Managing your eBooks you would think would be a much easier process than managing physical paper books. After all you can download many eBooks in digital format and just save them to a directory – right?
Well no not quite, because contrary to physical books, eBooks come in many different formats and as yet there is no one common standard. Plus Amazon, the biggest eBook distributor on the planet has their own proprietary eBook formatting standard – AZW; which is now in the process of being superseded by the new KF8 standard. The latter being introduced to provide a larger number of formatting options such as text wrapped around images, different colours, tables etc.
Sadly KF8 is not going to be compatible with pre-existing E Ink Display readers as some of the functions available in KF8 simply do not work and the text can be displayed incorrectly. Newer devices such as the Kindle Fire will on the other hand display the older AZW format without a problem.
Then of course there are the competitors to Amazon that have their own ereading devices and preferences, Apple with iPads and iPhones, Barnes and Noble with the Nook, Sony and Kobo also have proprietary hardware .
It almost seems that you need to decide which camp you are in when you start buying ebooks. If for example you decided to go the Amazon route, then you can of course use their free apps that allow you to read the Kindle formats on other devices. Apple on the other hand put DRM on their books that means the only way to read them is on an Apple iOS based reader such as an iPad or iPhone, which for sure is absolutely fine for the millions of Apple users out there, but perhaps not quite so good for a Kindle or Nook user.
Google Books have now entered the fray and guess what, they have developed their own DRM, adding further to the confusion.
None of this bodes well for consumer choice, imagine if you find a book on Apple that is half the price of the same book on Amazon but you have opted to take the Kindle or Kindle app route. You might feel a little peeved that you are, let’s say, encouraged to purchase a book at a higher price just because you feel the need to keep things manageable from a storage and use perspective. Especially on the occasions where 2 years down the line you feel like you would like to read a book again, but can’t quite recall where or in what form you bought it.
One fairly significant eBook distributor, Smashwords, offer any books uploaded to their site free of DRM and in multiple formats i.e. you can purchase the book and download it as a mobi, which is Kindle compatible, an ePub which is compatible with most other devices or in several other formats (providing the publisher has elected to make the book available in those formats of course).
There is still the issue of whether the book is actually available on Smashwords and whether it is at the best price. But removing the complication of DRM and in multiple formats does go some way to making life easier for consumers even if that does leave publishers and authors a little dependent on a trust protocol.
The answer to this dilemma is of course for there to be one common standard and ePub does seem to be the front runner for universal adoption. Only problem is that I cannot really see Amazon agreeing with that perspective.
So for now, at least, if you want to make eBook management relatively simple you probably need to be deciding if you are a Kindle format or an ePub format fan. And if you decide on the ePub route you can of course convert your Kindle files to ePub using the free Calibre software program. But be prepared to live with a few potential gliches and remember if it is DRM protected then even this is a non starter.
Here is a little helper video if you want to start converting Kindle books to ePub: