All You Ever Wanted To Know About eBook Formats

One thing the iPad has done is increase awareness of electronic books, or eBooks. I have been reading eBooks for a long time, and in the past I read eBooks on my Pocket PC and Windows Mobile devices using eReader, and I now enjoy reading books on my nook. One of the reasons why I bought Barnes and Nobel’s nook rather than Amazon’s Kindle is that the nook can read the file format that my eReader books are in, thus allowing me to access the library of books I have built up over the years.

Unfortunately, over the years there has been a number of different eBook file formats, and most of them implement a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to prevent one from stealing books. Some methods of DRM have been very bad, for example, Microsoft once had an eBook reader for Pocket PCs that required the Pocket PC to communicate with the licensing server to confirm the device had rights to the book. Microsoft decided to stop selling eBooks and turned off the licensing server and when that happened you could no longer use the books that you bought. eReader, on the other hand, uses an encryption format to secure its eBooks that is part of the file. It requires you to enter the credit card number you used to purchase the book, but if eReader goes completely away, you will still be able to use the books that you bought so long as you know the original credit card number.

You might have heard of an eBook file format called EPUB that is being supported by nearly all of the eBook stores and eReader devices. As Gizmodo explains in a long but very good article on eBook formats, while EPUB may appear to be the MP3 of eBook formats, each eBook store is wrapping a different form of DRM around the files preventing you from transferring eBooks from one store’s supported device to another store’s device. The unfortunate consequence is that as you buy more eBooks you will be less likely to want to switch from one eBook store to another. For example, the books I buy for my nook will probably never be readable on a Kindle, when I invest hundreds of dollars in books I have read on my nook, I will be less likely to switch to a Kindle.