your chest, feel free to leave now. This post is for those people who have discovered that with an eReader you can carry a hundred books in your pocket, and have never looked back.
Firstly, you have to understand that in the world of eReaders I am doubly disadvantaged. Firstly, I have a Sony Reader, which reads ePub format. It was a deliberate choice not to get an Amazon Kindle – I’m not a fan of the whole “walled garden” thing – but it does make it a bit trickier buying books. I can buy from Kindle but need to convert to the ePub format, which I can only do if the book doesn’t have digital rights management. Then there are those like Readings' online store which provide books that can only be read in a browser – a fact I only discovered after purchasing a book that I now can’t read on my eReader. I’m disappointed, because I think they have great books and offers, but there’s no way I’m reading a book on my laptop. ePub files are where it’s at for me, but for a supposed industry standard they are harder to find than I thought.
The secondly and worst problem I face is that I’m located in Australia. Australia is more than an afterthought when it comes to eBooks. We are the forgotten pimple on the afterthought’s bum.  Think about this for a minute – if I go to today, it tells me there are around 968,000 ebooks. Only 717,000 are available to Australians, and for some reason quite a few of those missing seem to be by Australian authors. Australians have become very familiar with the messages  cheerily announcing “I’m sorry! This book is not available in your location.” It tends to induce a red mist and an urge to commit grievous bodily harm on the computer (which can only be overcome by thinking about how much that infuriating screen actually costs to fix).
And that’s the problem, really. It’s not that they tell you upfront it’s not available. Oh no, it’s not until you put it into your cart and go to check out that they spring the news on you. In fact, it's happened more than once that I've filled my cart with books, only to be told that none of them are available to purchase. Diesel eBooks is the worst have experienced – they let me purchase a book and then wouldn’t let me download my purchase because I was apparently in the wrong territory. It took an email  to the help desk to get a refund, and even then they didn’t refund the credit card charges I paid for making an overseas purchase (okay, it was only about a dollar, but it’s the principle of the thing).
And hence to Read Without Paper. Despite the .com address, it’s an Australian site. It offers ePubs that are easily downloaded to my Sony Reader. Even better, they tell you upfront – when you are actually considering buying the book! – where it is available. It’s a sad comment on the state of eBook sites to say it, but this is revolutionarily wonderful.  They have a great range of books that I actually want to read, and they are set out in a way that actually makes sense.
I spent around a hundred dollars on books a couple of months ago. I haven’t spent that much in years. It just goes to show the potential when sites can actually get this thing right – and in my opinion, Read Without Paper definitely have. Cheers guys!

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