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The Quest for Ultimate E-Reading Experience

What is the ultimate experience of managing and reading e-books across various devices we use? This article is a summary of my quest in this direction.

The Past and Our Betrayal

Our ancestors have been traveling for months just to be able to read a book or a few pages remaining from it. To Alexandria, Baghdad, Samarkand... From all around the known world then. Now, looking in what has 21st century technology has brought to us, I feel that we are betraying our ancestors by proving how we read lesser and lesser despite the convenience which we have now.

Not to mention how cheap books are nowadays, e-book technology made it even a lot more convenient (and cheaper) to read. However, there are still actors which are trying to make it as difficult as possible just for the sake of more profits. And I have doubts if they achieve this objective.

My Sources for E-books

Let me summarize first where I obtain my e-books from:

  1. Amazon Kindle
  2. O'Reilly
  3. Mannings Books
  4. Packt Publishing
  5. Project Gutenberg
  6. Wikibooks
  7. Lulu
  8. Delphi Classics
  9. And many other sources for various content...

Contents from these sources are delivered usually in epub/mobi and sometimes in PDF format. The problem is that most of the content is DRM-free, but unfortunately, some publishers and shops still deliver e-books with DRM protection.

The Problem

The big boss here is the Amazon. All the content is DRM-protected and cannot be read in e-book readers and software which are not coming from Amazon. Good news is that Kindle e-book reader can store and view normal epub files which we can obtain anywhere else.

I haven't mentioned the other big boss in the list above. It's Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) and its friends. ADE uses DRM-protected epub format and it cannot be read through a Kindle device as it does not have ADE installed.

Can I stick to Kindle only? Nope! Amazon does not offer some of the books which I want to read, especially Turkish books. Idefix, one of the biggest Turkish online (e)book retailers, has a very good collection of e-books, but then I need to forget about Kindle. All the other restrictions are extra burden, too: Cannot store and read the e-book in more than X devices etc...

By the way, my Macbook and iOS devices do not have a Kindle software as Kindle content is not available in Singapore, hence the device and software officially from the App Store. Kindle for Mac is no longer available through download option anymore.

Calibre: The Ultimate Solution (Definitely Not)

Even if I would buy ebooks without any worries from any publisher, strip the DRM protection (some people think it is a just action, but seems to be illegal), and use the open-source e-book management and reading software Calibre, it is definitely not convenient as it sounds:

  1. How to synchronize across different devices
  2. How to bear with the ugly interface (Reading is impossible)
  3. Time spent for importing/exporting (and De-DRMing if it were not illegal)

I wish...

... that

  1. All publishers would provide both print and e-book versions of the books,
  2. DRM would be abolished,
  3. No e-shop would introduce any further restrictions on how we manage and read our books,
  4. All free and open source software would look and operate nicely as most Apple software,
  5. I could put my e-book library to a cloud storage system,
  6. I could use my Macbook, iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Raspberry Pi and Ubuntu Machine to access my e-book library,
  7. I could choose the book which I want to read from my e-book library and open it,
  8. My e-book would be visualized nicely with good typography which I can fine-tune according to my physical condition and my taste,
  9. All annotations and my reading history would be synchronized back to my library in the cloud, and most importantly,
  10. I would enjoy reading!

Current situation

I am currently using Calibre to manage my e-book library. Books which are not in my Kindle device but I want to read are sent to my Kindle or synchronized to iBooks (for my iPad and iPhone), all manually. All reading experience is encapsulated in the device which I am reading the content from, ie. it is not synchronized.

Future

It seems that there is no way to get rid off DRM. And I have to stick to Kindle Store and must somehow engage with Idefix (or another retailer).

Until anything changes, I will stick to Calibre to manage my e-book library and use multiple devices with multiple software for reading the books which I will manually keep syncing. Hope that iCloud helps.

Will keep you updated.