Figuring out titles for blog posts is easy when the subject has such a fun name. WOWIO is a website that offers free PDF e-book downloads that have no DRM. I found this site via Featured Maemo Apps, while looking for cool apps to load onto my loaner Nokia N800. According to Featured Maemo Apps, these PDFs are well-suited for reading on the N800 using the built-in PDF viewer, without any additional reformatting. Sweet.
Normally I kind of gloss over sites like this because I am not very interested in public domain books from sites like Project Gutenberg. There are a few classic titles that I would probably read some time after my long “to read” list is exhausted, but for the most part, I’m just not that interested in these public domain titles. However, I took a look at their collection, and there are some interesting newer titles. What caught my eye was a book by K. Eric Drexler about nanotechnology — Engines of Creation 2.0. I’ve been really interested in reading Engines of Creation, but like most books, have not gotten around to it yet. Perhaps now that it’s available via WOWIO, I’ll actually read it now…maybe. Since all of the downloads are DRM-free — they limit you to 5 downloads a day, and the books are somehow ad-supported — I’ll definitely sign up and at least download the K. Eric Drexler book. I’ll have to peruse their catalog some more.
I love reading e-books as opposed to paper books because it’s a lot more convenient to carry around many titles and read a few pages at a time during little chunks of spare time throughout the day. I hope that sites like WOWIO become popular enough to drive publishers to consider e-books as a more viable format.
P.S. Since we’re talking about DRM-free e-books, I have to mention that all of Cory Doctorow’s (he’s a contributor to the popular blog Boing Boing) books are available in various e-book formats on his site, Craphound. He is a science-fiction novelist, and his books are of the cyberpunk-y, William Gibson-esque, Neal Stephenson-ish ilk. He has made all of his books available online for free, while still selling dead-tree versions. I wish more authors would do this! I put his latest collection of short stories on my Sony Reader soon after I got it. Good stuff!
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I was just catching up on feeds in Google Reader, namely Teleread’s feed (a blog focusing on e-books), and even they had an article about Twitter! Actually, they had an interesting take on it:
I myself can see Twitter as a way to share enthusiasm for various
books, and in fact, if it’s here to stay, I wouldn’t be surprised to
see e-book software integrated with the service, as well as growing library adoption.
It would be cool to get book recommendations from Twitter users. Perhaps if when someone Twitters about a book they’re reading, they can tag it a certain way so that some utility could filter out those recommendations and present them all together on one webpage. That would be pretty cool… There’s already a site that aggregates the links that people are sharing over Twitter.
I know e-books aren’t all the rage right now, but I sure prefer them to paper books (most of the time) because it’s so easy to carry many of them with me on one device, like my PDA phone, my Tablet PC, or of course on the Sony Reader. Having these books with me wherever I go allows me to read whenever I’m stuck waiting in a line, or taking my lunch break at work, or whenever I am stuck waiting around in general. Helps keep up my motivation to read (With my lessening attention span, I need all the help I can get! *smirk*). I still like to buy paper books to keep around in my collection, but I prefer e-books for practical purposes.
I just posted on Twitter asking what people are reading right now. Hopefully I get some responses so I can add them to my “to read” list. I just read a couple of the short stories from Cory Doctorow’s book, Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present yesterday. Cory Doctorow offers all of his novels as free downloads online in various formats, as well as selling them in dead-tree format in stores. So I put the stories from Overclocked on my Sony Reader (gotta name it sometime…). Works out well!
What books are you reading now?
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ARGH. According to this report, the last Harry Potter book won’t be offered in e-book form. I can’t say I’m surprised, but what really annoyed me about this article was that one of the reasons given was that JK Rowling preferred the reader to “experience the books on paper”. It isn’t that I totally disagree; I still like to read paper books and enjoy the tactile experience. However I have to call shenanigans on this so-called reason. If that were true, then why are the books all available as audiobooks, which are just as susceptible, if not more, as e-books are to piracy? Sure, you can argue that listening to someone read the book out loud is like having a parent read you a book, or even listening to historical accounts passed down from generation to generation via spoken word.
The article linked above gave some figures on how e-books are a relatively small slice of book purchases overall. Okay, so what is the harm then in eking out a bit more profit from e-book sales? If e-book readers make up such a small part of the readership, why is piracy this huge concern? It’s not like e-books have the same popularity as mp3s. Now more than before, e-books are starting to gain a bit of “validation” from e-book devices like the Sony Reader, and the upcoming e-ink readers from other big companies like Philips, and smaller Asian companies. I think a broader adoption of mobile PCs like UMPCs and PDA phones will help boost the e-book market, but it’s very slow going.
The thing is, it’s not like refusing to offer official e-books has really done much to curb piracy of these books. It’s not hard to find OCRed copies that are gradually proofread and improved over time. Might as well start adapting to the electronic distribution model like the music and movie industries have (in their own begrudging way) to profit from legitimate copies of the books and give readers a better reading experience. Besides, a large part of the Harry Potter fandom will buy the books several times over in their different merchandising forms — audiobooks, paperbacks, special editions, all of the movie DVDs, etc. — so I don’t see how offering e-books is going to make much of a dent in the profits. I truly wish a company like Microsoft or Apple would make e-books more mainstream so that it wouldn’t be so difficult to get popular book titles in electronic form. If iPods had an e-book feature, I’m sure more e-book titles would sell.
As for the audiobook angle, while I can see how spoken word would appeal to tradition authors, I also contend that the audiobook market has been quite profitable, as postulated in this article. Audible.com and iTunes have sold a great number of audiobook downloads. I rather think that’s the main reason that the Harry Potter books are offered in audiobook form. It’s even easier to rip audiobook CDs and post the mp3s online, yet the piracy angle isn’t being emphasized in that market. Psh.
I respect artists’ prerogative to have some control over how their audience consumes the art, but let’s face facts. The latest generation of readers are increasingly accustomed to getting a lot of content on their computers. You can’t stop OCRed copies from showing up online. Just roll with the punches and offer the official e-book version with cover art and some extras, like author interviews, or something like that. eReader.com already does this kind of thing, and it seems to be working well for them (though I’m not familiar at all with how their business is actually thriving or not). Most fans, including myself, would buy both the dead tree and e-book versions. When will authors learn that the “e” in e-books doesn’t mean evil?
Ever since I got my T-Mobile MDA, I got back into the habit of reading e-books. I used to do it all the time when I carried around PDAs regularly, and it was nice to start again. I loaded eReader and redownloaded some of the e-books that I bought that I hadn’t finished reading. I get the eReader e-mail newsletter to keep up on new releases and get the discount codes, but I haven’t bought that many e-books in a while. And it’s weird, because often I’ll see a whole slew of romance novels being pimped in the newsletter…is that the main demographic of e-book readers (as in people, not devices *smirk*)?? I would think that there’d be way more sci-fi and techie kinds of books, not to be stereotypical of PDA/e-book users. I just can’t see most soccer moms toting a little PDA reading romance novels while they’re running errands or whatever! Okay, I’ll stop now, before the flames really come in.
I do wish that e-book selections were better, though. And I really wish the Harry Potter books were available as legal e-books! I admit, I have non-legal copies of the HP books that I’ve been re-reading the last few days (I wanted to refresh my memory on the storylines, since I listen to Pottercast), but I don’t feel bad about it because as far as I’m concerned, I have the dead tree versions of all the books (most in hardback form), I’ve bought the books for other people, and I’ve put lots of money into watching all the movies in the theatre and on DVD. It’s annoying that I can’t read it on my PDA because some lame publishing company doesn’t have the foresight to recognize a viable market. So I feel like the e-book versions I have fall within fair use, even though I’m relatively sure I don’t have a legal leg to stand on… *sigh* I would dump my non-legal copies in a second if eReader or anyone else would offer the HP e-books.
While we’re on the subject of e-books, I have a few things to say about the Sony Reader. I did get to see it in person finally, and I was pretty impressed by it. For a while I was really itching to buy one, but I was lurking around the Mobileread forums for both the Sony Reader and Iliad iRex (IIRC?) reader (which was more interesting with the bigger screen with touch capabilities and higher resolution) and reading people’s experiences sort of cooled me on the idea of buying the Reader (that and I had just bought my MDA, which was the same price, and could be more than an e-book reader).
I liked the hardware and the technology, despite some wonkiness in the button/menu layout and navigation. My main issue for not pushing to buy the Reader is that I’m very wary of the Sony Connect e-book store. The proprietary format that Sony is using concerns me. Sure, I could probably convert my own PDFs for reading on the Reader, but even that is kind of touch and go because of inconsistencies with the software conversion tool. Since Sony’s notorious for using closed formats, I’m worried that if the Reader doesn’t do well enough, the Connect store will languish, and I’ll have e-books that are locked to a discontinued Reader device. At least with books on eReader.com, they’re viewable on my Tablet PC and PDA, and they seem established enough that I’m not as worried (though it’s possible) that they’ll close up shop and leave me with useless files. I wish the books on Connect were PDFs or something more universal. Hopefully they thrive so that their proprietary format isn’t as limiting (ha).
Honestly, as cliche as this will sound, if Apple made an e-book reader, it would propel the e-book market. So hurry up and do it, Apple! Maybe then I’ll be able to have legal e-books of Harry Potter! *smirk* Oh, and while you’re at it, make a Tablet, too.