Amazon Kindle/EPUB Rumour…true?

Rumours are abound right now that Amazon is on the verge of providing support for EPUB ebooks on their Kindle eReader. What’s getting peoples tongues wagging is a post from an eReader blog* stating that Amazon is telling publishers to start providing them with titles in the EPUB format.

As vague as the details are from that post, there is some substance in the concept that Amazon are preparing to add EPUB support.

Back in April Amazon announced the introduction of their new Library Lending Program in co-operation with OverDrive, who [currently at least] deliver their ebook titles as EPUB files. The OverDrive blog also states, “[y]our existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers”. We also know that the Kindle Previewer software (for ebook developers) will import EPUB files, which internally converts them to MOBI.

Liz Castro, well-known ebook developer and author of EPUB: Straight to the Point, has her own thoughts on how the Kindle will support EPUB, believing that Amazon will just convert titles to their proprietary MOBI format for use on the older Kindles.

In my opinion, Amazon can do better than just convert the EPUB’s.

I’ll confess here that I don’t know much about the Kindle software system, but I would be surprised if they couldn’t run two different reading apps side-by-side. As for the hardware on the older Kindles; if they are capable of reading MOBI ebooks, there’s no real reason they can’t also read EPUB 2, perhaps even support the full EPUB3 spec.

Most, if not all, ebook developers will tell you that MOBI is an inferior ebook format to EPUB (not that this format doesn’t have its faults), add to that the features being developed for the upcoming EPUB3 and you have a strong case for why Amazon may decide to phase out their own ebook format.

If publishers and ebook developers are allowed to focus all their efforts on just one standard ebook format, then ebook production will take a great leap forward, which in turn will give the people on the streets better ebooks — at least in regard to features — and ultimately a better user experience.

* It’s unclear if this is a reputable source for such gossip, so I’ve made the decision not to link to this site. The article doesn’t really say alot but if you’re interested, a quick look on your fave search engine should bring them up.

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25 thoughts on “Amazon Kindle/EPUB Rumour…true?”

  1. Talking about EPUB support for the Kindle is absolutely the WRONG ISSUE.

    Who cares if the Kindle supports EPUB? Amazon sells almost every book under the sun in their own format. And anyone willing to let Amazon have total control over his ereader by buying a Kindle, surely doesn’t care what the format is.

    The REAL ISSUE is whether Amazon will ever sell EPUBs to their NON-KINDLE CUSTOMERS!

    Many of us don’t have a Kindle and don’t want a Kindle but absolutely love our ereaders. It’s just frustrating that we can’t buy ebooks at the world’s biggest book store to read on them. It’s also difficult to figure out why Amazon doesn’t want to sell to us.

  2. If the next Kindle can read .epub files and allows you to sideload your own non-DRM files, then I just might switch from my NOOK Touch to the Kindle.

  3. From the announcement of the Kindle 4 on Amazon’s website we can safely say that epubs will NOT be supported on Amazon’s device. I guess I’ll stick with my NOOK, then. Why should I give Amazon my business if they’re not willing to use the standards?

  4. @Alex, I noticed this too.

    EPUB3 will become a recommended specification soon and perhaps the last chance we have that Amazon will embrace EPUB.

  5. @Mike: “…perhaps the last chance we have that Amazon will embrace EPUB.”

    Ah! But will they SELL EPUB to NON-KINDLE CUSTOMERS?
    That’s the big question.

  6. The one and only reason I decided not to buy a Kindle is their lack of ePUB support.
    That is why I bought a much more expensive Sony reader. And although I am very happy with my high quality Sony device, my second reader might be a Kindle if it supported ePUB.
    As a European reader I would be selling myself short with an ereader device that does not support ePUB. In europe ePUB is virtually the only format in use for fiction ebooks.
    As it is now, Sony is the most popular ereader on the european market. The Sony readers are highly recommended by independent european customer organizations and the Kindle is NOT, because of the lack of ePUB support. An ePUB supporting Kindle would be a nice competitor.

  7. One thing You’re not considering is the fact, that there are countries that do not use english/german/french etc. In other words – Amazon may have million books, but so what if they’re not in my native tongue. Here epub comes to play as those works are published in this exact format.

  8. I want to transfer The Longest Journey by Forester to my kindle but it will not transfer. Can you help me? thanks

  9. @Graywind

    I know of course how to convert books.
    Besides the fact that conversion can be a hassle, or can produce distorted books, also conversion is not the real point.
    The point is wanting to have an e-reading device that supports the internationally accepted and promoted ePUB format.
    I would be happy even if the kindle could only read non DRM ePUB.
    -
    But to be honest, I am not at all bothered anymore by the fact that I might never buy the Kindle. As time passes by Amazon and its Kindle become more and more negligible. There are a lot of interesting devices on the market now, and it gets better all the time. Some of them even support ePUB and Mobi, as well as almost every other conceivable ebook format, in one and the same device. If Amazon does not want to be confined to the American market it should hop on the ePUB bandwagon, or it should leave the rest of the world to other brands that do understand the importance of ePUB to non-english languages.
    Personally I do not care anymore what Amazon chooses to do.

