Buying an ebook on the iPad can feel like a no-win proposition. If you buy through the iBooks app you have a native experience with fancy animations, but you’re stuck in the iBooks ecosystem. If that bothers you, you can purchase through the Kindle Store (after you jump through a few hoops), but then you’ve simply traded in Apple’s handcuffs for the Amazon variety. If you want to jump ship from one ecosystem to another you may as well bang your head against the wall now, because it’s (probably purposefully) a pain in the ass.

BookShout! is announcing a tool that it hopes will change all that. The company has built an import tool that can grab books from the Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, allowing users to jump from those platforms and into its own.

“In essence, we are tearing down the walls the large ebook retailers have established, and are no longer allowing them to build consumer-unfriendly fiefdoms,” BookShout! CEO Jason Illian said in a release. “We are giving the consumers the freedom to access their book purchases when and where they want them, which is the whole point of digital publishing.”

I’d add a caveat: the company is making it easy for consumers to access their books where they want them – as long as where they want them is in BookShout! Though this is better than signing up for BookShout! and then having to repurchase books that have already been paid for, it’s less about real “freedom” and more about giving users a decent reason to use BookShout! instead of the Kindle or Nook apps.

Still, as someone that has had to purchase books on multiple platforms (generally cheap books that didn’t hurt my wallet too much) I’d count this as a victory, for however long it lasts. I would rather be able to bring my books with me than have to leave them behind every time a new reading app catches my fancy. Unfortunately, there are still a few problems that will crop up. Chief among them: Amazon.

This is the company that stopped Findings from importing Kindle readers’ highlights (excerpts of a book that they find particularly interesting). If Amazon doesn’t want users posting itty-bitty excerpts of its ebooks to other services, how do you think they’re going to react to BookShout!’s announcement? I’m going to bet that they don’t send a fruit basket to BookShout! HQ with a note that says “Good job!” [We have reached out to Amazon for comment and will update if or when we hear back.]

Unfortunately, this is the world that we live in. As much as we would like to be able to purchase an ebook on the Kindle Store and then have the choice to read it in iBooks or, say, Readmill, that’s unlikely to happen. Amazon (and Apple’s, and Barnes & Noble’s) golden handcuffs are probably here to stay, no matter how much they chafe or cost consumers.

BookShout!’s tool is interesting, and if anyone wants to use its platform to purchase books from the Kindle Store, now’s the time to get in on the action. The service is proving that it is technically possible to move an ebook from one ecosystem to another, but we already knew that. The problem is with getting all of the other stores – and publishing houses – to cooperate.

[Image courtesy Indiamos]