No Farming on Tuesdays: B&N, You’re On Thin Ice!

No, not really, I farm on Tuesdays, but I thought I might try something new to give me more material to write about here (and maybe give me a little extra motivation to post more…deadlines!).  No Farming on Tuesdays will be a time to write about whatever is on my mind that week, be it games, the weather, music, whatever.  Todays topic:  Barnes & Noble and my annoyance with them.

I’m a bit of a gadget guy.  I like fiddling with computers, poking around in Linux, using digital media and smartphones and such.  I’ve moved my music collection to .FLAC and .mp3 and ripped all my DVDs to .mkv.  The few pictures I have are stored on my computer and backup external hard drives.  I dual boot Windows 7 and whatever flavor of Linux I happen to be interested in at the time.  I built my own computer using custom parts.  And though I’ve known about eBooks for the longest time (an undergrad professor of mine was given a Rocket eBook and brought it to class…this in the time before the iPod revolution), I’ve held out jumping on that bandwagon.  I love physical books.  Love the way the pages feel on my hands.  Love the way a book smells after its been sitting on a shelf for years and years.  Love the different paperback covers a book goes through.  Love them.  eBooks will just never be the same.

Or so I thought.  I received a Nook for my birthday last year.  And I haven’t looked back.  In .mp3 standards the 4 gigabytes of memory space may seem small, but when an eBook weighs in at around 500 kilobytes, that memory is more than enough to hold more books than I could hope to read in my lifetime (I’m a slow reader).  No more deciding which book to take on a long trip only to find out that my choice isn’t doing it for me and I’d have rather brought something else.  No more skimming over words I think I know the meaning to only because a dictionary isn’t handy.  Don’t like the font?  Change it.  Type to small, enlarge it.  eBooks, where have you been all my life.

Which isn’t to say that I’m over physical books all together.  I still love everything about them that I mentioned above, and I still buy physical books every now and then (it’s hard to turn down a nice trade paperback title when browsing the bookstore at the train station), but if the title is available as an .epub there’s more of a chance that I’ll make that purchase.

Thus my annoyance with Barnes & Noble.  I live in Japan.  Barnes & Noble lives in the US.  I can’t buy a book from them.  Not even from their website.  barnesandnoble.com sees that I’m connecting through a Japanese IP and blocks me when I try to make a purchase.  The reason, I’ve found out, is because book publishers have imposed these restrictions on B&N and other American book sellers because of copyright restrictions and tax reasons.  The only sites I can buy eBooks from are Amazon, Borders, and a handful of smaller niche booksellers (the best of which is Bean Webscription Books, a great place to get my sci-fi fix).  If I want to access the B&N site and buy I book, I have to route my internet through a US based proxy, which, without using a pay service, is asking for a case of identity theft.

So, what are my options, B&N?  If you won’t use your weight as the largest “brick and mortar” bookseller in the US to force the publishers to relent in their stupid restrictions, what do I do?  I can use Borders.  They sell eBooks in the .epub format, which my Nook can read.  I’ve already made a couple purchases through them and it’s pretty easy, except for the fact that I have to install Adobe Digital Editions to access my .epub.  However, one of the reasons that really like the Nook is that it has this really nifty coverflow feature, like in iTunes, which lets you flip through the covers of all the books you own.  Oh, wait, I mean all the books you’ve purchased from B&N.  Didn’t buy the book from B&N?  Those books go in the My Documents folder, which doesn’t use the coverflow feature.  *le sigh* I can use Amazon.  Of course their eBook format has DRM and is not compatible with the Nook, but there are ways around both of those so that I can get it in a format I can use.  Or I can use a pay proxy site or VPN in order to trick B&N into thinking I’m in the US.

Or I can just pirate the books.  This is not an option right now, because I want to pay for the new eBooks I get (books, I already own in physical form, yeah, I pirate those).  But the hoops B&N makes you jump through to buy books from them, and the features it denies you because you bought your books from someone else are really starting to irk me.  Not enough to just start pirating books.  But, right now I’m paying 7 bucks a month for a VPN so that I can access their site, and I think that I’m just going to write that off as 7 bucks I’m not going to spend at their site.  Maybe I would have bought 2 books, but now I’m just going to buy 1.  And that 1 book I didn’t buy with you, I’m going to buy at your competitor’s site.

Small protest, I know.  But there’s not much else I can do.  So, B&N, if you’re reading this, you have a satisfied Nook owner (solely for the hardware aspects of the device) that is irked with your international eBook retail policies.  Irked, I say!

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