Virtual Bookshelves Are a Pain

I don’t mind ebooks.

In fact, I don’t mind ebooks so much that I would be completely willing to part ways with all the 257 (I counted) books that I have in my room right now.

Anyone else in the same situation I’m in right now? I have this new device I bought to read books, and at the same time I have all these old books – some I’ve read, some I haven’t – that I really want to move to my device, and not take up all my space.

There might probably be someone who could use these books as well. There are places that still need books aren’t there? Take them.

All I ask for in return is a couple of less-than-1MB epub files in their place. I would like them without DRM. But if they have to be DRM’d so be it. Though when the only solution we have to read our ebooks on our PCs is using Adobe Digital Editions, then things look bleak.

Why is it that with the iPad selling at a rate of one every three seconds, companies aren’t trying some more creative strategies to market their products? It’s safe to say the “Let’s just sell them DRM’d ebooks” approach won’t last another year.

For now, the iBook Store (in Canada) is not an option. The Gutenberg books you get from there are so poorly formatted, it looks as though some TXT files were saved as an epub file and thrown up there. The book sections and chapters are all over the place, and there are pages and pages of translation notes that are impossible to navigate around (which is really bad considering it’s all digital). My biggest complaint about Gutenberg books on iBooks is that none of them have cover images…


The Kindle, and Kobo book stores work, but they fail to impress. It’s 2010, and it’s still easier, and more useful to go out and buy a paper book. That’s how much people suck.

I just bought Bounce from the Kobo store. The book was easy to buy and fast to download. I expect the transaction of a 700kb file to be easy and smooth no matter what. But when I read that the book was available in ePub, I sort of expected that ibooks would’ve been able to read it. I mean, iBooks is software purely for the consumption of ePub files. The legal work at play must be impressive if two different applications on the same device can’t read the same file.

I mean, the file is there, on the device. One reader can read the file, but the other isn’t allowed to.

Virtual bookshelves are a pain in the ass. 

Backtracking to my original want to get rid of all my paper books in exchange for ebooks… DRM sucks, and being locked-in is never any fun. But I would still prefer to be locked in a single platform and have all my paper books swapped out for digital ones.

The sooner all my books are on a digital platform (whether it’s Kindle, Kobo, or iBooks) the more committed I will be to buying books from that platform, for all the same reasons people don’t split their music libraries between iTunes and Zune Marketplace. And the sooner one platform gives me a compelling enough offer and either gives me cheaper books, more selection, a better software experience, or a trade-in which I’ll emphasize again for the fourth time, the sooner I will be a customer for life.

Consider it the book version of “Import to iTunes”. From a marginal-cost perspective the strategy works (cost of distributing a bunch of ePub files = zero), especially if it guarantees further purchases through a specific ebook store.

One more final thought: When it’s impossible to get ebooks from the public library… We. Are. Fucked.

One thought on “Virtual Bookshelves Are a Pain

  1. Business idea alert: we set up a web service that buys individual’s books and then submit those books back to We take the dollars recieved from Amazon and buy back gift cards for each e-Book platform. The service would then forward back a percentage of the dollars generated through ../tradein where the customer gets to choose the appropriate gift card as per their device. We take 15% as a service fee. Depending on how sustainable ../tradein is we could also setup a second part of the service that actually resells the physical books in markets where demand still exists. NB: Probably leverage Amazon infrastructure through every part of the value chain.Werner: are you guys going to beat us to the punch?

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