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Ebook Reseller Wishlist/Scorecard

I spend a lot of time talking with companies that want to resell O’Reilly ebooks. Some are large companies you’ve certainly heard of, others are small startups that haven’t yet launched. But what’s remarkably consistent is that few of them offer many of the options and features we at O’Reilly consider critical for customers.

Because I’m sure these will come up again, I’ve prepared a handy table outlining what we look for in an ideal ebook reseller, and provided a simple scorecard showing how several current ebook resellers stack up:

Reseller Carries O’Reilly ebooks? Multiple ebook formats DRM-free option Labels which are DRM-free ebooks Provides free updates if provided by publisher EPUB support Notes
oreilly.com
Multiple DRM-free formats, free lifetime updates, and an easy way to come back and download your ebooks again any time are some of the reasons our direct ebook sales are strong and growing.
iPhone App Store
Technically possible, but not currently available for our ebook apps
Extracting the EPUB is a bit of a hack but it’s possible, and updates are both easy and familiar since the ebook apps update just like any other app.
Android Market
Technically possible, but not currently available for our ebook apps
Our Android ebooks use the fantastic Aldiko Reader for rendering, exporting the EPUB is just the push of a button, and like the App Store, updates are easy.
Kindle Store
While I’m happy to give credit where it’s due to Amazon for putting in a process so we can sell O’Reilly ebooks without any DRM restrictions, the Kindle 1 rendering was (and remains) a real disappointment, and the lack of updates means customers miss out on our frequent updates, corrections, and enhancements. It’s also unfortunate Amazon doesn’t label which books have DRM/device restrictions (and which don’t). Amazon says they support EPUB as an ingestion format, but if I can’t add my own EPUB books to my Kindle (device or app) then I don’t consider that ‘support.’
Sony Reader store
Don’t know
It’s been more than 18 months since we told Sony we can’t be in their store unless our books don’t have DRM, and they still won’t give us (or any other publisher) that option.
Apple iBooks
It’s a bummer that updates aren’t an option, especially since it’s been part of the App Store for years. O’Reilly books aren’t (yet) available in the iBooks store, but if you buy direct from us, it’s easy to load the EPUB file onto your iPad via iTunes, and our books look great in the iBooks reader.
Barnes & Noble
Don’t know
We expect to see O’Reilly ebooks available on the nook soon.
Scribd
Word on the street is that Scribd will be supporting EPUB, but they’ve been saying that since they launched the store. Their recent move from Flash to HTML5 was significant news among Web developers.
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  • http://www.the-digital-reader.com Nate the great

    Andrew,

    Are you sure you have the Android Market rated properly? I know there are other Android reading apps besides Aldiko, and I know they support other formats. Are those apps not in the Marketplace?

    I don’t have access to the Market, so I can’t answer this.

  • http://www.michaelbernstein.com Michael Bernstein

    You should add a row for Kobo, given that you’re already selling there: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=O'Reilly%20Media

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

    @Nate — good point, though I was specifically referring the ebook apps that we’re selling. You’re right that it’s not really a limitation of the store, so I’ve updated the table to clarify.

    @Michael — this isn’t an exhaustive list, and right now there aren’t a large number of O’Reilly titles available via kobo because their rendering of tables and computer code (common elements in our books) so far has left a lot to be desired.

  • http://www.michaelbernstein.com Michael Bernstein

    Andrew, thanks for the info on Kobo’s rendering. I was considering purchasing one. Sounds like you need to add another column or two to the table.

  • http://ebookpie.com Jill Tomich

    eBookPie should also be included. We offer all O’Reilly ebooks in multiple formats, and meet the criteria outlined in your table. (Disclosure: I own eBookPie.)

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

    @Jill — As I said in my previous comment, this isn’t an exhaustive list (it would be a rather big list if it were!) but thanks for mentioning Ebookpie, I’ll add you to the list, though I don’t see where on your site it’s labeled which books are DRM-free, nor was it clear that updates are provided.

