Buying any e-book reader now is a gamble. Every model has access to a different catalog of books, some of which are restricted by copy-protection schemes. This leads to a classic early-adopter format dilemma: Say you’ve got 30 e-books on the Kindle you purchased two years ago. Now you’re in the market for a new reader, and you’re leaning toward the Nook because it lets you share books with your friends. Tough luck—those Kindle books won’t work on your Nook. Or imagine you buy the Nook today, but by 2012 Barnes & Noble decides to quit the e-book business because it can’t compete with Amazon. Too bad—your Nook will be about as useful as an HD-DVD player.
— Farhad Manjoo (via azspot)
Very few people complained about iTunes DRM because they all had iPods anyway, and DRM lock-in was mostly a theoretical and ideological problem — “What if I wanted to switch away from iPods someday?” Nobody ever did.
This hasn’t been a problem yet for ebooks because the Kindle has been the only game in town. (Sony Readers have never sold well enough, or with a large enough commercial book catalog, for anyone to complain.) Now that there’s (probably) about to be real competition in the ebook-reader market, this is going to be a huge problem for long-term customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals. As soon as someone mentions these new book-reading gadgets at the dinner table, Uncle Whoever is going to chime in with, “You know, those things only read their company’s books! I saw it on the news last week. You have to buy all of your books again when you get a new one! Those crooks!”
Regular people don’t know or care about what publishers demand or that they can “lend” books to each other for a few days if they happen to know more than one person with one particular type of ebook reader that currently has an installed base of zero.