Over 160 O'Reilly Books Now in Kindle Store (without DRM), More on the Way

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.


There’s a lot of overlap between the kind of early-adopter crowd likely to buy a Kindle and the audience for our books. So it’s no surprise that we received a lot of requests to add O’Reilly books to the Kindle store, and it’s great to finally be able to get those readers the books they want. We expect to add another 100 or so titles in the coming weeks; those have needed a more detailed analysis of the table content to identify good candidates.

There were two main reasons we held our books back from sale on Kindle:

  1. Poor rendering of complex content. Kindle 1 was optimized for the simple text of mainstream trade books (think airport-bookstore fiction and non-fiction), and lacked support for properly displaying tables or computer code, two very common elements in O’Reilly books. We knew customers would be disappointed to find much of the content of our books unusable (and likely to complain to us about it, rather than to Amazon). In this case, Amazon actually agreed with us, and after they saw how those tables looked on a Kindle 1, told us they weren’t comfortable selling many of our books until they’ve updated Kindle 1. (More details below the fold).
  2. Compulsory DRM. We strongly believe DRM (Digital Rights Management) encryption adds unwelcome cost and complexity to any digital system, frustrates legitimate customers who respect copyright and want to pay for their content, and is demonstrably ineffective at preventing unauthorized copying — much of it done by people who either (a.) wouldn’t otherwise pay, or (b.) resort to piracy when there’s no legitimate sales channel. Other publishers are free to make their own decisions on DRM, but Kindle’s compulsory DRM was inconsistent with our views on digital distribution.

Although we’ve been working for some time with Amazon to resolve these issues, as a stop-gap we’d been directing Kindle owners to oreilly.com, where 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 oreilly.com to display properly on Kindle 2 (basically undoing many of the hacks we’d done to get something passable the first time around). If you own a Kindle and have purchased ebooks from oreilly.com, visit oreilly.com/e 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.)

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.

If you want to tell Amazon to hurry up and update your Kindle 1, or to improve their rendering of technical content to match Sony Reader, Stanza, Bookworm, Calibre, and others, you can drop them a line at kindle-feedback@amazon.com.

Current Available Titles

(As of April 16, 2009)

The Tables problem

Here’s some screenshots showing the table problem:

How Kindle 1 (mis)handles tables:


The same table on Kindle 2:


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