Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I like buying technical books.
Unfortunately, here in Hong Kong, we have less choice: there are not that many technical bookstores that cater for English-language books and the selection is rather limited.
So whenever a book isn’t available here, I buy it online as a PDF.
It’s cheaper, saves postage and I can keep them handy on my desktop computer at work and my laptop.
I love Safari and being able to access such a large library of books online in such a flexible way is great, but if you’re not in the US, the experience is not always that pleasant, with the site sometimes becoming a bit too slow for comfort.
O’Reilly’s PDF may have your subscribtion details embedded at the bottom of each page.
It’s perfectly reasonable and doesn’t ruin the experience: I can still search, copy snippets to the clipboard and print the book if I need to keep an annotated copy.
Apress encrypt the PDF with your account email. Again, that’s fine by me, they don’t prevent me from using the book and it’s not a great annoyance to have to type the password to unlock the book.
Now comes Wrox (Wiley): they publish fine books and even have some available as ebooks.
The biggest issue I have though is that they assume that people who buy their books are all potential criminals:
- The book is as expensive in paper as it is in ebook format. That can’t be right: ebooks have zero reproduction cost while paper books have huge material costs.
- The ebook version needs to be registered with Adobe Digital Editions that locks it to a particular machine.
- You’re only allowed to download the ebook to 4 different PCs and you’ve got 2 weeks to do so.
This seems fair, but it’s not: if I change OS or PC, I’ve already burnt 2 licenses.
- You can’t copy/paste more than a page at a time, up to 10 pages every week… that’s just a bit silly.
- Can’t copy any of the artwork, diagrams, etc.
- Doesn’t say anything about what happens if Adobe drops their particular DRM software or if I need to use the book on the next laptop I’ll buy a year from now.
- Adobe Digital Edition only supports Windows and Mac and a Sony reader. So using Linux (even though Wrox plublishes books about it) or a Kindle or any other mobile device is out of the question.
So the net advantage of buying an eBook from Wrox (Wiley) is: your guess is as good as mine.
Yeah, you can buy each chapter as a PDF: great value, at US$4.99 per chapter, the book is costing you nearly US$100. You can get the fully printed version for half the cost…
Still, I’ll concede that being able to download a particular chapter can be useful.
The bottom line is: if your book gets printed, it’s going to be pirated and distributed for free in ebook format within a couple of weeks of being published.
While thinking they are protecting their copyright, Wiley is in fact punishing people who buy their books.
12FEB2010 Update: Wrox is now trying DRM-free PDF ebooks. We can only applaud this decision. While the offering is still limited at the moment, most or all of their books will eventually be available DRM-free.
Bookshelf by Charles Kalpakian