Readings have become the first independent bookseller in Australia to sell eBooks using the Booki.sh platform locally developed by Inventive Labs. Their eBook store has partnered with SPUNC and is offering a range of independently published Australian books, some for the first time as eBooks. I think both Readings and Inventive Labs should be congratulated for not only developing a local eBook distribution platform but possibly providing a solution for other independent bookshops across Australia.
The platform is significantly different to others in the marketplace. Instead of downloading the eBook to an eReader or PC the eBook is stored and read online. This means that any device that has a web browser can become an eReader including the Kindle 3. This makes it the first non-Amazon supplier of eBooks to be available on their device. Unfortunately it also means an eBook purchased from this site cannot be read on a current eReader like the Sony or the Kobo. The eBook can be read offline as it can be ‘cached’ but you do not have access to your eBook library unless you are online.
An eBook platform should offer readers as much choice as possible. Amazon only gives you the choice of their device and their apps. Retailers who sell (or license) you an ePub download enable you to read that file on the device or app you choose. If you want to read an eBook on an eInk device why should the type of eBook you purchase stop you? If you want to read on a backlit screen why should you be forced to read on a web browser when there plenty of really good eReading Apps available that have a lot of built-in features? I really enjoy using the BlueFire App on the iPhone and have just discovered the iFlow reader which has some really cool features including the ability to scroll through the text rather than use page turns (but you can do both because you have a choice!). The Kobo App for iPad also has some very impressive features.
The real issue here though is the pesky one of Digital Rights Management (DRM). Unfortunately DRM is a reality and it won’t go away. DRM is widely accepted by all the major publishers and eReading devices. It cannot be ignored. I know some people who are going to disagree with me here but DRM is a necessary evil. Yes DRM-free removes a tone of headaches involved with eReading and eBook purchasing but when you are dealing with copyrighted works there needs to be a level of protection over that work. When you are in a retailer there also needs to be some protection to stop an item that is being sold from being mass distributed for free because that will devalue the product exponentially.
DRM is not perfect but it is what it is and I can imagine some other ways to protect a digital work that would be much worse than DRM. However DRM does evolve. The DRM for music and DVD is different to what it was ten years ago and it is continuing to change. The same will happen with Books’ DRM. When the marketplace, format and technology finally settles so will the DRM and then it can start to be adjusted to fit consumers needs instead of trying to please everybody (authors, publishers, retailers, readers) which is what it is trying to do now. To ignore it though is a folly.
The more I think about it the more I realize that limiting the eBook to the Booki.ish cloud and the Book.ish Reader is itself DRM