So here’s the thing… I love books (and really, what sane person doesn’t?) More specifically, I love e-books and will quite cheerfully buy vast quantities whenever funds allow, because, what’s not to love? They take up no space, can be instantly downloaded, I can cart my entire library around in one e-reader which is a big bonus for travelling, and are also handy when I want to be lazy and not actually muck around with boxes stored under beds to find the book I fancy rereading. I can read them on my kindle, on my iPad, on my laptop or on my iPhone if I squint a bit, so there’s also the bonus of back up options if one device gets a bit glitchy – which is why I very rarely buy dead tree versions of books these days. Fiction reading and buying, for me, is always e-book format – oh there’s the odd exception if I’m at a convention and have a mad moment of buying something at a launch, or if there’s no e-book version available and I really-really want to read it (though if I don’t really-really want to read it I’ll not bother, and just make a note to keep an eye out in case it ever does get e-bookified.)
So then the Amazon/Hatchette thing happened. Marie Brennan does a summary here with handy linkage – so where does this leave the average e-book buyer if they want to keep feeding their habit but would kind of like to not screw over their beloved authors by their shopping choices?
Happily, as far as the indies and smaller presses are concerned, there’s the option of buying direct from the publishers or from the lovely online Indie stores. This is something I’ve been trying to do for the last couple of years – not so much because of Amazon’s policies (because I’ve not dug deep enough into them to make a fully educated decision and explain exactly why big corporate = bad), but more because I’m not a huge fan of the file format they do. I want to have my e-books in DRM free epub or mobi formats that I can keep copies of on my own storage devices and easily chuck at whatever reading device I happen to be using. I don’t want to be locked into Amazon owning my books or fiddling with them or generally losing them if I use a device without the kindle app. I want control of my books.
Previously I’ve bought smaller press books from Smashwords, Weightless Books, Book View Cafe, and Spacewitch, and also the sadly missed Wizards Towers Books when it was up and running. I also buy direct from the Angry Robot Trading Co. who do a few indies as well as their own books; and I keep meaning to try out the Rebellion Publishing store for all things Solaris/Abaddon and the Tor Books store for all things Tor!
All of which is great, but if you want something from one of the bigger publishers, Amazon has always been the easiest go-to. But after the AmaHatch grudge match, I decided to finally get around to checking out some of the other options for e-book buying – Nook and Kobo I’d heard about, and discussions on one of Juliet E. McKenna’s facebook posts brought Waterstones Online and Google Play to my attention, so I’ve been book-buying and downloading reading apps and here’s my not-very-technical-and-has-a-short-attention-span results!
The books: The first four books in The Mysteries of the Greek Detective series by Anne Zouroudi (buying 1 per venue!) – available from Amazon UK for £1.54
Comparison points: Price of book, file formats available, reading apps available, readability on the app-readers
General notes: At minimum I want to be able to read the e-book on either my kindle or iPad, and also my laptop as a back up if possible. Therefore a downloadable and accessible file format I can convert to mobi is going to be preferable. I’m not that bothered about the look of the store – so long as it has a basic search widget I can find my way to what I want. And if there’s too much hassle in downloading reading apps or syncing content between devices I’m done with that venue.
Price of Book: £2.63
File Format: Adobe DRM epub
Reading Apps: Kobo app for PC – easy to install and use; Kobo app for iPad – easy to install, a bugger to use and still hasn’t synced up to my account after 3 hours so no book has appeared in my library; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app and the purchases sync up! Yay!
App Readability: PC – short pages but readable. Bit like a landscape PDF. iPad – still hasn’t synced with my Kobo library so have no book to test it on! iPhone – if you don’t mind the titchy screen with not a lot of content per page then definitely readable.
Will I use it again? Probably not. No auto sync to the iPad or quick solution to fix that is a big turn off.
Price of Book: £1.54
File Format: Erm.. Adobe DRM epub?
Reading Apps: PC – need Windows 8.0/1 – which I don’t have; iPad – app easy to install and instantly syncs to purchases; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app and purchases sync up nicely.
App Readability: iPad – Very readable, like it. iPhone – again, if you don’t mind the titchy screen with not a lot of content per page then definitely readable.
Will I use it again? Probably. Easy to shop, easy to read on the iPad but the lack of compatible PC app is annoying, and I’d quite like an open file format.
Price of Book: £2.99
File Format: Adobe DRM epub licensed for 6 devices
Reading Apps: PC – uses the Adobe Digital Edition – easy to install and use; iPad – uses Overdrive Media Console – easy to install, total bugger to actually use as it’s not syncing to my account; iPhone – ditto the iPad comments.
App Readability: PC – readable, like the Kobo app you get that squashed landscape page feel but it’s clear and easy to use. iPad – still hasn’t synced to my account and there’s no easy way to work out why and fix that. iPhone – ditto the iPad comments.
Will I use it again? No. Twice the price of the other stores and the mobile device sync failure is a pain in the ass and will take too much time and fiddling to sort out.
Google Play Books
Price of Book: £2.48
File Format: erm? Dunno. Kept in the google cloud.
Reading Apps: PC – online via Google Play website; iPad – easy to install and use; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app
App Readability: iPad – very easy to read with easy navigation and easy typeface alteration options. iPhone – easy to read, like it.
Will I use it again? Actually, probably. Though the cloud access only thing will be a problem next time my internet connection goes down so it’s not ideal, but can see it as a good one for phone reading.
In conclusion – it’s likely that given time and further investigation the Kobo/iPad app problems and Waterstones/Overdrive app sync issues can be fixed but for a quick and easy option I’m erring towards Nook apps or Google Play. Would still prefer a store that lets you download actual DRM free epub/mobi files though, so neither the Nook or Google Play are completely ideal.