Amazon currently has 79% of the consumer ebook market in the UK. Probably if you read ebooks, you read them on a Kindle or on a Kindle app on your tablet device, and you probably think ebooks are convenient and inexpensive. Let's just take a moment to think about what life might look like for those 21% of non-Kindle holdouts. Here's a real-life comparison of purchasing the same ebook on Amazon and on the website of a major bookshop chain in the UK.
Anatomy of an Amazon Kindle ebook purchase
- Go to www.amazon.co.uk (no need to log in, including on a mobile device, if you have visited before).
- Search for your ebook, choose the "Kindle" option in the results - all versions (or bindings) of the title are grouped together on one page.
- "Buy now with 1-Click(R)" (controversially patented in North America). My ebook was £4.49.
- Pick up your Kindle e-reader or Kindle app on your mobile device.
- Read book - it will sync across all devices on the Amazon Cloud and keep your page. Realise that you do not actually own this ebook - you are only licensing it. Amazon could remove or silently amend the file at any time.
Elapsed time: approximately 5 minutes
Anatomy of a [major high-street bookshop chain] EPUB purchase
- Go to bookshop website.
- Search for your ebook, scrolling down until you see the right version (I searched by title; my chosen ebook was the sixth entry: the paperback was first, then an unrelated book with the keyword in the title, then the hardback, then three unrelated books, then the ebook version I wanted - all entries seemingly unrelated - it can't help that some 95% or publishers reporting changes to the metadata they send out into the supply chain).
- Click Add to Basket. I paid £6.99 for the same ebook that was listed on Amazon for £4.49.
- Click Go to Basket.
- Click Go to Checkout.
- Assume you've visited the website before and you already have an account. In which case, enter your email address, then click OK.
- Enter your password, click OK. (If you have forgotten your password, like I did, then you will need to call customer services - hope you're trying to purchase or read during business hours: Monday to Friday 9am - 6pm). Happily, if your payment details are saved then you go straight to your receipt/download page.
- Now. Ensure that ADE is installed and that your version has been authorised with an Adobe ID. That Adobe ID has to be exactly the same email address as you used to purchase the book. It didn't actually say this on the website ... and I discovered that if your copy of ADE is "unauthorised" (very easy to do - I'd updated to ADE 2.0 and neglected to authorise it), then you will effectively "break" your EPUB: you will not be able to read it anywhere else but on your computer version of ADE. That was a big problem and took days to resolve with Customer Services.
- Assume your version of ADE is ok. Click the Download button to download an .acsm file
- Find the "Download.acsm" file on your computer (note that if you are on a Mac, each subsequent purchase from this shop will be named "Download(1).acsm", "Download(2).acsm" and so forth).
- Double click to open. When you open it in ADE for the first time it will be assigned to your Adobe ID and be renamed to the "title of the book".epub. Remember: You will only be able to read it in software that (a) can read Adobe DRM ebooks and (b) is authorised with that (and only that) Adobe ID.
- If you want to read it on a mobile device like an iPad, you need to make sure the app on that device associated with that Adobe ID.
- If you want to read it on a mobile e-reader device like an e-ink Kobo, you need to connect it on your computer, open ADE, select the device and authorise it to your Adobe ID.
- Then you need to sideload (connect the e-reader to your computer, select "connect" on the e-reader screen to manage files, then drag the file into the Kobo folder on your desktop).
- Read book. Remember what percentage you have read because your page numbers will not sync across devices. However, the bookshop can't yank it back once it's been installed (nor can it be updated). However your license could be de-validated on the server.
Elapsed time: Nearly a week. As I had some issues with remembering my store website password and having an unauthorised version of ADE, it took me nearly a week to resolve and read my book, two phone calls to Customer Services and a series of emails.
Now that I have resolved these (admittedly my own fault) issues, elapsed time will be reduced to the time taken to log in, find and purchase the book, find and connect the e-reader to the computer, and sideload the EPUB - probably about 20 minutes or so.
Most customers don't realise that their Kindle books are licensed, not owned by them. They notice that Kindle books are orders of magnitude cheaper than those sold on the websites of high street bookshops, and they notice how easy it is to purchase, read, and they love the syncing ability of the Kindle books.
I assume that lots of people "break" the DRM on their ebooks (I will leave it to you to Google this). However, I would guess that most people are just looking for a simple life. Amazon's solved that in spades; the complexity of everyone else's DRM really turns people off reading ebooks.