18 May

Observations from an ebook noob

Category:Hacking, Hardware, Review

I’ve been the owner of an ebook reader (see the previous post) for all of two weeks now. I have used my kindle nearly daily, and it’s a handy thing to have around. So far, I’ve mostly been reading issues of Linux Journal (who moved to a digital format two years (?) back), the scifi book by MK Wren that I mentioned, and then various tests.

But about the medium. Surprisingly, I fucking hate that there are format restrictions, DRM and all that jazz. Why have two formats that do essentially the same thing on different devices? Profits, probably. Businessy stuff that I don’t understand. There are of course, ways around things like this. I read somewhere that you can root a Kindle, which then enables functionality not found on the retail device. There are various converters for formats, such as Calibre, which enables management and conversion between formats. I have read that the Kindle (un-rooted?) will not eat stuff that has been un-DRM-ified using a converter, or that it will read books that have been converted at all. I haven’t tried the software yet, so I’ll have to get back to you.

The issue of DRM is a difficult one. I do not believe in crippling content and/or software. Your product should be good enough so that people want to pay for it. And I will. The amount of money I spend on software, movies and music in a given year is not a small one. We own several shelves of music, several gigabytes of digital music, and probably in the neighborhood of 500 DVDs and Blurays. I prefer FLOSS, but if it doesn’t do what I need it to do, I’ll probably buy something. I own my copies of Windows, on all of my hardware. And so on. Ok, disclaimers aside, the point I was trying to make is: If your content is good and there is a need for it, people will pay for it. DRM will never be an effective solution, ever. People will always find a way around it.

Okay, done venting!

I’m still miffed that I can’t read my technical manuals or whitepapers, which are in PDF format, on my Kindle. I would really find it useful if I could carry that with me when I go on consulting gigs, so I could pull up any number of manuals when I’m in a server room somewhere doing an install. Yeah, I can use a laptop, but that will run out of battery on most install gigs, and it’s not comfortable to have when you’re behind a rack for instance. Printing them is also out of the question, as they might be hundreds of pages. This is really a use case I can get behind, though, I do admit it is a comfort thing, more than a necessity for me.

I ran into that pesky “out of memory” message, trying to read a tiny 15 MB pdf. I don’t get it. Surely the device has more than 15 megs of RAM, and I hope it doesn’t cache the entire document when you read it. Maybe a slight read-ahead and read-back? Conversion might be the answer here, but, as I said, I will have to get back when I’ve tried it.

As for the content: I have not bought anything from Amazon yet. I have bought The Book of PF (3rd edition) from No Starch (really like their stuff!), some indie content, and then the scifi books through.. whatever it was. Paid by paypal or credit card, then transfered them through the USB to the Kindle. Works fine.

There is in-device buying. I’ve seen ads for $1.99 books on the Kindle, and sooner or later, I’ll click on one. It will be interesting to see if there are regional restrictions on that. I bought the Kindle in the States, sure, but can I buy books from Amazon when I’m in Finland? Amazon.co.uk tells me to go to Amazon.com (eerily similar to my first tries of buying a Kindle). I simply don’t understand this. I get it that they need to like.. pay distributors and what not, but.. Just let me pay you for your stuff! I have the money! You have the stuff! Let’s transact!

You can also move content by sending an email to your “Kindle email address”, which was created when you first registered your Kindle. Also, you can probably use Wifi (haven’t tried it). USB is fine for me.

Even if I have to live without content from Amazon’s stores, there’s still plenty for me to read, and plenty of good publishers that provide me with cheap, compatible books.

Compatible books. What a laugh-riot.


2 thoughts on “Observations from an ebook noob

  1. Some notes from a fellow Kindle user in Finland:

    * You can only buy books from Amazon.com, not from the other Amazon sites. The offering is almost the same as it is in the US, but a few titles are not available for international delivery. The books cost a little more than the US price as well (you’ll see the right prices if you’re logged in with a Finnish Amazon account). Regional licensing..

    * Wifi is great. I usually have the Wifi disabled in my Kindle, but I turn it on when I buy a book and the book is delivered instantly to the device.

    * Calibre rocks. I have not tried to de-DRM content in Calibre to read in Kindle, but I use it to manage my ebook library and de-DRM the Amazon-bought content for storing in my library. Where would you buy DRM’d content other than Amazon, anyway? B&N don’t sell anything to Finland. I guess you could buy from the Finnish ebook sites, but the prices are ridiculous.

    * One advantage of being in the Amazon ebook ecosystem is the Kindle cloud reader at read.amazon.com. The convenience of having the books available whether I have the device with me or not has been awesome. I actually find the books I have acquired from elsewhere a bit of a problem now, as I can’t access them from anywhere.

    * I bought my Kindle from Amazon.com a couple of years ago, and had it delivered to Finland. It cost more in Euros than the US price in dollars, but that is the only way to get one to Finland without traveling abroad.

    * I read PDFs on a tablet, not on an ebook reader. Not much of a consolation, I fear.

  2. Thanks for commenting!

    I did actually buy a book through the Kindle itself, which worked fine. I clicked on one of the ads, and bought it that way, and the price seemed to be what the ad promised.

    Still haven’t tried Calibre (I’m supposedly too busy), but I will have to look at that soon-ish.

    The Kindle Paperwhite 2 received an update last week I think ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_ac?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201307450) , and mentioned some PDF related fixes. Did not fix my issue with the technical manual not going past a certain point. I’ll have to look at downloading the file again. It might be corrupted, since it doesn’t seem to go past that one page…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *