Recently Amazon released their own recommendation list of “100 books you must read before you die”. I must confess it is a somewhat lack-lustre collection, containing both the obvious entries, along with plenty of oddities. Amazon do claim that they’ve tried to cover all age groups and genres to give a balanced collection, that however hasn’t stopped plenty of people complaining about it, especially as there are no books older than two hundred years in the list, and only a handful of those we’re published more than one hundred years ago.
It’s amusing how many people are complaining about this selection (any search engine will easily find them if you’re so inclined) but I think most are forgetting one thing about reading list; the recommendations we’re made by Amazon, a company who’s sole purpose is to make as much money as possible. Obviously they’re not going to include too many classics, they want you to go and buy these books from them, not pop off to sites like epubBooks and download them for free.
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. Continue reading
In a recent ZDNET article, Jason Perlow described his hesitations for buying one of the new Amazon Kindle’s, which was due to its lack of EPUB support. Many responses to the article noted that the “average user” doesn’t care about the format of an eBook, only for the buying experience. I’m not going to argue on that point because in essence, they are right; the average user doesn’t care. Yet there are two real reasons why having one eBook standard is important, and these reasons will certainly impact the end user.
Publishing Infrastructure and Costs
Although most publishers will use a XML Master Format for storing the original book content, they still have to spend a lot of time, effort and costs in producing and maintaining all the different output formats they need to get their books in to the buyer’s hands. There are also no guarantees that all these different output formats will support the same kinds of features, which will mean even more resources (costs) will be needed to support these alternate formats.
Now, if the publishers only had work one eBook standard then they could spend more resources on improving their own tools to produce better output, which will ultimately give the user an even more enjoyable reading experience. Publisher will also have more resources available to give input back to the IDPF on improving the EPUB standard; bringing more and better features to the eBook world. Certainly a win-win situation for consumers and publishers. Without universal support for EPUB though, everyone will be forced to maintain multiple tool sets, which do nothing but increase costs. Continue reading
This evening a friend of mine pointed me to the Sony annoucment of the PSP and the new PSP Go over on cnet news. Why did I find this interesting enough to write about? The article also mentioned that the PSP’s will be getting their own “Digital Reader”…!!! The article says,
The PSP will also be getting a Digital Reader in December with various comic book publishers onboard to offer content. Marvel will be providing Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four comics to start, with Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk all to follow. Compatibility with other Sony readers and more digital comics publishers will be announced soon.
The initial focus will be on comics, but that paragraph also mentions “compatibility with other Sony readers”. Is that a reference to the Sony Reader? The Guardian also makes mention to the Sony Digital Reader annoucement but again nothing beyond the comics angle.
This annoucement comes just days after Sony announced that they will be dropping their propriety BBeB format and their eBook store will start selling ePub books exclusively (Adobe DRM flavour) by the end of 2009. I can’t imagine that Sony will not open their PSP reader for use with the Sony store.
With over 50 million PSP’s already sold and many, many more once the new PSP Go is released, this could be a huge boost for both the Sony eBook store and the ePub eBook format!
Sony could be making those few hundred thousand Kindle’s seem positively niche.
EPUB formatted books as an industry wide standard is what I, and many others want. But can we achieve this without Amazon’s adoption — at least with ePub support on their Kindle eBook reader.
It will certainly be a lot easier to have a standard eBook format if Amazon joined the ePub party. I’m reluctant to say it but all current indications show that Amazon will not adopt the ePub format in the near future – but perhaps there is hope.
Recently we have seen a flurry of publishers and eBook projects (including yours truly) adopting the ePub format and a number of these are pushing their titles onto the iPhone/iPod Touch platform via the Stanza eBook reader. Feedbooks, Project Gutenberg are the two big projects but we now have Pan Macmillan offering commercial Tasters and in the last few days BookGlutton announced that they have joined forces with Stanza. Interesting times ahead for sure.
With all this recent iPhone/eBook activity I am asking myself, where is Amazon? The Kindle is certainly making waves with big sale numbers but this is probably nothing compared to iPhone sales. This makes me wonder if Amazon will start making their titles available on this platform and if so, what format will they use. If they use their own eBook format (AZW), they would need to release a dedicated ‘Amazon eBook Reader’ — how many different iPhone reader applications will people accept?
Everyone around here knows that having one standard eBook format will better serve everyone. If Amazon opens their Kindle to the ePub format and strikes a deal with a company such as Lexcycle (Stanza) they could kill two birds with one stone. Hmm, perhaps an Amazon/Stranza union is a little too much wishful thinking.
Providing direct purchase and download would make Amazon a serious option for any iPhone or iPod Touch user, and vise versa.
So, can Amazon leverage the iPhone to further dominate the eBook market and can they continue to resist the ePub eBook format?
Disclaimer: The Amazon/ePub logo I created is intended just for fun.