  10. Assuming one has a Kindle with a wireless internet connection (mine was bought just a couple of weeks ago) it’s pretty easy to work around the device’s lack of ePub support.

    In a library page, hit the menu button. Under the menu item marked: “Experimental” (navigate to it with the four-way rocker switch, then hit select) there is a rudimentary web browser, which one can use to access ePubs which have been previously uploaded to http://bookworm.oreilly.com/ (as I write this, bookworm is epubBooks featured eBook reader).

    Works fine.

    hth

  11. I’ve finally purchased an ebook reader, the latest Sony, and am thrilled. But, I did some homework ahead of time. I did not want a Kindle, being locked into Amazon’s format, and I refuse to buy Apple products because of their known proprietory issues with other devices (iTunes for example). I know books could be converted with Calbre, but why the hassle. I’m absolutely thrilled with the Sony, purchased with the cover so it has protection and a light. Having one standard worldwide, ePub, is the right way to go. Now the search begins for books to fill my library.

  12. We’re new to the whole ebook thing, so we’re slowly building a library with mainly the classics for now – Dickens, Poe, Bronte, DH Lawrence, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, etc. We both enjoy a good read, and with so many of the classics that neither of us have had the chance to buy and read before, we’re exploring this new chance to access them. We both do enjoy modern authors as well (Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, etc), but for now we’re not delving into bought content yet. We’ve downloaded Calibre, and are storing the titles in one file on our home file server, so they’re accessible to both. Right now I’m reading King Solomon’s Mines, and hubby is starting the Little House on the Prairie series. I’m jsut excited to have all these books available and never have to re-read a book again (unless I want to). Got tired of re-reading the physical books we have for the third and fourth time. /grin

  13. Like many members of my generation (start of the Baby Boom) my eyesight is failing. I read epub books on my computer because there is software that supports text to speech (TTS) for this format. My portable ebook reader is a Kindle because it supports text to speech for its proprietary format (although for some Kindle books, TTS is disabled by the publisher). My other primary mobile audio book devices are a cheap MP3 player with good SD card support (to listen to audible and mp3 format audio books) and a Victor Reader Stream (definitely not cheap, but it supports Natoinal LIbrayr Service DAISY audio format.\ What would be truly interesting to me, and I think it would shake up the ebook market, would be an Amazon announcement that it is supporting text to speech capability for epub books on a mobile device. . I do not know any reason why this would not be technically feasible – but if some other forum member has a more definitive insight on this question I’d be interested to hear it. .

  14. @ John Noller

    The Pocketbook brand seems to offer a very good text to speech engine in 26 languages for the ePUB format.

  15. After rading Andreaz’s comment I spent a couple hours exploring PocketBook’s offerings, reading reviews and/or watching YouTube reviews. I’m prety impressed with the 612/912 offerings taht were just introduced; they offer capabilities that I did not realized were available Frustratingly, none of the video demos I could track down demonstrate PocketBook text to speech in English, only in German. The TTS in German seemed pretty fluent but my experience with TTS software is that fluency can vary radically from one voice to the next even with the same software and voices form teh same company. Has anyone reading this actually heard the PocketBook TTS in English, and on which model? Or can anyone point me to a demo video that would let me hear it for myself? …Some other technical issues realated to PocketBook TTS are (a) does it work for all the formats that the PocketBook supports or is it limited to a subset and (b) specifically is TTS supported for ebooks with DRM such as Adobe Digittal Editions epub and pdf books? (I despise DRM and proprietary formats just a much as you do, but some books aren’t available electronically in any other way.) I tried calling the phone number for PocketBook USA (877 326 0196) and eventually the phone appears to pick up but noon eis on the other end of the line, just ambient noise like people shuffling around an office. This raises a final question , how decent is PocketBook’s technical support? I suspect it will be needed because based on the YouTube demos that I wtched, they are going to need to do some firmware upgrades to get everything working properly. Hope someone can answer these questions or point me in the rigtht direction.

  16. John,

    I was able to find a demonstration on youtube of the Pocketbook 903 TTS in comparison with the Onyx boox m92:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W80ilCsBeQg

    Personally I was a bit disappointed. I already heard the german TTS, which sounded a lot more natural.

