Mobipocket eBook Format Is Gone

Early this month Amazon pulled the plug on Mobipocket. If you go to mobipocket.com now, you’ll find a selection of 12 free ebooks on the home page, but all of the other ebooks have been removed. The Mobipocket company was acquired by Amazon in 2005, and they used the technology of the ebook format in the development of their Kindle software.

Before being bought by Amazon, Mobipocket was an odd company. They were based in France and always had a very relaxed way of doing business, sometimes not responding to questions for months at a time, and even not collecting fees from publishers or retailers for months after they were due. On the other hand, I always felt that their software was ahead of its time. Unlike Adobe and Microsoft, they had a pretty good method in place for DRM. It was based on a PID (personal identification) number that was unique to each copy of Mobipocket Reader. All you would have to do was find that number and then enter it before you downloaded your ebook. Later, they switched to a username/password system, which was still much easier than Adobe and Microsoft’s complicated registration systems. The Reader was also very versatile, supporting most of the mobile devices of the time, like Palm, Pocket PC, Nokia, and Blackberry.

In 2008 there was supposed to be a version of Mobipocket Reader released for iPhone, but that never happened. I’m sure at that point Amazon had decided to stop working on the Mobipocket brand separately and just focus on Kindle. Around the same time, or perhaps a little later, people started complaining that the Mobipocket support forum had become useless because staff never responded to posts. Before that, the Mobipocket staff was quite active and provided most of their customer support through the forums.

So, what does this mean for people who used the Mobipocket format in the past? A few things:

- Amazon is claiming that they will keep past downloads available to customers. I would recommend downloading your Mobipocket ebooks as soon as possible just in case those downloads become unavailable later. They probably won’t last forever.

- Mobipocket ebooks with DRM can only be read in Mobipocket Reader, so if you need a copy of that, you should probably download it soon. Who knows how long Amazon will continue to provide downloads for it. (Mobipocket ebooks without DRM can be read in the Kindle software.)

- If you were reading Mobipocket ebooks on a Blackberry device, you’ll probably have to switch to Kobo. They provide an app for Blackberry. Your old Mobipocket ebooks won’t work in the Kobo app, but you can get Kobo ebooks from now on.

- If you were using another device that Mobipocket supported, like a Windows Mobile phone, you have less options right now. The majority of ebooks being sold now are PDF or ePub, and DRM for those formats is usually handled by Adobe’s Content Server. They do not support Windows Mobile (or other devices Mobipocket supported like Symbian and Palm). You will probably have to stick with non-DRM ebooks until an app becomes available for those devices that supports Adobe’s DRM.

Meanwhile, Lexcycle.com is still unavailable, so it looks like Amazon has definitely killed off that software as well.

With all of these ebook formats changing or falling by the wayside (not to mention devices as well), what should a person do? Amazon is doing so well with Kindle ebooks that I bet that format will be pretty safe to use for a long time. Even as they keep introducing upgraded versions of the hardware and software, you should still be able to keep using your older purchases. Other than that, I know that PDF and ePub have persevered over many years. PDF is such a ubiquitous file format that it’s likely to keep being used for many years to come, and ePub is by far the best format for smaller screens like smartphones and it’s still being developed. So if you’re not using a Kindle, it might be a good idea to read ebooks on a device that you use for other purposes, like a phone or tablet. Buying a device that’s only for ebook reading, or using an ebook format that is specific to one type of hardware, will probably be a poor investment in the long run. Instead, try and get PDF or ePubs and read them on a device that you’ve already bought for something else.

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About The eBook Reader

I love reading and I love technology. eBooks are an interesting combination of the two.

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