  • http://ebookpie.com Jill Tomich

    Thanks for adding eBookPie to the table. Perhaps we need to change the language, but each book product page indicates which format is available, and whether or not that format has DRM. For O’Reilly titles, the format is generally listed as ‘ePub (Open)’, which indicates DRM-free. If a title has DRM, and using Adobe as an example, it will list the format as ‘Adobe (DRM)’.

    Re: Updates. Didn’t know we had the option to provide updates to customers who purchased an O’Reilly ebook from us. We’re happy to accommodate, so perhaps you could contact me directly with specifics.

    Thanks again. — Jill

  • http://www.holartbooks.com Greg Albers

    We sell our e-books DRM-free as often as possible as well. For the many resellers that don’t make DRM status clear to their customers, we’ve been thinking about at least adding a “This book is DRM-free” sentence to all our book descriptions. Is anyone else doing this, or have other thoughts?

  • Kirk Biglione

    So DRM is definitely optional on iBooks? Is there an easy way for publishers to specify that option?

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

    @Kirk — I haven’t yet seen the actual interface for uploading books (it’s apparently a modified version of the iTunes Connect interface for adding apps) but my understanding is that DRM is controllable upon upload (assuming a checkbox).

  • http://www.holartbooks.com Greg Albers

    @Kirk — We’ve been working with the iTunes Connect interface, and iTunes Producer uploading system, and yes, you can specify books to be DRM-free with a simple checkbox, and in fact can specify DRM status territory by territory (currently U.S., United Kingdom, France, and Germany). Overall the system has been pretty easy to use, except for the major drawback that each title and all its associated metadata must be entered individually, by hand. There’s no bulk upload. Keeping the “approved aggregators” an appealing option for larger houses.

  • bowerbird

    greg said:
    > Overall the system has been pretty easy to use, except for the
    > major drawback that each title and all its associated metadata
    > must be entered individually, by hand. There’s no bulk upload.
    > Keeping the “approved aggregators” an appealing option
    > for larger houses.

    if you have enough titles to make it worthwhile, i would think
    it wouldn’t be difficult to write a program to fill out the form.

    -bowerbird

  • http://threepress.org Liza Daly

    What does DRM-free mean in the context of iBooks? Is there an “export this EPUB book” link for me as a user? Where would it go if my iPad/iPhone has no user-accessible filesystem?

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

    @Liza — my understanding is that the publisher controls whether a file includes DRM (via a checkbox as described above). At that point, you’d get at the EPUB through the iTunes Library on your computer (the same way you’d get at music you bought). AFAIK iPad requires a sync computer, so the presumption is that you’d get the data that way.

  • http://threepress.org Liza Daly

    OK, that makes sense. I haven’t bought via iBookstore so I hadn’t seen ebooks coming back the other way.

  • http://www.michaelbernstein.com Michael R. Bernstein

    Andrew, should bowerbird’s last comment really have been deleted? Admittedly, the sarcastic ‘I told you so’ wasn’t very diplomatic or constructive, but neither was it worthy of being moderated, IMO.

  • bowerbird

    michael bernstein said:
    > Andrew, should bowerbird’s last
    > comment really have been deleted?
    > Admittedly, the sarcastic ‘I told you so’
    > wasn’t very diplomatic or constructive,
    > but neither was it worthy of being
    > moderated, IMO.

    michael, thanks for standing up for free speech!

    a silent unacknowledged removal of a comment
    is one of the worst forms of censorship there is.

    and the fact of the matter is that the very thing
    that andrew said to liza is something he himself
    has acknowledged — right on this blog — that he
    did not know, until someone pointed it out to him.

    in fairness, though, it might not have been andrew
    that deleted the comment. kat meyer took over the
    day-to-day business of this blog sometime back…
    i’m not sure of the date, but she has blocked some
    of my other comments, and i’m proceeding here on a
    temporary basis, to see if her policy will prevail here…
    if so, i’m outta here for good, and spreading the word.

    -bowerbird