Thinking about buying Kindle eBooks? Might as well flush that money down the toilet

Here’s a very insightful comment on a recent Slashdot article asking for the best eBook reader:

dpbsmith writes: I’ve been taught a lesson. I am now the proud owner of over $300 worth of useless bits. They are encrypted and keyed to a serial-numbered hardware device which bit the dust last year. In theory, this is no problem, as the books and Gemstar’s record of my ownership remains on the servers. All I need to do is buy a new device, call Gemstar customer service, have them reencode my books with the new device serial number, and download them again. Except that Gemstar doesn’t exist, Gemstar customer service doesn’t exist, and the servers were shut down long ago.

Because of another limitation of DRM–I couldn’t share my books with my wife even if she had her own Rocket eBook reader, which she didn’t, she didn’t know that I had purchased an e-copy for $15, and bought her own paper copy for $15. She can still read her copy. She will still be able to read it twenty years from now. She can lend it to a friend. She can sell it on eBay. Scarcely five years after purchase, I cannot read mine and will never be able to read it again.

The same is true today with the Kindle. The Kindle only supports a handful of formats, and none of them are open. Perversely, the Sony readers mostly support open formats like ePub today. Sony used to be the king of crippled, proprietary products and formats, but with their eBook readers (Sony PRS-505, etc.) they seem to have opened up. Who knows why, but it’s a good thing to have happened. A good thing for Mr. and Mrs. Customer, at least.

So before you buy a Kindle, ask yourself the question: Do I want my reader to natively support non-DRM-crippled books? Do I want my reader to still be able to display the books I’ve bought five years down the line? Then maybe the Kindle is not the right choice. Right now, there are ways to get the Kindle to do this as well, but Amazon can issue an update at any time that removes your ability to do so. Other manufacturers are instead adding more and more open formats to their readers. You may think the ~ $100-$200 lower price on the Kindle may justify the loss of freedom, but I think you won’t be happy with that decision.

If you want to find out what DRM is all about, check out Defective By Design.

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