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Amazon Dropping Non-Amazon Ebook Formats (Sort of)

Via Publishers Weekly, Amazon announced Monday it will stop offering ebooks in formats other than Kindle and Mobipocket:

In the future, the online retailer says it plans to offer only e-books in the Kindle format (for wireless download to its Kindle reading device) and the Mobipocket format, both of which are owned by Amazon.

A contact at Amazon has clarified that apparently this change only applies to the Kindle:

This does not apply to eDocs because they are not DRM-protected. This only applies to DRM-protected eBooks.

A follow-up question about Kindle support of EPUB resulted in a polite but firm redirect to “the Kindle team.”

I know Amazon is a big company, and I know all too well how difficult intra-office communication can be even at a much smaller company like O’Reilly, but with Amazon in particular it’s really easy to get the sense that the left hand has very little idea what the right hand is doing (or perhaps “third left tentacle doesn’t know what the right tentacle is doing” is more appropriate).

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  • bowerbird

    > A follow-up question about Kindle support of EPUB

    your support for .epub — a substandard “standard” –
    does not speak well for the expertise of your company.

    indeed, any focus on _format_ is comically misguided.
    it is _applications_ that should receive our attention…
    as long as the toolset is lacking, e-books go nowhere.

    meanwhile, amazon is doing what it _should_ be doing,
    which is taking on the responsibility to do conversions
    from a multitude of formats to kindle for its customers.

    -bowerbird

  • BillC

    As an e-book and print book consumer (at least $2,000 per year) I support e-pub, my Sony PRS-700 supports e-pub, and a growing number of books are now becoming available in that format. Amazon’s closed DRM formats mean I don’t buy books there. We need a single format that all hardware manufacturers can support. Amazon is taking a step backward. My dollars go to places like Books on Board, Fictionwise, etc. Publishers should pay attention to open source goals and follow the money. Amazon’s course is a dead end benefiting only Amazon, not its “partners”/hostages.

  • bowerbird

    billc said:
    > We need a single format
    > that all hardware manufacturers can support.

    first of all, let’s find out if “all hardware manufacturers” _will_
    _indeed_ “support” such a “one ring to rule them all” standard.

    then lets find out whether “all software developers” will too.

    after that, let’s find out if all _publishers_ will be on board,
    not just the big ones, but all the _potential_ publishers which
    the cyberspace revolution empowers to speak to the world…

    finally, let’s see if _readers_ agree the format works for them.

    (or, if you like, you can rearrange these steps in any sequence;
    the point is, until you’ve done all of them, you’re still not done.)

    if you think you can browbeat people into using your standard,
    you’re wrong, and you’re just going to do a lot of browbeating
    for no good reason.

    as it is, .epub as a “standard” is laughable for the simple reason
    that even some of the paid-up corporate-publisher _members_
    of the .ipdf — who _created_ the standard — are not using it…

    instead, they are turning to “scrollmotion” and “shortcovers”
    – who convert several formats into their internal formats,
    as far as i can tell — to release their e-books. so much for
    your “standard”, when even its darn creators do not use it…

    furthermore, it won’t do any good if they _do_ use .epub
    if they’re just gonna turn around and wrap it up in d.r.m.

    so where are the statements from the corporate publishers
    that they will not be using d.r.m.? i must have missed them.

    > Amazon is taking a step backward.
    > My dollars go to places like Books on Board, Fictionwise, etc.

    hey, you can (and should!) vote your support with your dollars.

    but browbeating amazon, or anyone else, simply will not work.

    especially when they’re just following their own self-interest…

    > Publishers should pay attention to open source goals

    what kind of world are you living in? big corporations who
    “pay attention to open source goals” are few and far between.

    and for good reason, in this case. if people had a viewer-app
    that’s open-source, they would just disable the routines that
    enforced the d.r.m. so corporate publishers know full well that
    they simply can’t allow an open-source viewer-app to do that.

    until you can reconcile that full-blown contradiction, i merely
    chuckle at the conundrum you evidently expect us all to ignore.

