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Archive for March, 2010

Amazon has just launched a Free Book Collection page, where it gathers together links to “Free classics and out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books available for Kindle.”  Although this information has been available for a long time on other sites, having it pulled together on the Amazon site makes for a more seamless experience for the Kindle user.  Andrys Basten, the wonderful force behind A Kindle World Blog, provides an excellent analysis of what this means to the Kindle community in her post yesterday.

Here’s hoping that Amazon will soon realize that it’s in its best interest to enable Kindle users to download free books from the ebook collections at public libraries to their Kindles. If Sony and Barnes & Noble can figure out how to do this, then surely Amazon can, too.  People who borrow books from libraries also buy books. (And, let us not forget that libraries purchase books based on demand from patrons.)  As it stands now, those of us who wish to purchase ebooks from Amazon AND who also wish to borrow ebooks from libraries AND who wish to read them on an ereader must do so using two different ereader devices.  PC users have an additional option, which is to install Kindle for PC software and Adobe Digital Editions software on their computers, where they can then read both Amazon and borrowed library ebooks from that one appliance.  But, for those of us who prefer to hold the book – be it analog or digital – in our hands, this means taking two giant steps backwards, reading from a desktop or laptop screen instead.

Ebooks borrowed from libraries can only be read on devices and/or software that work(s) with DRM-protected Adobe EPUB and PDF files.  This category includes ereaders like Sony Reader and B&N’s Nook and software like Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) software.  As ADE comes in both PC and Mac versions, patrons who do not own ereader devices have the option of reading the borrowed library ebooks from a computer screen. ADE does not work with the Kindle, nor has Adobe released an ADE app for smartphones yet.

PC users may read Amazon ebooks from their computer screens by downloading and installing the Kindle for PC software.  Mac users, as of this date, don’t have that option because Amazon has not yet made Kindle for Mac available.  Mac users (as well as anyone else) who own an iPhone, iPod Touch, or a Blackberry do have the option of reading Amazon’s ebooks on those devices.  What they can’t do is read borrowed library ebooks on smartphones because neither ADE nor Overdrive (the company that provides the digital delivery infrastructure for 9,000 public libraries) has released an ebook app for the mobile phone platform yet.

The upshot of all of this is that anyone who wishes to read both Amazon ebooks and borrowed library ebooks on a non-computer ereader device is forced to either choose between the two — or purchase two different devices and toggle between the two.  If the iPad enables users to download apps for the Kindle, all other ebook vendors, as well as apps for borrowing library ebooks, then I suspect that many ebook readers frustrated by having to toggle between devices and platforms, will adopt the iPad as their sole ereader.

Of course, there’s a much simpler solution:  all ebooks be published using the same format and be device-agnostic.

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