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Over 160 O'Reilly Books Now in Kindle Store (without DRM), More on the Way

I’m happy to announce that more than 160 O’Reilly books are now available on Kindle (both Kindle 1 and Kindle 2), and are being sold without any DRM (Digital Rights Management). Though we do offer more than 400 ebooks direct from our website, the number for sale on Kindle will be limited until Amazon updates Kindle 1 to support table rendering (“maybe this summer” is the most specific they would get). The text-to-speech feature of Kindle 2 does work with these books. A list of currently available titles is below.

screen_shot-50931

There’s a lot of overlap between the kind of early-adopter crowd likely to buy a Kindle and the audience for our books. So it’s no surprise that we received a lot of requests to add O’Reilly books to the Kindle store, and it’s great to finally be able to get those readers the books they want. We expect to add another 100 or so titles in the coming weeks; those have needed a more detailed analysis of the table content to identify good candidates.

There were two main reasons we held our books back from sale on Kindle:

  1. Poor rendering of complex content. Kindle 1 was optimized for the simple text of mainstream trade books (think airport-bookstore fiction and non-fiction), and lacked support for properly displaying tables or computer code, two very common elements in O’Reilly books. We knew customers would be disappointed to find much of the content of our books unusable (and likely to complain to us about it, rather than to Amazon). In this case, Amazon actually agreed with us, and after they saw how those tables looked on a Kindle 1, told us they weren’t comfortable selling many of our books until they’ve updated Kindle 1. (More details below the fold).
  2. Compulsory DRM. We strongly believe DRM (Digital Rights Management) encryption adds unwelcome cost and complexity to any digital system, frustrates legitimate customers who respect copyright and want to pay for their content, and is demonstrably ineffective at preventing unauthorized copying — much of it done by people who either (a.) wouldn’t otherwise pay, or (b.) resort to piracy when there’s no legitimate sales channel. Other publishers are free to make their own decisions on DRM, but Kindle’s compulsory DRM was inconsistent with our views on digital distribution.

Although we’ve been working for some time with Amazon to resolve these issues, as a stop-gap we’d been directing Kindle owners to oreilly.com, where all of our “ebook bundles” include a Kindle-compatible .mobi version that can be uploaded or emailed to your Kindle. While the table and code issues remained, readers at least had the other, richer formats (EPUB and PDF) for reference. We’ve now updated all of the .mobi files for sale at oreilly.com to display properly on Kindle 2 (basically undoing many of the hacks we’d done to get something passable the first time around). If you own a Kindle and have purchased ebooks from oreilly.com, visit oreilly.com/e from the Kindle browser to download the updated .mobi files directly to your Kindle. While we will also update our ebooks with Amazon as changes are made and errors fixed, they currently have no way of updating that content for customers who already purchased it.

While the rendering in Kindle 2 still leaves a bit to be desired, we felt it was an acceptable baseline, and look forward to continuing to work with them to improve the display of technical content on Kindle. (Ironically, the Kindle 2 web browser displays complex content like tables and code quite well — check out the Bookworm mobile version if you have a Kindle.)

Our thanks do go to Amazon for working with us on this. They’re a favorite target of criticism (often right here, and often for good reason), but this is a good step and they do deserve some kudos. While we’d prefer that Amazon directly supported the open EPUB standard, this is real progress in giving readers easy access to digital books without locking them in to a single vendor.

If you want to tell Amazon to hurry up and update your Kindle 1, or to improve their rendering of technical content to match Sony Reader, Stanza, Bookworm, Calibre, and others, you can drop them a line at kindle-feedback@amazon.com.

Current Available Titles

(As of April 16, 2009)

The Tables problem

Here’s some screenshots showing the table problem:

How Kindle 1 (mis)handles tables:

screen_shot-50931

The same table on Kindle 2:

screen_shot-50931

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  • http://gordonmcgregor.blogspot.com Gordon McGregor

    I think this is fantastic news. Any likelihood of safari support on the Kindle? That would really make me extremely happy.

    I realise you can almost get access to the content via the browser, but the experience is less than great. Kindle with safari subscription seems like the perfect compliment. (or an O’Reilly book reader)

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    @Gordon — You may find the mobile version of Safari (m.safaribooksonline.com) is a better experience from the Kindle browser. Safari is working on new features to support Kindle downloads (for books you’ve downloaded via tokens).

  • bowerbird

    andrew said:
    > 160 O’Reilly books are now available on Kindle

    good news! congratulations!

    -bowerbird

    p.s. how are your tables stored? as .html tables?

  • http://friendfeed.com/tudor Tudor Bosman

    This is awesome.

  • http://friendfeed.com/webmaven Michael R. Bernstein

    Some Kindle books are now available without DRM? That’s great news!

  • http://friendfeed.com/pmsyyz Phillip Stewart

    Glad to hear books can be unencumbered on the Kindle. Now if only that fact was displayed on the book page.

  • http://friendfeed.com/cpikas Christina Pikas

    what would be really nice is if the institutional subscriptions allowed you transfer books to your mobile device – with or without drm

  • Keith Fahlgren

    The tables stayed as HTML in the Mobi/.prc, yes. We’re not happy with all the downsides of pictures of tables as a workaround, especially loss of search & ability to link.

  • bowerbird

    and i presume you do not convert them to pure text
    because of the absence of a kindle monospaced font?

    -bowerbird

  • Keith Fahlgren

    @bowerbird: In early February, both Kindle 1 (via a software update) & Kindle 2 (via not being released yet) got monospace font support.

    While pure text is an option, when we’re talking about a generic solution for hundreds of titles and want to allow them to be read on different screen sizes (Kindle iPhone App) it starts to fall apart.

    Besides, if we dumb down all of our content to suit the limitations of the current Kindle they’ll have no incentive to improve their rendering engine.

  • bowerbird

    keith said:
    > In early February, both Kindle 1 (via a software update) &
    > Kindle 2 (via not being released yet) got monospace font support.

    oh, ok, i didn’t know that. i thought it was still lacking…

    > While pure text is an option, when we’re talking about
    > a generic solution for hundreds of titles and
    > want to allow them to be read on different screen sizes
    > (Kindle iPhone App) it starts to fall apart.

    well, keith, if you’d care to discuss some of the specifics of that,
    my job/hobby/mission in life is solving those kinds of problems.

    indeed, if you’d care to pull a wide assortment of tables out of
    your books, so the general e-book programming community
    would have a communal input dataset to address these issues,
    that would be cool.

    > Besides, if we dumb down all of our content
    > to suit the limitations of the current Kindle
    > they’ll have no incentive to improve their rendering engine.

    first of all, nobody is suggesting you “dumb down” your content.
    quite to the contrary, the suggestion is that perhaps you could
    make it _smarter_, so that it does the job that it intends to do
    even in a rendering environment that’s not as nice as we’d like…

    and second of all, a very good guess is that amazon has _more_
    than enough “incentive” to “improve their rendering engine”,
    no matter _what_ o’reilly (or any publisher) does or does not do,
    so i’m not sure that principle has much ground to stand on here.

    but, more to the point, i believe that you will find, as i have,
    that when you are working out these table-oriented problems,
    you come up against some difficult either/or type conundrums.

    when i reach such a conundrum, i’ll generally make a decision,
    one way or the other, and then proceed, with my path at times
    (and perhaps even often) being affected by the choice i’d made.

    and i would expect that amazon will act in much the same way.

    so i’d say that if you _really_ want amazon to “improve”, then
    it would be a good thing for you to offer amazon some _input_
    on _how_ you would like them to answer some of the questions
    that they will inevitably face. that means you will need to know
    _what_ the questions are, and _what_ you prefer as the answers.

    pulling that wide assortment of tables out of your books would
    help you — and me, and stanza, and amazon, and everyone –
    know the questions, and start thinking to formulate the answers.

    otherwise, prepare to be unhappy because amazon makes some
    decisions that are not the same as what you would’ve suggested.

    -bowerbird

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    so i’d say that if you _really_ want amazon to “improve”, then
    it would be a good thing for you to offer amazon some _input_
    on _how_ you would like them to answer some of the questions
    that they will inevitably face. that means you will need to know
    _what_ the questions are, and _what_ you prefer as the answers.

    We have regular and ongoing conversations with the Kindle team. We’ve provided them with ALL of our ebooks in both EPUB and Mobipocket format, and have exchanged feedback, suggestions, and workarounds with the Kindle team (in fact the addition of monospaced fonts and tables to Kindle 2 was heavily influenced by our input to Amazon).

  • http://realtech.burningbird.net Shelley

    Thanks for including four of my own books as DRM free. Covered at my site

  • http://realtech.burningbird.net Shelley

    I noticed that the DRM version of one of the books at least is still showing. Anyway that can be removed, so that people who bought the DRM version have access to the DRM free version? And also to ensure that people only get access to the DRM free version?

    I’ve also tagged the books “drmfree” to match the MobileRead and Teleread campaign.

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    I’ll pass that along to our Kindle contacts at Amazon, thank you.

  • bowerbird

    keith said:
    > We have regular and ongoing conversations
    > with the Kindle team. We’ve provided them with ALL
    > of our ebooks in both EPUB and Mobipocket format,
    > and have exchanged feedback, suggestions, and
    > workarounds with the Kindle team (in fact the
    > addition of monospaced fonts and tables to Kindle 2
    > was heavily influenced by our input to Amazon).

    great. so magnanimous of the two of you to do all that for us.

    except now how about having these conversations _in_public_?

    or is it your expectation that you can just dictate your decisions
    to the rest of the e-book community, and we’ll just follow along?

    for all the preaching that comes out of o’reilly on “open source”,
    there seems to be a lot about _open_processes_ you don’t grok.

    and i say that with _love_, keith, so don’t get bent out of shape.

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    sorry, i got the attributions wrong.

    i thought keith and i were having a conversation.

    but that was actually _andrew_ who responded last.
    (and something tells me i could have known that,
    even without looking to see what name was listed.)

    my apologies to both keith and andrew for the mix-up.

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.munseys.com dmoynihan

    Wait, wait wait–here’s what I don’t get RE “Compulsory” DRM.

    I mean, obviously, the inevitable backtracking on Kindle store availability had to happen. Your competitors found a way. And, after all, O’Reilly already pulled down a million from the suckers at the last Tools of Change by claiming Epub on Iphone was the future. Mission accomplished, and it’s not as though anyone who bought into that garbage will be able to afford to come back as a paying customer.

    However, at no point in Kindle’s history was it required for a publisher to employ DRM. Mobi does it by default, but that’s more related to Mobi’s founders leaving long ago, and certain Gallic predilections among Mobipocket’s remaining staffers. DTP.Amazon.com does not require DRM, or even make it easy to use DRM.

    So, in your post above, which is the lie? That someone at Kindle told you, repeatedly, how DRM was required, over O’Reilly’s constant, vociferous protests? Or that you’re “constantly in touch” with their staffers?

  • http://www.munseys.com dmoynihan

    No, I mean, seriously. You’ve previously lied about some sort of industry-wide take-up of Adobe Mobile, when the problems were revealed last summer with even InDesign-alone conversions. And the “take-up” had clearly not occurred by Sept?

    You kept up the nonsense into this winter, conning nearly 1k persons out of $1 million in reg. fees.

    You’re now backtracking, speciously, to save the whole publishing side of things on Kindle.

    But given that you’re now lying about “compulsory DRM” on Kindle, what’s to stop the same sort of firms who’ve found Amazon a tasty target from nailing you guys?

    Particularly given that you’re, like, culpable?

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    @dmoynihan — You’re right about DTP not requiring DRM, but we (like most publishers) don’t use DTP to sell titles via Amazon. That’s handled through other mechanisms. And yes, Amazon told us that we could not sell on Kindle without DRM, and we repeatedly (vociferously) protested.

    The new Amazon ingestion workflow allowing us to sell unencrypted mobi files is the first time they’ve done so for a non-DTP submission (i.e, the source of the vast majority of Kindle titles).

  • bowerbird

    oh no. bowerbird and moynihan tag-teaming against o’reilly?

    say it ain’t so, joe. totally unfair.

    either one of us could do it with one hand tied behind our back.

    david indelicately employs the l-word.

    but hey, don’t attribute to duplicity what is clearly incompetence.

    andrew has already said he doesn’t understand the d.r.m. stuff.
    it just went over his head went the stanza people discussed it…

    and besides, hasn’t david rothman been proving for a while now
    that amazon forces d.r.m., even on publishers who don’t want it?
    (if you repeat something enough times, you’ve proven it. right?)

    see, _that_ is the problem here.

    long-time know-nothings like teleblawg rothman tell untruths,
    which newcomer know-nothings like the interloper kids echo,
    and should-know-better publishing/tech “leaders” like o’reilly
    then give it all a — fully undeserved — stamp of authenticity…

    so really, is it any wonder that the corporate publishing industry,
    which has real skin in the game, ignores all these knuckleheads?

    not that the dinosaurs are any smarter. heck, they be dinosaurs!
    they’ll fall for anybody who comes by with a shiny d.r.m. scheme.

    and meanwhile amazon is hooking every hook and zippering all
    of its zippers and snapping each snap to lock down its lock-in…

    and the web is stealing attention away from books just as surely
    as it is stealing attention away from newspapers and magazines.

    good thing gas prices went down, so air-flights are reasonable
    once again, which means the _conference_ business is thriving,
    so o’reilly will be able to keep the cash in its cash-flow flowing,
    enabling ‘em to keep the confusion-about-publishing tide up,
    so the conference attendees keep piling through the turnstyles.

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    david said:
    > You’re now backtracking, speciously,
    > to save the whole publishing side of things on Kindle.

    > what’s to stop the same sort of firms who’ve found Amazon
    > a tasty target from nailing you guys?
    > Particularly given that you’re, like, culpable?

    david, most people reading along here have a very superficial
    understanding of the full situation — drm bad! epub good! –
    and little knowledge of the history, so i’d suggest you need to
    be far less cryptic.

    and the l-word — even if it’s totally true — is a bit abrasive,
    even by my standards (and i’ve been told i don’t have any), so
    perhaps some rephrasing would be good? ;+)

    -bowerbird

  • bcostoa

    The Kindle DX looks nice but I’m waiting for Plastic Logic’s Reader. Since it will support the pdf file format directly and has a big screen it’ll hopefully not suffer from the same table problems.

    A bit off topic but the idea of PL’s Reader with Safari access (it has BT/wi-fi/GSM 3G) would be like something out of Star Trek. =) How about “Buy a two year Safari subscription for $62.99 per month and get a free ebook reader.”?

  • Rowan

    I am currently investigating kindle dx reviews online and the fact that oreilly offers DRM free books for it may sway me enough to buy one.

    I already bought a bunch of ebooks from oreilly, will the mobi format I already have look the same as the “kindle” version?

    By the way, kudos on the whole no DRM thing. I’ve bought a few hundred dollars worth of books in the last few weeks from oreilly because of that.
    Well, that, and the books are good…

  • edxter

    A year has elapsed since this list. Any current list as of June 2010?

  • http://toc.oreily.com Andrew Savikas

    @edxter — we have about 330 titles currently available on Kindle. There are many more that we’ve held back because the Kindle 1 still can’t properly display tables (which as you can imagine are very common in our books). As Kindle usage grows on their newer devices and other platforms, the problem isn’t as big as it once was, and we’re in the process of re-evaluating our current list in the hopes of increasing the number of titles available in the Kindle store soon.