    > Publishers should pay attention to open source goals
    > and follow the money.

    if a big corporation does “pay attention to open source goals”,
    you can bet it’s only because they have followed the money…

    so… if you think you can place a pot of gold at the end of the
    open-source rainbow that will make corporations dance for you,
    i would love to hear your plan. so far, i only see browbeating…

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.stansight.com/ Stan Slaughter

    “first of all, let’s find out if “all hardware manufacturers” _will_
    _indeed_ “support” such a “one ring to rule them all” standard.”

    It’s called PDF. It’s been around for decades (even supports DRM).

    All Amazon is doing is attempting to freeze out companies that provide competing e-book readers.

    “if you think you can browbeat people into using your standard,
    you’re wrong, and you’re just going to do a lot of browbeating
    for no good reason.”

    Yep – just put “Amazon” in the place of
    the “you” in your sentence

  • bowerbird

    stan said:
    > It’s called PDF. It’s been around for decades
    > (even supports DRM).

    well, you know, if .pdf would’ve been deemed acceptable,
    there was no sense in building .epub as an alternative, eh?
    but people thought we needed reflow, and i agree with that.

    by all means, though, if you want to maintain that .pdf is
    all we need, then take that up with the .epub browbeaters.

    > All Amazon is doing is attempting to freeze out
    > companies that provide competing e-book readers.

    that sounds overly simplistic to me. and probably wrong…

    but if readers really _do_ want .epub, then that would give
    a huge competitive advantage to the sony machine, not?

    so if publishers want to challenge amazon’s dominance,
    they can just release their e-books in .epub format only.

    of course, if publishers _really_ want to challenge amazon,
    the best course would be to stop selling their books there.
    but yeah, i’d say there’s very little chance of ‘em doing that.

    > Yep – just put “Amazon”
    > in the place of the “you” in your sentence

    amazon isn’t browbeating anyone, either to buy a kindle
    – heck, they can’t even keep the hardware in stock! –
    or to buy kindle-only books. on the contrary, amazon is
    making it extremely easy to put _any_ kind of content on
    your kindle, from .txt to .rtf to .html to .pdf, maybe even
    .epub, i couldn’t say, i haven’t really been keeping up…

    moreover, all you have to do is e-mail something to them,
    and they will do the conversion at _no_cost_, i do believe,
    and when they’re done, your stuff is waiting for download.
    honestly, i can’t think of any way they could make it easier.

    and they were gonna charge 10 cents per conversion, i think,
    which struck me as a very cheap price for that operation, but
    as far as i know, they haven’t even instituted that charge yet,
    and there aren’t any plans to do so in the immediate future…

    so i’d say amazon is treating their customers _very_fairly_…

    amazon is even treating the _publishers_ quite well, since
    they sell some books for less than they pay the publishers!
    crazy! they sell an e-book for $9.99, then turn around and
    give that publisher the $12.99 “wholesale” price! it’s crazy!

    yeah, amazon’s got proprietary lock-in, which really sucks,
    and i’m not trying to minimize that, because it really sucks,
    and on top of that, it really sucks. but companies have been
    trying to get lock-in ever since gemstar bought rocketbook,
    so i’ve gotten used to that part of the e-book landscape…
    part of the price you pay. if you think it’s unfair, don’t buy.

    and don’t kid yourselves, the major publishers would dearly
    love their own lock-in, if they could figure out how to do it,
    but they aren’t smart enough…

    i won’t buy _any_ e-book unless i can get the text out of it.
    luckily, my computer is capable of doing screenshots, and
    my digital camera will take nice pictures of a kindle screen,
    page by page, and chapter by chapter, and book by book…

    -bowerbird

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    The benefit of one universal format is that you can purchase a book in that format and know it will work with any reader. So, if your Kindle dies, and Sony has a better reader, you can go with Sony and not lose all your books. More importantly, I can also read ebooks from my library and other sources if Amazon were to support ePub, which I can’t now. Or if Amazon were to work with libraries, which of course it won’t.

    In addition to Amazon’s lack of support for ePub and DRM locked PDF (you can convert non-DRM PDFs to AZW) Amazon won’t allow other sources of books to create DRM-enabled books that will work on the Kindle, so one is stuck with Amazon.

