Ebook Wars

I’m going to talk about ebooks for a minute. As a working IT guy, I rely on books to teach me new things, give me ideas, and get me out of jams at work. Sometimes I just need to look up some obscure syntax that I know is in there. And like a lot of IT guys, I’ve really come to rely on my ebooks. I can carry a ton of ebooks on my 64GB USB stick and they’re always with me. In fact, it’s one of the things I love about being in IT.

However, all ebooks aren’t created equally. Some vendors provide you with a PDF, and some give you a password-protected PDF. Still others give you different ebook formats while others just do everything they can to keep you from buying their ebooks. Today I’m going to talk about the ebooks from 3 publishers. I’ll go ahead and give you their scores then you can read below for a discussion on the details.

O’Reilly —
APress —
Wiley —

First we have O’Reilly. O’Reilly wins the ebook war hands down. When you buy an ebook from O’Reilly you get an ebook pack that contains the book in several formats. If you can’t find a format you like here, then stick with print. O’Reilly’s books are DRM-free and you can put them on your USB and just go. I Love O’Reilly’s ebooks.

Next we have APress. Now, APress gives you a PDF that used to be password protected, but I don’t remember them being so these days. I may be wrong about that because I don’t remember getting one in a while, but even so, the password was just your email address. Also, they generate the PDF when you request it so they put your email at the bottom of all the pages. I suppose this way they could trace it back to a specific user if piracy got out of whack. Though, all the user has to do is claim it was stolen from him and he’s off the hook. I don’t really use all those extra ebook formats so the PDF is just fine with me and I care nothing about having to maybe enter a password so I’m still very happy with the APress ebooks.

Now we come to Wiley. Wiley is a huge publisher with hundreds of titles across many industries. They have text books, cookbooks, IT books, and many more. It’s amazing the amount of books Wiley puts out. And that said, they’ve got the worst ebook implementation of them all. They’re so worried about piracy that they’ve made their ebooks completely unusable. For starters, you have to use Adobe’s book reader. And while that’s only a minor inconvenience because it’s a free download, it still means that you can’t have any of the titles on your book reader (Kindle, Sony, etc). And on top of that, there’s very strict DRM on the files and you can only activate them on a single box. This renders it absolutely useless to most IT guys because like I said at the beginning, we have to carry our stuff around with us. Nobody wants an ebook where they have to pick one of their computers to put it on and then sit there and read it. I don’t even know any IT guys who just have a single box anyway. We’ve all got a desktop, laptop, a work laptop, a netbook, and sometimes even a tablet these days. And we want to be able to read something at work, and then take it on a plane with us, or read it on the bus, or from the server room, etc. And all that hinges on being able to put your titles on a USB and open them from wherever you are. So in my estimation, the Wiley ebooks are all but completely useless for IT guys.

And I get that Wiley wants to control piracy. You have a product and you want it to be sold, not stolen. I’m telling you though, having such strict DRM isn’t the answer. I recently had an email chat with several authors of IT books. These guys have all written several book each so they know the business pretty well. And they all say that piracy is hurting their bottomline, but that you can’t stop it. They say that the DRM’d titles get pirated just as much as the open versions because even if there’s no other way around it, pirates will scan a physical book and post it, or they’ll screenshot the ebook reader pages and post them as images. So there’s no way to keep your books from being pirated, not even your print books. Granted it takes more effort, but it only takes one guy who’s bored one day to sit down and start scanning. It really doesn’t take that long with today’s scanners.

Ok, so that’s the skinny on ebooks. And while there were several I didn’t talk about, you can rest assured that the large majority of them are just fine. My favorite however is O’Reilly, with Apress following a close second. And honestly as much as I love Wiley as a publisher, stick to their print titles. You can at least put them in your bag and read them anywhere.


One Response to Ebook Wars

  1. Nic Cain on July 29, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Even better O’Reilly also has downloads in the Android Marketplace so you can take the books with you wherever you go.

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