If eBooks are so successful, why the push-back?
May 20, 2011
Things have come a long way since we voiced our concerns on eBooks two years ago. Today, our primary medium for books is the iPad, as we alternate between iBooks and the Amazon Kindle app1. When a book isn’t out for either reader, we’re more likely to wait on a purchase. We don’t seem to be alone either: John Gruber reports that Amazon is now selling more eBooks than print books. This despite the obstacles.
What obstacles? As we pointed out in the past, DRM and the obstacles associated therewith, such as sharing. Our chief complaint with eBooks is that we can’t do much with them once we own them. We can’t sell them, and in many cases, we can’t loan them2. In the case of iBooks, we can’t even gift books because Apple somehow never implemented the ability for someone to buy a book for another iOS user, even though this capability exists for iOS apps. About the only quasi-work-around is sharing a book with someone in the same household using Home Sharing. And the side-effect: we buy less books as gifts, because we feel almost guilty not taking the more sustainable, practical. route. And this doesn’t even consider the increased cost of a physical book most of the time.
At this stage in the game, though, many publishers still aren’t pushing for eBook versions. Amazon has a link on each book’s page to request an eBook version, assuming a digital version isn’t available yet. It’s is a quick process to follow. Apple’s process is a tad more complicated, and we’re curious how well either system really works once reports have been filed. More importantly, we’re curious about what the push-back from publishers is about offering eBooks versions? Presumably, the process to create an eBook isn’t difficult if a print version is ready; how much more time and money is needed to verify layout and get an eBook version out the door?
We primarily use iBooks because we like the interface better and like the in-app store, but Amazon’s library is bigger, and releases tend to hit Amazon first. This may be dependent on a book’s publisher, but from our experience, we can either get a book for Kindle right away, else wait a couple weeks for an iBooks version. Generally, we acknowledge that if an eBook is available for both apps, we’re willing to pay an extra buck or two to get it for iBooks. ↩
This is a major annoyance with iBooks. Kindle has a lending feature for certain books, but iBooks has it for no books. ↩