    It is not in Amazon’s interest to break it’s own lock-in, but the company is also savvy enough to know that if this existing state of Babel prevents people’s entries into the ebook market, it may finally work with other reader providers and publishers to support ePub, or some other generic format. It’s difficult, though, to convince the company of such, unless people take a stand, publicly, loudly, and say, “No way, Amazon.”

    What may break Amazon’s lock-in is the success of the reading applications on iPhone and iTouch, in addition to support for Sony and other reader support for ePub. What makes it more difficult, though, is that Amazon does sell eBooks cheaper than most other site. But, that’s also changing, as prices of eBooks creep up at the Amazon store, and book sales on the iPhone increase.

    What surprises me on all of this is Jeff Bezos has always positioned himself as a forward thinker, yet here he’s taken a bass-ackward position. I would have thought he would have embraced openness, based on pride, if for no other reason. I guess everyone has a sell out point, and the Kindle is his.

    As for text from the Kindle–you can save a page to a clipping file, and copy that to your computer as text. Sounds like you’ve never used one, bowerbird.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    “amazon is even treating the _publishers_ quite well, since they sell some books for less than they pay the publishers! crazy! they sell an e-book for $9.99, then turn around and give that publisher the $12.99 “wholesale” price! it’s crazy!”

    Where, on earth, did you get that information?

  • http://www.Inklingbooks.com/ Mike Perry

    Amazon can be a bit weird at times. For an illustration, visit this Amazon ebook:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000E41682/

    Amazon yanked all my Adobe ebooks (along with most others) without telling me a few years ago, but this one still remains in their database.

    But that’s not the real oddity. Note the “Amazon.com Sales Rank.” It jumps up and down a bit, but as I write this it is “#6 in e-books & Docs.” Odd, given that at the top of the page you’ll find that it is “Currently unavailable” and has been for the six months I’ve been following it.

    How can an ebook that can’t be bought achieve #6 in sales. I have no answer and Amazon never responded to my query.

    Since the ebook is the Filquarian Publishing edition of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, I like to imagine that somewhere in the bowels of this giant capitalistic corporation there’s a never-say-die Marxist who has tweaked their code so that a book that’s not selling at all still manages to rank among the top ten bestsellers.

  • bowerbird

    shelly said:
    > The benefit of one universal format is that
    > you can purchase a book in that format
    > and know it will work with any reader.

    i know the “benefit” of having “one universal format”.

    (but i think you meant “it will work with any reader
    which _supports_ that format”, to be quite technical.)

    however, to obtain that (largely theoretical) benefit is
    just impossible right now — for all practical purposes.

    do you think .pdf is going to just up and disappear?
    it’s not. there are millions of .pdf files out in the wild.

    do you think amazon is just going to scrap mobipocket?
    i don’t. and microsoft ain’t gonna dump their .lit format,
    even if the world has already largely rejected it.

    would you argue with an author who released his/her
    book in .txt format? or .rtf? or anything easy to read?

    and let us not forget .html and that thing called the web.
    do you really believe that’s going to vanish into thin air?

    we live in a multi-format world, and we will be living in
    this multi-format world for a very long time, so we can
    recognize that fact, or we can continue on insisting on
    a “dream” world where everything comes in one format.
    it’s not hard to see which path will be more productive…

    what we need to concentrate on is _easy_conversions_
    from one format to another. the world of graphics has
    lived comfortably with many file-formats for a long time;
    we have .jpg, .png, .gif, .tif, and a host of lesser-knowns,
    all possessing their own strengths, which coexist nicely.

    likewise, there are a number of audio and video formats,
    and the world hasn’t fallen to pieces as a result of all that.

    so this improper focus on e-book file-formats is silly…

    and that’s _especially_ true when most of the proponents
    for this “one-ring-to-rule-them-all” format back _.epub_,
    which is a truly a rather lackluster competitor in the arena.

    where are the open-source viewer-programs that do .epub?
    where are the open-source authoring-tools to create .epub?

    heck, where are _any_ programs that support it? we have
    adobe’s crappy viewer, lacking even any tepid cheerleaders,
    and stanza, which strips away all the formatting you put in
    and basically displays a plain-text version of the file. huh?

    the _worst_ situation is to have “a universal format” which
    sucks as badly as .epub sucks (badly!) at this point in time.