    The reason I decided a year ago to buy a Sony PRS-950 (without TTS) instead of a Pocketbook reader is because I felt Sony’s e-readers in general to be much more mature, finished products. Pocketbook at that time had some trouble with the copyright of its dictionaries and the reader software was very much in development and had some bugs. I know Pocketbook was updating it’s firmware all the time, but I wanted a hassle free reading experience and that is what the more expensive Sony product delivered. Sony offered a true touchscreen that did not need a stylus and it also featured 12 high quality dictionaries ready for immediate use.

    I do not know what the situation for Pocketbook is now.
    I am sorry I can not offer you more help on this matter.

  17. Thanks, Andreaz. The link was very helpful. I agree that the English female voice on the Pocketook sounds less natural than the German voice but I think it is more natural soundign than Kindle’s English female voice The other big advantage of Pocketbook TTS vesrus the Kindle is that the sentence being read on the Pocketbook is highlighted, which lets the reader follow along; this is a standard feature in all software TTS but is not implemented on my Kindle Touch G4 (unless there is some option hat I have missed on the Kindle.)

    The big remaining question is whether the Pocketbook is capable of reading DRM’ed epub and PDF books like those produced using ADE.

    I realize that I’[ve diverted this string of comments from the Kindle to TTS. Maybe it should be a separate topic. Oh well….

  18. Hi there,

    I have recently bought one of the slimline new cheaper Kindles, love it as an idea and also the ergonomics and design are good, but I’m bit dismayed it doesn’t support epub (even though I knew this, it bugs me now for various reasons), also the display quality is surprisingly poor – the contrast far less good than paper, or even that of the Kobo eReader, which I saw displayed at WH Smiths. Also, the screen is rather too reflective in some lighting conditions.

    Considering buying a different eReader at some point, but I have already bought a few Kindle format books. Which ereader could I buy that has excellent contrast/display, TTS, epub, but also supports Kindle/Mobi format without too much faffing?

    Any tips much appreciated!

  19. @ Dannie

    Very few ereaders support Kindle/Mobi and ePUB at the same time.
    i know that Pocketbook has a model that supported both formats and so does Bebook. I have encountered a few other obscure brands who had models supporting ePUB and Mobi, but I don’t remember which ones.

    If you have only very few MOBI you could use the excellent ‘calibre’ program to convert the MOBI you have (that might be a problem though if there is DRM involved).

  20. Many thanks for the advice! If I buy an e-book from Amazon, I wonder if there usually would be DRM involved or not? I’ve had a look at the Calibre website; I’m generally pretty technically-minded but found it quite bewildering. Will require putting a good chunk of time aside…

  21. @Dannie

    To remove DRM from your books you will of course have to invest some time, but there are several tutorials and tools to be found on the internet. I have not tried them myself, but have looked into it and downloaded them, because I categorically refuse to accept any limiting DRM on books I own.

    But if a book has no DRM conversion with calibre is a piece of cake. You simply open calibre, drag and drop your book in the program, select the book and press the conversion button. There are some settings you might want to customize, but it could hardly be easier. And calibre is actually very good at converting Mobi to ePUB.
    (Always keep a backup of your original books of course).

  22. @Dannie: “… Amazon, I wonder if there usually would be DRM involved or not?”

    Amazon used to have a line item under the Product Details of each book that said “Lending Enabled” Yes or No. That was the hint. If lending was enabled, it was DRM-free. But that was helpful to non-kindle customers, so they got rid of it.

    As much as I like the Amazon website, I buy my ebooks elsewhere.

    Diesel makes it easy to see which books are corrupted with DRM.

    Smashwords never sells any ebooks with DRM. Of course that means to they don’t sell the big names. In fact, most of the books they sell are by indie authors you’ve never heard of. But when I’m looking for a novel, I go there first.

    Christian Book actually lets you refine your search by “DRM Free” or “DRM Proteced”. I wish every book site did that!.

    And of course, everything on Project Gutenberg , EpubBooks and ManyBooks are not only DRM-free, but free of charge as well.

  23. Thanks for the comments, very helpful, espcially the list of ebook stores – as I didn’t know wherelse to look really, been one of Amazon’s best customers for so long.

    The other day I was looking for a textbook (about social research) that I wanted to buy as an ebook. As at £14 it wasn’t cheap I searched for other formats on other sites as well as Amazon – as I’d heard it romoured it might be cheaper, apart from being a better format etc.

    All I could find via Google was a DMR’d (or somehow protected, not sure what exactly it said) PDF version for £20 – which seemed a rubbish deal in both price and format, and in practice only left me the option of buying from Amazon, regardless of the whole format debate.

    Question: Did I not search properly, or is it true that as a customary reader of non-blockbuster (Though often reasonably popular) non-fiction books I don’t have many options other than Amazon? Are there other e-book stores that can truly compete with Amazon on choice? (Even on Amazon quite a few of the books I’m after are not available as e-books/for Kindle.)

    Are most of these cheaper epub books people are talking about novels/bestsellers?

    Thanks!

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