Last Friday I ordered my first eBook. At work with a crashed hard drive and nothing to do, I decided to use my Palm Centro smart phone to buy an eBook edition of the novel I’m reading. I chose Mobipocket.com because

  • It was the first store that came to mind
  • It allows you to keep and read the book on as many devices as you want (PC, Palm, etc.)
  • Assuming you have an Internet connection, it lets you buy and download books all from your mobile device (unlike many eBook stores that require you to buy the book on a PC and transfer it to your Palm device from there)

Downloading the free software to my phone was fast and easy, as was buying the $10 eBook and downloading that to my phone as well. It took less than two minutes to go from deciding to get an eBook to actually reading it.

My phone’s screen is big enough and the font clear enough (after I changed to white text on a dark blue background) to make for a reasonably pleasant reading experience. The Mobireader software is easy to use, and actually offers some good features (although I wish it gave you the ability to look up selected words on a free website like Dictionary.com instead of requiring you to buy a dictionary eBook separately).

Unfortunately, it would appear that eBooks aren’t inspected as well as their physical counterparts. After a few hours of reading, I noticed a page was missing. There’s no direct way to contact support at the Mobipocket website; instead of an email link or even a phone number, users are simply presented with a message board forum. I greatly prefer contacting support directly, but this strange support system is all Mobipocket offers. I posted my notification of the missing page Friday morning and received a response this (Tuesday) morning. The response said that the missing page was confirmed, the publisher had been contacted to request a corrected eBook, and that if I don’t hear back from Mobipocket or the book’s publisher in 5 days then I should respond to initiate a refund.

I have to admit that this complication has somewhat curbed my enthusiasm for buying eBooks. I was excited about how easy and fast things had been until I noticed the inferiority of the product I had purchased. If you can’t trust a book medium’s fidelity (“is this eBook corrupted or was that just a weird way to end the chapter?”) it’s hard to spend money on it.

Still, the Mobipocket format does seem to be ok for something crippled by DRM. The reader format can be used on a wide range of mobile devices (even the Kindle), although it’s foolishly not available for Mac or Linux systems. If you don’t mind the DRM (which essentially means you can’t convert your eBook to any format other than the Mobipocket format it comes in), and aren’t afraid of a strange, slow customer support system, you could do worse than Mobipocket. Assuming I can get a refund if the publisher doesn’t quickly provide a corrected copy, I’m likely to buy from Mobipocket again.

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