eBook Primer

I was talking with my postmistress the other day and she asked me when my next book will be out. I told her that it would be out in eBook around the end of May. She gave me that strange look that my mom gave me when I told her the same thing and I knew I would have to explain it to her. It became a lengthy discussion and one that I thought might benefit some people here.

Adobe Acrobat (.PDF)

Adobe Acrobat is a free program you can download from www.adobe.com for your computer or PDA. This format is the most popular because it can be read from your computer screen or imported to a Palm or Pocket PC and can even be printed.


HTML is the most versatile of the formats. It can be read from your computer using your browser, convert to your favorite eBook reader’s required format (such as the Rocketbook, the Hiebook, and the REB series readers), sent via email directly to your Kindle, and opened by a word processing program such as Microsoft Word or Open Office. You can print this file, but it will print as one continuous page.


Mobipocket, Kindle, and Nook each have free programs and apps designed specifically for PDAs such as a Palm or a Pocket PC.  They also have an interface that allows for reading on your computer. Printing isn’t allowed.

Microsoft Reader

You can download this free reader from http://www.microsoft.com/reader. Microsoft Reader can be read from either your PC or from your Pocket PC. It’s easy to use, the program is shaped to look like a book and it has read-aloud capabilities. This reader, however, does not allow for printing.

Now this isn’t the whole list, because there are a lot of different readers and formats out there, but here are a few of the most popular. Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

Question on Digital Rights Management or DRM

Question: Hi, my name is Arthur Mills. I’m the author of the part-fiction / part-memoir book, The Empty Lot Next Door. The book is available on hardback and softback but after talking to Maureen, I’ve become interested in selling my book as an ebook on Smashwords. My concern is that Smashwords’ ebooks are DRM-free. To my understanding, that means that a purchaser could theoretically buy a copy and pass copies to all his friends. Copies could also end up on other free ebook sites. Maureen explained it best when she told me that authors would always struggle to protect their work. Is my concert valid? Do any of you have the same concern and how do you deal with it? I’m a new Author that could use all the help you are willing to provide.

Arthur and anyone else that has been interested in this question,
I started out commenting to your question, but the answer got too long so I decided to make it a post. To answer your questions, yes DRM-free means that the purchaser could buy and pass around copies to all their friends and they could end up on free eBook sites. However, DRM-ing your eBook doesn’t always stop this problem.

DRM doesn’t keep it from being pirated, it just makes it harder to do. Anyone with good computer skills can hack into the DRM program and crack. Or they could just look online for articles on removing DRM or cracking it, the list is long. Also if a pirate really wants to share your book, all they have to do is buy the print book and scan it into a computer to distribute it for free or even sell it.

I thought I’d create a list of the pros and cons of Digital Rights Management and let you judge for yourself which you would prefer to do. Some of this list comes from reader complaints to Fictionwise and Smashwords. Sadly, the pros are few and the cons are many.

Pros of DRM
~limit the unlicensed sharing of content beyond those who paid for it

Cons of DRM
~It affects eBook sales, many people refuse to buy digital products that have DRM in place and/or objections to it on principle. Secured formats also cause ten times the number of customer service calls, when compared to unsecured formats. A customer who has a problem with a secured file is less likely to purchase DRM formats again.
~bugs in the DRM software
~The inability to use a file they paid for across multiple operating systems they own personally. Secured formats are difficult or impossible to pass from device to device.
~The inability to back up and safeguard files.
~Limit the ability of the legal purchaser to fully use the content, such as printing locked PDF files, citing material in a scholarly study, or when using a recipe from an e-book version of a cookbook. Some might argue that you have to hand type in from a paper book, but the fact is the unique advantages of e-books are stripped away by DRM.
~The inability to make the e-book into an audio book.
~The inability to print and read on the go from paper.
~The added expense of DRM, which is passed along to the reader, in the form of higher prices.
~DRM punishes honest purchasers, in a vain attempt to stop criminals. There is currently no DRM that cannot be broken. When a new form comes out, it is usually broken within a number of weeks and the hack…or the unlocked copy of the file is passed around.

Anyone have anything to add?