Tower of BabelEarlier I praised the Fairfax County Public Library, my favorite system, for experimenting with e-books. I stand by that!

Still, I can’t help but notice the FCPL’s eBabel problem, the fault of the ill-managed e-book industry, not the library:

1. So far I can’t get either a Cybook or a just-borrowed Pepper Pad to work with the library’s Mobipocket option. My old PocketPC and Sony Clie at least will–after I go through convoluted steps. With a common e-book standard, libraries and patrons wouldn’t suffer such problems as often. If the eBabel complexities are annoying me, imagine what they mean to patrons without any tech savvy. Frankly, I’m amazed that civilians bother to read e-books.

2. Yes, the Tower gets in the way of my selection of books. I find myself scanning just as much for format information as for the title and the author. I don’t want to clutter up my Pocket PC with PDF, and the Adobe software doesn’t work out that smoothly on my Clie. And yet most of the e-books are in the Adobe format, probably for commercial reasons.

Fit title for e-bookdom

Between audio books (an understandable addition because of patron demand for them) and the hated PDF, I can find precious few Mobipocket books. Oh, well: I at least found Only the Paranoid Survive, Andy Grove‘s book, in Mobi. A fit title for the e-book biz.

The eBabel horrors at the FCPL are the exactly kind of nonsense that we’ll continue to suffer if the proprietary format faction at the IDPF uses DRM to keep the Tower of eBabel intact.