eBooks have grown in popularity over the past couple years, largely due to new ebook readers that have become available and more affordable. Many people are giving ebooks a try now that they have become more of a mainstream product. eBooks are excellent for a variety of reasons, but there are some situations in which purchasing an ebook is not the best choice. The following situations are those that I have identified as the five most common.
When You’re Not Comfortable With Technology
In order to successfully use an ebook, you must be able to install software, download a file, and open the file in the correct program on your computer. If you want to read the ebook on a mobile phone or e-reader device, then you need to know how to transfer files between your computer and that device. You might also need to install a program or app on your mobile device. If you’re not already comfortable with these processes, ebooks might be difficult for you to use.
When You Need a Printed Book
Many ebooks, if not most ebooks, are not printable. Even ebooks in PDF format are often not printable. This is because book publishers are concerned about copyright protection. They disable the printing function so that people can’t make illegal copies of the book. Other ebook formats, such as Mobipocket or Microsoft Reader, don’t have a printing function at all. In general, ebooks are meant to be read on your computer, e-reader, or other mobile device.
Besides the question of whether or not the ebook will be printable, printer paper and ink is not free, so you’d end up paying for the ebook and then paying more to print it yourself. If you need a printed book for any reason you should buy the paperback or hardback version of the book.
When You Want To Give The Book as a Gift
eBooks are often not able to be given as a gift for the same reason that they aren’t printable. Book publishers are very concerned about software piracy, so most ebooks are sold with DRM (digital rights management), which ties the ebook to a specific user account. If you email an ebook to someone else, or give it to them on a disk or flash drive, the ebook won’t open once it’s on their computer because their software is not registered to your user account. If you would like to give an ebook as a gift, look for a gift certificate option instead of buying the ebook yourself.
When You Don’t Know What You Need
Before you buy an ebook, it’s best to do a little bit of research to find out what type of ebook you need. eBooks come in different formats, and not all work on every operating system or mobile device. If you don’t already know, find out which operating system your computer or device uses. From there, you can research ebook formats and determine which format will work on your operating system. Next, you should install any software that’s required for that type of ebook. Once you’ve taken those preliminary steps, you’ll be ready to find ebooks that you want to read.
When You Want The Text Read Out Loud
“Text-to-speech” is sometimes a feature that people look for when buying ebooks. Unfortunately, it is often disabled in the ebook (again, because of DRM), and sometimes it’s just not available at all. Even when it is available, it’s just not very good. Sometimes people even buy ebooks with the intent of putting them onto their iPod to listen to. That is not what ebooks were designed for, and it doesn’t work at all because ebooks don’t contain an audio track. When you want an audio recording of a book, the best option is to buy the audiobook instead of the ebook.
The situations I’ve explained above are not only common situations in which you should not use ebooks; they are also some of the most frequent reasons why people get frustrated with ebooks. When someone buys an ebook with the hope that it will do something that ebooks aren’t capable of, they quickly become disappointed.
eBooks aren’t meant to replace paper books, and you don’t have to use them. It’s best to think of ebooks as just one book format that is available. You wouldn’t buy an audiobook when you wanted a paper book, and likewise, there is no need to buy an ebook if it’s not really the best choice for you. Use ebooks when you want a book in digital format to read on your computer, e-reader, tablet, or mobile phone.
This question regarding whether ebooks are printable or not seems to have become less of an issue over the past year or two, as more ebook reader devices have become available and as they have become more popular. Before that, ebooks were being used on the computer more than they are now. Also, people would often purchase an ebook with the intent of downloading it to their computer and then printing a copy.
Personally, I think that’s pretty silly. I am guessing that the idea behind this method is that you could buy an ebook and print it faster than you could buy a paper book and wait for it to be delivered. But when you consider the cost of printer paper and printer ink, I don’t think it makes much sense.
Another situation that might lend itself to printing an ebook is when an independent author has self-published his/her book as an ebook, but it’s not available as a paper book. In that case, a person might be interested in the content of the book but not want to read it on a screen. In this situation, printing an ebook makes a little more sense, but it still seems like way too much trouble to me.
The majority of ebooks that you’ll buy are not printable at all. Let’s consider each popular ebook format separately:
Kindle AZW Format:
I don’t own a Kindle or use Kindle ebooks (I have a BeBook Neo) so I’ve never tried to print a Kindle ebook. However, I searched Amazon’s Kindle Help section and I couldn’t find any information about printing at all. This leads me to believe that Kindle ebooks don’t have a printing function. Since they are designed to be read on Kindle devices, or other Kindle apps for your computer or mobile devices, it makes sense that a printing function would not have been built into the software.
Microsoft Reader Format:
Microsoft Reader ebooks are not printable at all. Microsoft did not build a printing function into the software.
Mobipocket Reader Format:
Mobipocket Reader ebooks are not printable at all. Again, Mobipocket did not build a printing function into the software. This makes sense because even though Mobipocket ebooks can be read on a Windows PC, they were primarily designed for reading on mobile devices like Blackberrys, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, etc.
Palm eReader Format:
Again, same story. There is no printing function because this software was designed to be used on mobile devices.
EPUB ebooks are printable by default. If the EPUB file is being protected by DRM, such as with Adobe’s Content Server DRM, then the publisher of the ebook can disable the printing function. If you’re not sure whether this has been done, it’s safest to assume that you won’t be able to print the ebook. Don’t buy an ebook with the intention of printing it if you’re not sure whether you will be able to print it.
PDF is the most likely candidate for printing, but you still have to make sure that printing hasn’t been disabled by the publisher of the ebook. When a PDF file is created with Adobe Acrobat, the creator of the file can change the document security so that printing is not allowed. (Other features can also be disabled, such as the ability to copy text from the document.)
Other Formats like Word, txt, HTML:
Microsoft Word files, plain text files (.txt) and HTML files are printable. But like I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t consider these files types to be real ebooks.
Should eBooks Be Printable?
My answer is: I don’t think that ebooks need to be printable. One of the main differences between an ebook and a paper book is that the ebook is not printed on paper. If you buy an ebook and then print it, you lose some of the benefits of ebooks like the fact that they don’t use up trees, and the fact that they are digital files that don’t take up physical space.
Many book publishers don’t want their ebooks to be printable because they are concerned about copyright violations. Printing an ebook multiple times with the intention of re-selling it is much easier than scanning a book and then printing off multiple copies.
There are some cases in which an ebook needs to be printable. Some ebooks contain maps, charts, or other graphics that might need to be printed. There are also ebooks that contain plays or sheet music that might need to be printed by the person who is using them. In those cases, it is important that the book publisher leave the printing function available for the consumer. But like I said above, if you are buying an ebook with the intention of printing it, check with the seller before placing your order.
In a nutshell, you can determine fairly easily whether an ebook will be printable or not if you consider the format of the ebook and whether or not it is protected by DRM. If the ebook is EPUB or PDF, it will probably be printable if there is no DRM present. If the ebook is in a format that was designed for use on e-readers or other mobile devices, then it is not printable. If you’re buying a current popular ebook from a mainstream ebook retailer, you should assume that the publisher of the book requires DRM on the download, which will disable printing in most cases.
Bottom line: If you want a printed book, buy a printed book. Don’t buy an ebook.