    > So, if your Kindle dies, and Sony has a better reader,
    > you can go with Sony and not lose all your books.

    you are confusing _file_format_considerations_ with
    _political_decisions_ that corporations have made to
    try to construct thicket walls around their content…

    if amazon and sony decided to install their reader-apps
    on each other’s machines, you wouldn’t “lose” anything.

    and david moynihan (blackmask) proved a long time back
    that you can convert an e-text to various formats easily…

    > It’s difficult, though, to convince the company of such,
    > unless people take a stand, publicly, loudly, and say,
    > “No way, Amazon.”

    i don’t mind it when individual consumers vote with dollars;
    that’s the only voice they really have in this economic system.

    but when rothman and the o’reilly gang browbeat amazon,
    i’m gonna post a comment saying that is what they’re doing,
    and — since these actions bear no economic consequence
    to amazon — i’ll say that i think browbeating is ineffective.

    > What surprises me on all of this is Jeff Bezos has always
    > positioned himself as a forward thinker, yet here he’s taken a
    > bass-ackward position. I would have thought he would have
    > embraced openness, based on pride, if for no other reason.
    > I guess everyone has a sell out point, and the Kindle is his.

    i think you’re off-base there…

    the truth of the matter is that the hardware is very expensive…

    and the “software” — i.e., the e-books themselves — are cheap.
    at least they _could_ be, as their variable cost approaches zero…

    but the publishers don’t want to sell them for their variable cost.

    so any company that wants to be the middleman here is stuck,
    between a rock of hardware cost and a hard place of publishers.

    see, you can make the razors free, and charge for the blades.
    or you can make the blades free, and charge for the razors…

    you have companies that would like to try doing it the first way.
    and companies that would like to try doing it the second way.

    but what the consumer wants is to have very cheap hardware
    (which is totally unrealistic, but naive people like rothman have
    made a virtual blog career out of feeding that unrealistic desire)
    _and_ to have very cheap e-books as well. (this will be possible,
    some day, when amateur publishers overtake the corporations.)

    bezos is trying to work that middle ground, and it’s not simple.

    and, honestly, the only way you can make it work is with lock-in.
    (and even then, it’s gonna be a tightrope-walk for a long time.)

    if everything was open-source and open-standard, then we’d
    go to the companies giving away the razors to get our razors,
    and then to the companies giving away blades to get our blades.

    > As for text from the Kindle–you can save a page
    > to a clipping file, and copy that to your computer as text.

    how long will it take to do a 200-page book with that method?
    could you automate it? i could automate the picture-taking,
    and train o.c.r. on the kindle-fonts, for excellent through-put.

    > Sounds like you’ve never used one, bowerbird.

    never even seen one in real life…

    > Where, on earth, did you get that information?

    i read it somewhere… why? do you dispute it?
    if you have information that you know it’s untrue,
    please share it with us. or if you want me to find
    some verification for it, do please say so directly…

    but on the face of it, with most of the bestsellers
    available for $9.99, i see little reason to doubt it,
    since it’s not hard for me to believe that at least
    some publishers put their wholesale cost higher.

    -bowerbird

  • http://geekgaucho.blogspot.com Fernando Cassia

    bowerbird: you are a pretty strong defender of Amazon´s actions, for being an anonymous commenter.
    Are you sure you are not an Amazon.com stockholder?.

    Amazon.com´s actions to drop competitive ebook formats are worrysome, and can only signal that Amazon.com wants to have a market monopoly with ebooks.

    If that wasn´t the case, they´d be giving CUSTOMERS A CHOICE of what format they want their ebooks into. It´s not like Amazon.com has to “do the work” of “converting ebooks” as you put it. Must publishers can already supply Amazon.com with content in PDF, Palm Reader and other formats.

    How´d you feel if Wal-Mart or your favourite supermarket chain decided to just sell Pepsi, to make an oversimplified analogy?. What choice do customers have there?.

    Kindle is an useless doorstop outside of the USA, because of its reliance on EVDO and CDMA. They are seeing it with the U.S. “service” mindset whereas outside the country people are used to just stick a GSM card and use whatever cellular provider they want.

