Ever since the kindle blazed the way for e-book readers in 2007, mobile reading devices have become all the rage. While buying the device is the easy part, getting content for it can be confusing. With publishers, e-book stores and device makers all supporting different e-book formats, here are six factors to consider when you are buying e-books and content.
There are more than 20 different e-book formats out there and different e-readers support different formats. The Amazon Kindle, for example, supports AZW, TXT, MOBI, PRC and PDF, while the Sony Reader supports EPub, PDF, TXT and RTF.
This means that when you buy an e-book, you need to check what kind of files your e-reader can read. Most e-book stores will carry a few formats. The publishing industry, though, has generally accepted EPub as the standard format. It is an open standard created by the International Digital Publishing Forum and can be read on e-reading devices such as the Sony Reader and Apple iPad. As it is supported by many book publishers, many e-stores sell content in this file format.
The Amazon Kindle, however, does not support this format. The Kindle’s format of choice is the AZW format, which was created by Amazon, although it can read PDF file too. Besides choosing the right format, you will also need to consider whether or not you might buy a different e-reader in future. Otherwise, you might end up with a whole “pile” of e-books in a proprietary format that your new device might not read.
2. Digital rights management
Like the music industry, e-book stores also use digital rights management (DRM) to protect e-book files from being copied more than a certain number of times. As different e-book stores use different DRM standards, an e-reader that can read an EPub file with Sony’s DRM might not be able to read an EPub file with Apple’s DRM.
That means you will need to find out what DRM format an e-book store uses and whether it is compatible with your reader. There are also some e-readers out there that can read only DRM-free e-books.
Often, e-book stores will offer e-books in a variety of formats. If you cannot find a format supported by your e-reader, you can still buy the e-book that you want and then convert it to a compatible format. Amazon provides a conversion service via e-mail, where users can e-mail e-books or documents to be converted into a Kindle-compatible format. There are also e-book management software, like Calibre, that lets you convert between different e-book formats.
There are some limitations that come with conversion, though. For one thing, any e-book with DRM cannot be converted to a different format, as it would require breaking the copy-protection technology, which is illegal. Secondly, a converted e-book might also lose some formatting, which means the layout of the pages might not be preserved.
Unlike a physical paperback, you might not be able to share your e-book with as many friends as you like. Those e-books protected by DRM technology typically limit the number of times you can download the book onto your computer or other devices or limits the number of devices you can download the e-books to.
While this is to prevent one person buying an e-book and distributing it to, say, all his friends, it also complicates things when you own multiple devices and want to download your e-book onto all of them.
With the Sony and Amazon e-book stores, for example, there is no limit to the number of times you can download an e-book after you buy it. However, you can download it to a maximum of six devices, all of which need to be registered and linked to your account with the companies.
5. Free Content
There are also many free e-books on the Internet that you can download. While you will generally not find the latest titles, many books that are out of or free of copyright can be found online on websites such as Google Books and Project Gutenberg. Some e-book stores, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, also offer free downloads of certain titles periodically.
6. Borrow an e-book
Libraries around the world are also starting to offer e-books, so you can borrow them for a limited period. The same issues of format and DRM apply, though, and not all borrowed e-books can be read on all e-readers.