It can be immensely frustrating sometimes being locked into a device or platform as Charlie Brooker argues today in The Guardian. Brooker initially hated Macs before relenting and finally buying an iPhone and eventually a MacBook but now finds himself frustrated at the way Apple locks him into using iTunes to transfer music to any laptop. While his rant is aimed mainly at music transfers, he touches on another increasingly ferocious battleground, eBooks:
Apple’s own iBook reader app may be nauseatingly pretty, but it’s not a patch on Amazon’s Kindle, which, far from being just a standalone machine, is a surprisingly nifty cross-platform “cloud” system that lets you read books on a variety of devices, including the iPhone and iPad. It even remembers what page you were on, regardless of whichever machine you were reading it on last.
Although Brooker sings the praises of Amazon here, they’re hardly fighting the good fight. Both Amazon and Apple are in a war to lock users into either the Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad. eBooks bought from Amazon can only be used on the Kindle while eBooks compatible for the iPad can only be bought from Apple’s iBookstore.
There is another alternative. It’s not often that Adobe are the ones offering a fairer alternative, but in the world of eBook reading, they are in the form of Adobe Digital Editions. PDFs and Adobe ePubs can be viewed on all laptops, netbooks, and non-Amazon/non-Apple eBook readers, tablets and phones. Of course, this has nothing to do with a benevolent spirit of openness by Adobe. It’s simply that they have no Kindle or iPad style reading device to flog us and thus have less of a vested interest in locking us into a particular device.
Adobe Digital Editions is free to use, works on any PC or Mac and provides an elegant and straightforward reading experience. Why would you want to spend over $300 on a Kindle for example when you can buy a cheap Netbook, which can do much more than a Kindle can, and use Adobe Digital Editions to read books on?
Most importantly, we should be supporting anything that tries to break the growing stranglehold of Amazon and Apple on the eBook market. This is not only an issue of encouraging more openness when it comes to formats, but also more competition in the pricing of eBooks.