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Thursday, January 31, 2008

On ebooks

My friend Brose and I often discuss the merits, or lack thereof, of ebooks. Brose firmly believes in the wonders of the physical book, deriving comfort from the smell, the feel of the paper. To me, it's always been more about the data contained within than the object itself.

Part of the reason I've been a user of the Pocket PC (now Windows Mobile) devices for so long is their support of Microsoft Reader. It used to be included on early devices, and so when I got ebooks, I got them in the format that worked with it. Over time, I built up a decent library of books. But except for rare exceptions, the books I collected were not entirely legal. I justified this by buying a hard copy of a book, then finding a place to download a digital copy that I'd actually read. But it always frustrated me how few publishers would release ebooks, and the few that did tended to charge a premium for them, which I simply couldn't understand.

So it was with welcome relief that I found the book Uglies available in ebook form from the publisher, at a reasonable price. My sister had suggested it to me, and on a whim, I googled 'uglies ebook' and there it was. Of course, the DRM still makes it a pain. You have to 'validate' your copy of Reader with Microsoft, and you have to use IE to actually download the book, since it uses an active x control to verify that Reader is sufficiently locked down. But DRM annoyances aside, I still applaud the publisher for making the book available in digital form, at a price comparable to a paperback.

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