I’ve started noticing an odd trend: DRM used to bug me to death, but it hasn’t seemed nearly as frustrating lately. I’ve never purchased music with DRM, choosing instead to rip CDs (that I’d legally bought) until iTunes quit DRM-locking their songs. But then it has increasingly become apparant that the biggest frustration with music, or any other media, is keeping up with your purchased files so you don’t lose them. iTunes iCloud now lets you re-download songs and movies, just like the Kindle store has done all along, and I currently feel much safer buying media in each of them since I know I can redownload them anytime.
Several weeks ago, I set out to find a way to manage my DRM-free eBooks in the cloud. Kindle has spoiled me with high-quality native and web apps, and being able to always redownload books from anywhere with an internet connection is very liberating. So much so, I’ve purchased Kindle eBooks over DRM-free books just because Kindle makes them easier to manage. There had to be a better way.
This morning, I finally found what I was looking for, thanks to a post on Minimal Mac about Booki.sh. It was exactly what I’d been looking for. Booki.sh is a new online eBook library that makes it as easy to keep up with your ePub eBooks as using the Kindle Web App. Let’s take a look and see if Booki.sh is nice enough to keep you from downloading an eBook app the next time you want to read a DRM-free eBook.
A Cloudy Home for Your Individual eBooks
Booki.sh combines a stylish design and modern HTML5 features with a love for independent books from local publishers and stores. Everyone doesn’t want to sell their books through Amazon, and if you’ve already got DRM-free books you’ve purchased, you sure don’t want to rebuy them just to get them easily available in a reading app. Booki.sh is the platform to let you get the same features without having to use Amazon’s ecosystem. You can purchase books from partner independent bookstores, or upload your own ePub books, and read them all from your browser.
It’s fully free for users, and the developers expect it to continue to be free. In fact, the main code behind Booki.sh’s in-browser eBook reader was released as the Monocle project, and you could download its code from Github and make your own online eBook reader. It’s an all-around great project, one you should be able to feel save keeping your eBooks saved in to read from anywhere.
Right from the homepage, or from your account once you’ve signed up, you can try out the Booki.sh reading experience with the classic book The Wind in the Willows, a personal favorite of mine that I was excitedly surprised to find featured in the app. Booki.sh formats eBooks beautifully, handling in-line images and fonts perfectly, and everything reflows nicely as you resize your browser. You can turn pages by clicking in the left or right edges of the book, or by clicking and dragging from the edges. You’ll see the book title and number of screen-pages left in the chapter in the top right corner, and a bookmark in the top left that you can click to bookmark a page. Best of all, if you’re logged into your account, your browser will cache the book so you can read it offline, even from a modern smartphone or tablet.
Adding Your Own Books
Booki.sh has quite a collection of free eBooks directly available through Feedbooks, and also has partnerships with a number of independent bookstores, mainly in Australia. If you download a book from these through Booki.sh, they’ll be added to your Booki.sh library as soon as they’re purchased. But, the best part is, Booki.sh also works great for any DRM-free ePub book you might have, including those you’ve purchased from other publishers or perhaps made yourself in Pages or InDesign. Just click the Readings button on the top right, then scroll to the bottom to upload your own book. Moments later, you’ll see your book’s cover in your library, and can add it to your Satchel so it’ll automatically sync for offline reading on your devices. Your uploaded books now have an online home, so you won’t have to worry about downloading or syncing them ever again.
As always, though, we’d recommend keeping a backup copy of your eBook files saved on your computer, perhaps in Dropbox, just to make sure you don’t lose them!
When you’re ready to read a book, either one added directly to Booki.sh by a partner eBook store or one uploaded yourself, just click the title in your library. Instead of opening the book directly, Booki.sh opens an info page about the book, showing the cover, title, author, info from the publisher, and data about your reading progress. Booki.sh does a great job pulling up info about popular DRM-free eBook titles, including ones from A Book Apart and O’Reilly Press that we tested. To start reading, just click the Continue Reading tab in the top right.
Uploaded DRM-free eBooks look just as good as once added directly through Booki.sh. Just like you’d expect, the book reader screen lets you customize its interface and jump quickly to the content you need. Just click anywhere in the middle of the book, and the index and settings overlay will pop over the left side of your book. You can here browse the table of contents and bookmarks you’ve added, search through the whole book, or change the font, spacing, and color scheme of the eBook. It’s everything that Kindle includes other than highlights and notes, and overall offers one of the nicer online eBook reading experiences I’ve tried.
Just like Amazon’s Cloud Player can make your ripped and purchased mp3s easier to manage by storing them right along with your Amazon purchased mp3′s, Booki.sh gives your DRM-free eBooks and magazines a home in the cloud, so they don’t have to be second-class digital media in your life. It gives you a great reading experience for your books on all platforms, and even might help you discover some new interesting books from independent publishers. It’s exactly what I was looking for when I set out to find a better way to read DRM-free eBooks online, and I’ll be very excited to see how it continues to grow. I’d love to see more of the publishers I love start adding Booki.sh integration, so I could start buying their books and reading them in Booki.sh seconds later. For now, uploading an ePub isn’t too difficult, and I’ll still look forward to using it more.
Editor’s note: I managed to mess up the app’s name at first, and referred to it as Readi.ly in my first draft. That mistake crept into my final copy, and the original title of this article had its name wrong. Sorry for the confusion!