Amazon.com and Apple aren't your only options to buy eBooks. We look at how two Australian eBook retailers -- Ebooks.com and Read Without Paper -- compare.
Ebooks.com is the retail arm of Ebooks Corporation, an Australian public company. Based in Claremont, WA, the company was founded in 1997 by Stephen Cole. Ebooks Corporation is also the company that supplies content to Dymocks.com.au, and is also working on E20, which appears to be a platform-neutral system for eBooks.
The store design is possibly the best I have seen in Australia, with touches like a list of a genre’s bestselling authors when you select the genre, as well as the option to preview the novel or detailed summaries on the book’s page.
The supported eBook platform range is wider than other retailers in Australia, however, not all the books are in all the formats. Depending on your device, you may not be able to read some of the books on sale here due to multiple Digital Rights Management schemes used. So check the device and store first before purchasing.
Linux users are completely unsupported, a result of the DRM schema chosen by eBooks.com. As well, none of the formats may be used on iPhone/iPad, however some newer books use the Amigo Reader; a web-based eBook reader, which may allow non-supported platforms like the iOS devices. Full list of currently supported platforms and devices can be found here.
Supported formats: PDF (Adobe DRM), ePub (Adobe DRM), MS Reader (MS DRM) and Mobi (DRM).
Prices are comparable to Read Without Paper (reviewed below). However, one flaw in the retail experience is that you cannot see prices on the landing page, being forced to drill down into the book page. The prices are listed in Australian dollars. Each eBook format is priced individually, and there can be more expensive formats for the same book. What rights you are allowed with each book and DRM schema is clearly listed, a nice level of transparency unseen in every other retailer reviewed.
The range is strong — unlike Read Without Paper, every book has Australian licensing. This is due to Ebook Corporation being the backend server for the content, unlike Read Without Paper, which uses US-based Overdrive Inc.
One service that may be of interest to website owners is that there is an affiliates program, which offers banner ads and eBook sale commissions. This will be covered in a separate article in the future.
Ebooks.com is a great eBook retail site, however, it is also a poster child for the problems posed by DRM. If your reading methods are allowed by the device and format limitations Ebooks.com forces onto you, this is a good choice for legal eBooks. However, if your device choices prevent reading the available books, this is not the retail site to use.
Read Without Paper
Read Without Paper is local online eBook retailer based in Mitcham, Victoria. Part of the DA Information Services Pty Ltd group, it uses the Overdrive Content Reserve service for its content.
Read Without Paper uses the Adobe DRM system, and requires the use of the Adobe Digital Editions software. Formats supported are ePub and PDF. Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) only supports Windows and OS X. I have not tested ADE under Linux, but will do so, to see if it can be run under WINE or in a virtual machine (like Sun/Oracle Virtual Box).
One of the nice touches of this bookstore is that you can see what country the book can be sold in. Considering that one of the big problems facing Australian eBooks is country rights, this allows eBook sales worldwide, while still complying with licensing requirements.
Prices are in Australian Dollars. Prices are varied, with some books priced $30 or more.
Comparing a book I bought on the Borders app, An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair, I found that Borders was cheaper (At $5.95 compared to Read Without Paper’s $8.36), however Read Without Paper has a vastly superior catalogue.
The ‘house eBook reader’ is the Ecoreader. At $449, it is a lot more expensive than the Kobo, Kindle and Nook. This price may change in the future, due to the just-erupted price war in eBook readers. The reader itself is similar to specs to the Kobo, with an added audio player and without Bluetooth.
Read Without Paper predates Borders.com.au, and it shows. The web store is polished, and there is also a strong catalogue of audiobooks, at prices that compare well to places like Audible and audio book retailers here. For a legal shop for eBooks, Read Without Paper is worth checking out.
Darryl Adams is a government worker and internet tragic. A former IT worker, he still pines for the days of IBM keyboards that go CRUNCH and the glow of green screens. He can be found on on Twitter or on Facebook. Check out his site oz-e-books.com for more articles about e-book readers, retailers, formats and news (or will have when Darryl can be drawn away from reading Delimiter).
The views expressed here do not reflect the views of his employer, the ATO.