    Kindle deserves to fail.

    FC

  • http://geekgaucho.blogspot.com Fernando Cassia

    bowerbird: you are a pretty strong defender of Amazon´s actions, for being an anonymous commenter.
    Are you sure you are not an Amazon.com stockholder?.

    Amazon.com´s actions to drop competitive ebook formats are worrysome, and can only signal that Amazon.com wants to have a market monopoly with ebooks.

    If that wasn´t the case, they´d be giving CUSTOMERS A CHOICE of what format they want their ebooks into. It´s not like Amazon.com has to “do the work” of “converting ebooks” as you put it. Must publishers can already supply Amazon.com with content in PDF, Palm Reader and other formats.

    How´d you feel if Wal-Mart or your favourite supermarket chain decided to just sell Pepsi, to make an oversimplified analogy?. What choice do customers have there?.

    Kindle is an useless doorstop outside of the USA, because of its reliance on EVDO and CDMA. They are seeing it with the U.S. “service” mindset whereas outside the country people are used to just stick a GSM card and use whatever cellular provider they want.

    Kindle deserves to fail.

    FC

  • bowerbird

    fernando said:
    > bowerbird: you are a pretty strong defender of
    > Amazon´s actions, for being an anonymous commenter.
    > Are you sure you are not an Amazon.com stockholder?.

    first of all, i’m not “anonymous”. i go by bowerbird.
    and my posts are distinctive enough that everybody
    who knows ‘em knows that they’re coming from me.
    my history in cyberspace goes back a very long time.
    there’s a real person, with a real smile, in every post.
    plus, if you’re ever in santa monica, i’ll buy you lunch.

    second of all, i’m not “defending” amazon. i don’t even
    particularly like amazon. they’re just another business.
    and, like any other business, including the o’reilly clan,
    or the major publishers, they do what they think is best.
    businesses are simple to figure, if you keep that in mind.

    which is why it’s so ridiculous when _some_ businesses
    attempt to tell _other_ businesses how to do business…

    you end up with some silly crap, like where tim o’reilly
    is trying to tell amazon what file-format it should use,
    and “predicting” that if amazon doesn’t use an “open”
    format — the one that tim prefers — the kindle will be
    “gone within two or three years”. how totally ludicrous!
    in 2 or 3 years, the kindle will be _hitting_its_stride_…

    that stride may not be with an open format. or it may.
    but if it _is_, it will be because _amazon_ decided that,
    not because tim o’reilly was successful in pressuring it.
    because amazon knows that what tim o’reilly wants is
    what is good for tim o’reilly’s company, not amazon…

    for the time being, though, amazon goes with closed.
    and since they are subsidizing the cost of the razors,
    and they’re subsidizing the cost of the blades as well,
    it’s kind of silly to think anyone else can take them on.

    thus, in the absence of any significant _competition_,
    all this claptrap is just a bunch of unnecessary noise.
    so if you don’t like the kindle because it’s closed, fine,
    just don’t buy it. but amazon won’t miss you. it won’t.

    as for me being an amazon stockholder, that’s a big laugh!
    i’m a slacker who’s opted out of your system of commerce.
    i’m a performance poet, who operates from a sense of love.
    when i do get any cash, which is rare, i spend it right away
    on hookers and blow. so although i _know_ stockbrokers
    – they are big into hookers and blow too — i have never
    (in my whole life) owned any stock of any kind, thank you.
    like i would buy a little piece of a corporation. yeah, right.
    besides, i hear the stock market isn’t doing well these days.
    but i doubt my comments on a blog can help it out much…

    > Amazon.com´s actions to drop competitive ebook formats

    get your facts straight. they didn’t “drop” _any_ formats.
    they still support what they always supported, which is a
    _wide_ range of formats, which amazon itself converts for
    kindle customers, and then stores (at no cost) in the cloud.

