Date: Wed, 22 May 2013 20:15:06 +0200
Having recently bought a Kindle (yeah, that clunky, black & white, cheap device), I’m seeing myself immersed in a brave new world of unexpected complexity. Don’t get me wrong here – the e-ink thing is actually kinda nice (and getting nicer – can’t wait to see that Notion Ink Adam hybrid device, if it ever comes out). What really, really annoys me is how the Kindle works for basically… anything.
Try putting anything in a Kindle. Oh, that’s right, there’s the (free) built-in international 3G on it – but wait… it’s free so that I can upload my stuff and get charged FOR EACH FILE I SEND. Sure, that’s fair. But what if I have a thousand pdfs I want to load on my device? Do I have to put them all through the almighty Amazon?
Of course, that’s not an issue with Amazon alone. When trying to buy books in one of Brazilian’s biggest e-stores (Saraiva.com), I found out that they sell DRM’d epub files. That’s right – you buy an e-book that you can ONLY read in a handful of selected devices (from Saraiva’s partners) and can’t even convert to other formats (Kindle uses the Mobi format). Jolly.
All in all, it feels like the early days of mp3 distribution. Afraid of piracy, everyone decided to launch their own e-stores, DRM the hell out of them and expect people to buy digital music that they could ONLY play in specific devices.
The second surprise is the software ecosystem as a whole. The Kindle (as most e-readers) is nothing more than a disk storage, when connected via USB. It doesn’t even use any kind of crazy cryptography to protect folders or anything, so it’s theoretically simple to, say, hook it up with iTunes to get all your stuff synchronized, or even write a small app to manage that for you. Oddly enough, Calibre seems to be the only available tool for that purpose – and god, it’s UGLY. A thousand tabs and buttons, half a dozen menus and settings and configurations… And it doesn’t even SYNC with your device (you can DOWNLOAD from it or UPLOAD to it. No two-way sync, not even manual). Now, don’t get me wrong with the criticism. Calibre is the work of a single guy and it’s free, so it’s already an amazing achievement in many aspects (specially the format conversion thing, which kicks ass). But why aren’t there any alternatives? Is everyone basically ignoring non-ios/android e-readers out there or managing them manually (like those old thumbdrive-mp3 players)?
(hmm… I smell opportunity here!)