The sad state of the e-book market, and how to fix that right now

If you’ve been following the e-book reader market, you’ll know that most big players (Kobo with the Kobo reader, Barnes & Noble with their Nook and Amazon with the Kindle) have released new readers recently. The major innovation here is a higher display resolution and a frontlighting system. This is great.

What’s not great is that all three major players also reduced interoperability by pushing their own proprietary formats some more. Kobo won’t even tell you directly what format their books are in, Barnes & Noble at least use the ePub format (but encumbered by Adobe’s crazy DRM that only works on Windows and Mac OS X, read here how to decrypt that), and Amazon use their own proprietary format.

This is no good. If you want to escape this horror that goes completely against consumer needs, you will have to look towards manufacturers like Onyx with the Onyx Boox. They make a reader that, like the Hanlin readers, supports a wide variety of formats: MobiPocket, ePub, PDF, plain text, RTF, Microsoft Word .doc — I can’t complain. Yes, the devices are more expensive than the ones sold by media companies and book publishers, but it’s only about €30 more, and that money goes towards buying you a lot more freedom.

Onyx are also releasing a frontlit model now, the Onyx Boox i62 AG (“Angel Glow”, how cheesy). So you could do it like I do: I sometimes buy the ePub copy of a book from an independent e-book store, but then download the .mobi version from somewhere else because I can’t be arsed to crack that fucked up Adobe DRM.

Not the best solution — surely DRM-free books are better — but this works for me. Also, I’m very happy with my old Boox M91. You can even install your own .ttf and OpenType fonts on the damn thing, something the big-name readers won’t allow. Also, the firmware is on GitHub. Not the most straightforward build process, but all the other reader manufacturers won’t even give you the source code. So kudos to Onyx on this one.

Still, as a consumer I feel like I’m constantly being fisted up the arse by each and every e-book publisher. You could argue that the best way to deal with this would be to simply download those books without paying, until the publishing industry becomes consumer-friendly.

As this is legal in Switzerland, there’s no stopping you if you’re Swiss, but it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. It would be nicer if we could pay the publishers for a fair product instead. I wonder how many decades it will take for the industry to realize this.

4 thoughts on “The sad state of the e-book market, and how to fix that right now”

  1. Where have you bought an Onyx reader in Switzerland? charges an outstanding 45 euros for delivery to Switzerland!


  2. I ordered mine directly from the Netherlands without VAT and a reasonable shipping charge. You have to contact Boox sales directly for this, since they usually ship with VAT and inside the EU.


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