    > Amazon.com´s actions to drop competitive ebook formats
    > are worrysome, and can only signal that Amazon.com
    > wants to have a market monopoly with ebooks.

    of _course_ they want to have the market to themselves!
    and so does everyone else! unfortunately, only amazon is
    _doing_the_hard_work_necessary_ to _create_ the market!

    but here’s the difficulty. you can give away free razors,
    and make money by selling the blades… or you could
    give away free blades, and make money selling razors…

    but if someone else is giving away free blades, you can’t
    give away free razors, or you’re gonna be hurting badly.
    and if someone else is giving away free razors, you can’t
    give away free blades, or you’re gonna be hurting badly.

    so, by building its hardware itself, and selling its books
    in its “closed” format, amazon offers the whole package.
    if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. but it’s not…

    the publishers want amazon to give away free razors,
    so publishers can make tons of money selling blades.
    yeah, well, good luck with having that wish fulfilled…

    > If that wasn´t the case, they´d be
    > giving CUSTOMERS A CHOICE
    > of what format they want their ebooks into.

    customers will always choose free blades. and free razors.
    but nobody can make that combination work successfully.
    so you sell them subsidized razors and subsidized blades,
    to get enough of them on-board to build a critical mass,
    so you’ll no longer have to subsidize razors _or_ blades…

    > It´s not like Amazon.com has to “do the work” of
    > “converting ebooks” as you put it. Must publishers
    > can already supply Amazon.com with content
    > in PDF, Palm Reader and other formats.

    and here you have now admitted yourself that _formats_
    mean next to nothing, as long as they can be converted.

    it’s the d.r.m. that amazon wraps around its format that
    is the problem here. and even if it used an “open” format,
    if it then just wrapped d.r.m. around it, you wouldn’t get
    the “interoperability” which is the thing you really want…

    but the publishers don’t want to rail against the d.r.m.,
    because _they_ are the ones who initially asked for it…
    yet they realize amazon is gaining “too much” power,
    so they are making this other play to try to deflect it…

    in other words, they want amazon to save them from…
    well, to save them from _themselves_, so they don’t get
    swallowed up by… well, by _amazon_… weird, ain’t it?

    if they really wanted to challenge amazon, they would
    rip out all their product from amazon, and go to sony,
    to try and give the advantage to that reader-hardware.

    but then the customers would _really_ throw a fit…

    so we just have this posturing…

    by the way, sony _does_ “support” .epub. so if it was
    _truly_ something that created a _real_ advantage in
    the marketplace, you’d think sony would be gaining…
    and nobody would have to do posturing about amazon.

    > How´d you feel if Wal-Mart
    > or your favourite supermarket chain
    > decided to just sell Pepsi,
    > to make an oversimplified analogy?.

    wal-mart? pepsi?

    which part of “hookers and blow”
    do you not understand, fernando?
    “coke” ain’t a cola in my world, baby. ;+)

    > What choice do customers have there?.

    look, i’m sure that both wal-mart and
    “my favourite supermarket chain” have
    conditions on the products they will sell,
    and the suppliers have to live up to them
    or they can decide not to use that retailer.
    that’s the way the world works. suck it up.

    but to try to do spin in the media, using the
    “customer’s best interest” as the focal point
    of your lies, well, that’s gonna make me laugh.
    none of these companies care about customers,
    they just care about the money in our pockets…

    > Kindle is an useless doorstop outside of the USA,
    > because of its reliance on EVDO and CDMA.
    > They are seeing it with the U.S. “service” mindset
    > whereas outside the country people are used to
    > just stick a GSM card and use
    > whatever cellular provider they want.

    i’m sure when they run out of customers here
    they will look outside the u.s. for more of ‘em.
    as it is, they can’t produce kindles fast enough.

    > Kindle deserves to fail.

    i fully support your right to decide not to buy one…
    and to write as many blog articles and twitter tweets
    about your decision as your fast little fingers can type.

    and my fast little fingers will be typing right behind you.

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.plrprivatelabelrights.com/plr-ebooks/ebooks ebook

    Amazon yanked all my Adobe e books (along with most others) without telling me a few years ago, but this one still remains in their database.

    But that’s not the real oddity. Note the “Amazon.com Sales Rank.” It jumps up and down a bit, but as I write this it is “#6 in e-books & Docs.” Odd, given that at the top of the page you’ll find that it is “Currently unavailable” and has been for the six months I’ve been following it.
    ebooks