Friday, September 25, 2009

Microsoft Press goes digital w/ O'Reilly - Kindle file advice

Microsoft Press books is going digital with O'Reilly "Starting Nov. 30, O'Reilly Media will begin offering Microsoft books in print as well as for download to readers' computers, mobile phones, Kindles or other reading devices..."

O'Reilly ebook bundles and Updates - The O'Reilly page itself features ebook bundles to cover three formats:
' When you purchase an ebook bundle (currently available on a select set of titles as part of a pilot project), you'll get access to all three of the formats we're currently supporting.  Since we began selling PDF versions of many of our titles, we've offered free updates to reflect published changes in the books; the same will apply to the Ebook bundle, which will replace the PDF option on those titles in the pilot program.

When you buy an O'Reilly ebook you get lifetime access to the book, and whenever possible we make it available to you in three, DRM-free file formats -- PDF, .epub, and Kindle-compatible .mobi -- that you can use on the devices of your choice.  Our ebook files are fully searchable, and you can cut-and-paste and print them.  We also alert you when we've updated the files with corrections and additions. '
Techflash says, about the new partnership, "Perhaps the Redmond company -- seeing Amazon's moves with the Kindle electronic reader and Google's giant book scanning project -- is seeing some new potential in the digital book market."

The listing of offerings, relative to file-type, are a bit odd in my cursory look at the beginning of their Complete List of books available in various formats.

 Trying Beyond Java on that first "Complete List" page, I see that the first of two titles shown, shown as released in 2005, is showing the green 'E' which indicates an ebook bundle.  When you get to that listing's page, it actually shows you several format options for purchase: Print, $24.95;  Print + Ebook $27.45; and  Ebook[bundle - Mobi, PDF, ePub] $19.99, and mentions that the Ebook release was February 2009.  They also offer a Safari Online version.
  On a later page, Andrew Savikis advises: "You may find the mobile version of Safari ( is a better experience from the Kindle browser"

 The second of two titles for the same book shows a 'release' date of "2008" on the listing page, but when you arrive at the book page, the release date is "2005" as well.  The two pages have different URLs or links but these have exactly the same data on each.

 Checking Amazon for the book, search results bring us to the Amazon listing for Beyond Java.  It's $9.99 in Kindle format and $18.96 in paperback at Amazon, both listed with the book's release date of September 22, 2005.

I remembered reading that O'Reilly was able to have their Kindle books be DRM-free (no rights-protection on the Kindle files) and googled it, to find some interesting info on O'Reilly's Tools of Change page.  Andrew Savikas writes there (April 2009):
' I'm happy to announce that more than 160 O'Reilly books are now available on Kindle (both Kindle 1 and Kindle 2), and are being sold without any DRM (Digital Rights Management).

  Though we do offer more than 400 ebooks direct from our website, the number for sale on Kindle will be limited until Amazon updates Kindle 1 to support table rendering ("maybe this summer" is the most specific they would get).  The text-to-speech feature of Kindle 2 does work with these books. A list of currently available titles is below [on that page]. '

The 'conversation' at the bottom of that page is fascinating, and there seems to be some doubt by a couple of writers as to whether Amazon has really forced publishers to use digital-rights management, though it was a 'default' for mobi-formatted files in the past.

  But here's O'Reilly's statement about the MOBI files on their own site (the cost of which is more expensive than the Kindle price) and what's been done about updating the accuracy of layout with the Kindle versions:
'... all of our "ebook bundles" include a Kindle-compatible .mobi version that can be uploaded or emailed to your Kindle.

  While the table and code issues remained, readers at least had the other, richer formats (EPUB and PDF) for reference.  We've now updated all of the .mobi files for sale at to display properly on Kindle 2 (basically undoing many of the hacks we'd done to get something passable the first time around).

[Emphasis mine, for Kindle users who bought their Kindle versions from Amazon]
  If you own a Kindle and have purchased ebooks from, visit from the Kindle browser to download the updated .mobi files directly to your Kindle.  While we will also update our ebooks with Amazon as changes are made and errors fixed, they currently have no way of updating that content for customers who already purchased it.

 While the rendering in Kindle 2 still leaves a bit to be desired, we felt it was an acceptable baseline, and look forward to continuing to work with them to improve the display of technical content on Kindle. (Ironically, the Kindle 2 web browser displays complex content like tables and code quite well -- check out the Bookworm mobile version if you have a Kindle.)   [That's O'Reilly's parenthetical note.]

 Our thanks do go to Amazon for working with us on this. They're a favorite target of criticism (often right here, and often for good reason), but this is a good step and they do deserve some kudos.  While we'd prefer that Amazon directly supported the open EPUB standard, this is real progress in giving readers easy access to digital books without locking them in to a single vendor. '
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