The Kindle is popular for a reason.
Amazon has created the most painless ebook experience any consumer could possibly ask for. No other system makes the discovery, purchase, and transfer of ebooks so frictionless. As a result, Kindle has become the standard everyone else in the ebook business will have to match just to compete. So far no one comes close.
But Kindle has a dark side that is starting to emerge with startling regularity.
This past weekend Dan Cohen was surprised to find that he could not re-download some of his Kindle books. After several lengthy exchanges with Amazon customer support Cohen was informed that some (but not all) Kindle books have download limits. Or maybe it’s a limit on the number of devices they can be transferred to. Or it might be both…
To be honest, Amazon’s customer service department isn’t entirely sure of what limits are imposed on DRM protected Kindle books. (more…)
Any way you look at it, the Kindle is a remarkable reading system. Amazon has managed to capture massive mainstream attention for an electronic reading device that combines seamless wireless content distribution with a purchasing process that is so transparent you’d be forgiven for not realizing you’ve actually paid money for a book.
Equally remarkable is the fact that Amazon sells DRM-restricted ebooks side-by-side with DRM-free ebooks while making no distinction between the two formats. From the consumer’s perspective there’s no way to tell which Kindle books are locked down by DRM before purchase.
Over the past week, Teleread has been orchestrating a consumer driven tagging effort to tag DRM-free books in the Kindle store. While I think the project is a brilliant use of crowdsourcing, it also reveals just how bad the problem really is. In order to accurately tag a Kindle ebook as DRM-free, Amazon customers must first buy the book, then go through a somewhat involved process to test whether or not the book is locked down. (more…)
Kindle 2 shipped this week, and all over America ebook lovers are gleefully tweeting the arrival of the new reading device.
That’s all well and good, but those excited new Kindle owners may want to proceed with caution when it comes to using one of the device’s most highly publicized new features. In fact, they just might want to consult a lawyer before pressing that “read aloud” button.
The Authors Guild believes that Kindle 2’s text-to-speech (TTS) feature is an infringement of audiobook rights. In fact, the Guild contends that because of this new feature, every Kindle book sold is not only an ebook, but also an audiobook. Never mind the fact that Kindle 2’s voice has been described as sounding “oddly norwegian” or that Jeff Bezos recently joked with John Stewart that the read aloud feature sounds “a little freaky.”
By now it should be clear that ebooks are more than just a passing fad. That digital reading revolution we’ve been hearing about for over a decade is finally starting to take shape. Amazon has sold over a half million Kindles, Sony has moved several hundred thousand digital Readers, and Stanza, the free reading app for the iPhone, has been downloaded over 1.3 million times.
As consumer adoption of digital reading devices accelerates, publishers are grappling with the impact that digital distribution will have on existing business models. It’s hard not to feel a certain sense of déjà vu as we witness yet another form of mass media completely remade in the digital era. And it’s hard not to feel just a little bit sad that publishers are making many of the same mistakes we’ve seen made in other industries — most notably by the recording industry.
This post was published on 1/27/09 – exactly one year to the day before Apple announced the iBookstore. For an update on what was announced, see The Day Apple Didn’t Change the World
Confession time. I was wrong about reading ebooks on the iPhone.
When I evaluated various ereading devices a few months back, I came to the conclusion that the iPhone was not suitable for long form reading. Months later, I’ve now read several books on the iPhone and I have to admit that the experience is growing on me. In fact, I frequently find myself looking at my bookshelf and thinking, “I wish I had that book on my iPhone”.
In most cases those wishes are an impossibility because there’s no (legal) way to get the book in question onto my iPhone — or any other reading device, for that matter. In some cases, where digital editions are available, they aren’t available in a format that would work with any of the current iPhone reader applications.
There’s hope that all of this may be changing soon, as publisher interest in the iPhone/iPod Touch seems to be growing by the day. Publishers are rushing to experiment with all manner of ebook releases targeted at the iPhone.
In part, publishers are turning to the Apple platform as a way to neutralize the momentum building behind Amazon’s proprietary Kindle platform. Ironically, not long ago record labels were headed in the opposite direction, offering up their catalogs to Amazon in hopes that Amazon’s MP3 Store might neutralize some of iTunes’s momentum.