Tuesday 19 March 2019

Why You Should Shop Around for EBooks

I mentioned two weeks ago on one of my readers' groups on Facebook, that I was shopping around for the best price on the ebook of Stephen King's The Drawing of the Three.

After checking Amazon and Kobo (Barnes & Noble doesn't sell ebooks in South Africa), I settled on Google Play Books, because it was significantly cheaper than both.

Two people commented on that Facebook post. The first said that she'd pay extra at Amazon, simply for the convenience. The other person said she had a physical Kindle, and was always on the lookout for good ebook deals elsewhere, but she asked what format Google Play Books were in. Unfortunately, they're in epub format, which Kindle can't read, but at least she said it wasn't a massive train-smash; just a minor inconvenience.

Now, this is one of the reasons why I believe Amazon's has severely damaged the ebook industry. There are basically two ebook formats in the world today: mobi, which is readable only by Kindles, and epub, which is readable by every other ereader and ereading app on the planet. Amazon's effectively locked everyone who's ever bought a Kindle into their service, by making it (practically) impossible for them to buy ebooks from anyone else.

But I digress. Personally, I don't own a physical ereader. I made a conscious decision not to buy one because I didn't want to be tied to any one retailer. I buy books from whichever store gives me the best deal. Take A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance. I've bought one of them from Amazon, two from Kobo, two from Google Play Books, and read the best from my local elibrary.

And then, of course, there's Smashwords. With Smashwords, you pay for your book with either credit card or PayPal, and then you can download it to your PC in whatever format it's available. The vast majority of them are available in epub format, then most of them are also available in mobi (for your Kindle), and a few are available as PDFs as well.

There are other formats available too, for people with older Sony-type e-readers, or who prefer reading in plain text or whatever, but in general, epub, mobi, and sometimes pdf are the "Big Two/Three".

They don't have their own e-reading software, because their motto is "Your ebook, your way" - their big philosophy is to allow you to read the book you want, on the device you want, in the environment you want.

Oh, and also further to that philosophy, all their books are DRM free. They don't allow authors to apply DRM to their books.

Which is, incidentally, the only downside (if you can call it a downside). On Smashwords, 99%+ of all the books are self-published (and yes, all mine are there too!). You'd be hard pressed to find any traditionally published books on Smashwords, because Smashwords doesn't allow DRM, and most traditional publishers insist on DRM.

So how about you? Are you locked into, or married to, a particular retailer when it comes to your ebook purchases, or are you free to shop around? Particularly if you don't live in the United States, Amazon's often far from the cheapest.

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