Sunday, January 24, 2016

BookWeek - Post 1 : The Source

Off late, I have been spending more than normal time to reading books; particularly of Indian authors. Although there is a bunch of yet to be read Malayalam books gathering dust in our bookshelf, I chose English books to rekindle the old habit purely because of their availability in the electronic form and all the benefits that come with that medium. I re-purposed an old tablet (why spend on a Kindle when you have the power of Android?) specifically for e-reading and have successfully completed 4 books in the 4 weeks. So I thought of sharing my ventures into the unknown world of 'pixeletters' so that if there is anyone like me, who wants to pick up on the habit can benefit from my experiences. This is the first of 4 episodes and deals with the most important component for a e-Library setup: e-Books. Please note that I have written within the Indian Context and readers/residents of other regions may not find this post illuminating.

From where can we get e-Books, legally? If you had asked me that question couple of months back, I would have listed 4 sources. Since one of them has been closed down, here are the remaining three sources (In my order of preference)
  1. Amazon Kindle Store
  2. Kobo
  3. Google Play Books
If you are wondering where did Flipkart go, well, it's the one that has been closed down. Last month, Flipkart closed its e-books store and all the purchases were transferred to Kobo India Store. 

As you can see, of the three, Amazon is my first preference purely because I have found amazon to be more economical of the three. Amazon offers a good selection of Indian and International Authors and you can find almost anything in their catalogue (from my experience).

Another reason to love Amazon is their new subscription plan:   Amazon Unlimited. For a monthly fee or annual fee, you can download and read books from their 'Unlimited' catalogue free of charge. A subscriber can retain a maximum of 10 books at a time and have to 'return' one book to add a new one, similar to the system followed by Libraries. I have to say that at this point of time, their 'Unlimited' catalogue is pretty limited and don't have much variety. But you will see many Indian authors in the mix. I have been reading some Indian Mythology inspired thrillers and 'Unlimited' offers a fair share of those for rental. I hope that Amazon will expand its Unlimited collection in the coming months.

Amazon offers apps for Android, iOS, Windows and Web for reading although I don't recommend Kindle apps, at least for Android (More on that in another episodes)

Kobo has been around for some time and like Amazon, they also sell specialized e-readers along with e-books. From my experience, Kobo is much more expensive than Amazon. That being said, it’s always good to check in once in a while to see if they are running any promotional offers where you can get books from your wish list at a discounted price. I checked into Kobo only to move my Flipkart library and have not made a single purchase, yet.

Kobo also offers its reading and store app for all the major platforms and again, I use prefer another app over Kobo's.

Google Play Books
Google's store would have been the best of lot, lest for the price. Indians are a very cost conscious bunch unless you bring down the cost, not many people are going to use your service. It seems Google and Kobo have not yet realized that yet. I haven't made any purchases from Google store and like to keep it that way.

The above three are the legal sources for e-Books and hence the books they sell are DRM protected (encrypted). You can always find almost any book in DRM free Format (especially of international authors) in Torrent sites. Considering the cost, even of an e-book, you cannot blame people going for the Torrent option that an eBook store.

DRM and Other Stuff

Now to some corporate conspiracy stuff. When we buy a printed book, it becomes our property. But when we buy an eBook, we only get a right to read it. There is no transfer of ownership. We have to use a particular software or app provided by the eBook store to read the book because the eBook is their proprietary encrypted format. This means that Kindle App won't be able to read a Kobo book and vice versa. We have to install multiple apps if we have books from multiple catalogues in our possession. But in the e-World, there is a solution for every problem and more on the that in the next episode!