Bookworm – A platform for open ebooks

A friend pointed me to a new service to store all the ebooks you have in epub format so you can read them wherever you are – at your computer, on your web-enabled mobile phone, or on an ebook reader that supports the format.

I just signed up.  I downloaded Ayn Rand’s Anthem and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations from Feedbooks and added them to my new Bookworm account.  Before you ask:  Yes, I would love to sit in a room with Rand, Smith, and Jeff Bezos and discuss the state of the electronic publishing market.

It is unfortunate that I have no mobile device capable of trying this out, but it’s not entirely unpleasant to read on my laptop.  Bookworm remembers my place, as promised.

More exciting than the service is the attitude.  From their about page:

Will other book formats be supported, such as PDF or mobi? What about DRM ebooks?

Bookworm is meant to push adoption of the open ePub format and there are no plans to support closed formats like mobi or those with limited flexibility like PDF.

DRM (digital rights management) has been shown to be detrimental to technology adoption, does not significantly prevent piracy, and provides a terrible user experience. Bookworm will never support DRM’ed ebooks that require special software to unlock. Instead we encourage publishers to explore forms of “soft” DRM (such as watermarking digital books with the name of the purchaser).

“Soft” DRM is silly – the idea is that if you stick the person’s name on the digital file, they won’t share it with others.  It is an improvement over typical DRM, but still decreases the value of the book while offering nothing to the customer in return.

However, open source publishing software, using only open formats, can only be good for consumers.  Openness leads to innovation because one group can build on the work of another.  And sooner or later, some of those groups will figure things out, and you’ll never again have to pay $9.99 for an infinitely copyable ebook.

Check them out – they’re getting a lot of things right, and the backing of a big company like O’Reilly will help show other publishers what’s possible.

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