Friday, September 27, 2013

The Problem With eBooks

After an eternity of waiting the time had finally arrived. 26 September. Release day. The day I can get my hands on Jupiter War, the final installment in a trilogy I started way back in 2011. Since it takes a month for books to reach South Africa after their UK release getting  the ebook version was the obvious choice. What could be more convenient than immediately delivery, that's what ebooks were made for right?

It turns out that since I'm not using a Kindle, but an ePub based reader instead, I'm not actually allowed to buy the ebook. At least I can't find any legitimate store willing to sell it to me. Kobo, my store of choice, doesn't even list Jupiter War nor does any of the other ebook stores I tried (most of which wouldn't sell it to me based on my location in any case*).

I contacted Tor UK, the publisher, and they were looking into the problem. Apparently the ePub files have been released and should be making their way to ebook retailers. Does that mean that Kindle users get preferential treatment? They had the option to pre-order and at the stroke of midnight on release day they had access to the files. Why should ePub users be treated any differently? I doubt my choice of ereader should play a role in the availability of an ebook.

A quick Google search found numerous sites where I could get a pirated copy of Jupiter War with no hassles at all; in the format of my choice.

When it's easier for people to pirate the books you publish instead of being able to buy them legitimately I think your system needs some serious work. I could so easily have download that pirated copy, but I opted not to. I believe that the author and the rest of the people that made that book possible deserve to be compensated for their work. Many other frustrated readers might not be so kind.

Release day has come and gone and I'm still waiting. It doesn't look like I'll be having that marathon reading session of the Owner trilogy this weekend. Luckily there are other books I can keep myself busy with. Alastair Reynolds' On the Steel Breeze was also released on the same day. At least I'm able to buy that one...

The folks at Tor UK have been excellent in trying to help solve the issue. It seems Kobo is experiencing technical difficulties with the file and they are working to resolve it.

Update II:
I had basically given up hope, but before heading to bed I gave it one more try. This time round Jupiter War was listed as available, and the checkout process managed to complete without any problems. This was one of the most frustrating ebook purchases I've ever experienced and I'm still baffled by the whole thing. I'm just glad that I finally have a copy!

* Note: This is not a problem with geographical restrictions. The book should be available to my region, but some stores don't sell to international users.


  1. I've actually been pleasantly surprised at the availability of ebooks to SA in the last year, especially when compared to previous years (where sadly, I was one of the frustrated readers you mentioned). But I agree stuff like this needs to get looked at.

    1. Things have definitely improved hugely over the last couple of days. I still remember when you couldn't get any ebooks in South Africa at all. I think Kobo has played a huge role in making them more accessible by charging in Rand, and generally having loads of books available.

      You still get those annoying 'This title isn't available in your region' notices, but luckily they are few and far between now.