• Print

It's time for a unified ebook format and the end of DRM

Proprietary ebook formats and rights restrictions are holding consumers back.

This post originally appeared on Publishers Weekly.

EreadersImagine buying a car that locks you into one brand of fuel. A new BMW, for example, that only runs on BMW gas. There are plenty of BMW gas stations around, even a few in your neighborhood, so convenience isn’t an issue. But if one of those other gas stations offers a discount, a membership program, or some other attractive marketing campaign, you can’t participate. You’re locked in with the BMW gas stations.

This could never happen, right? Consumers are too smart to buy into something like this. Or are they? After all, isn’t that exactly what’s happening in the ebook world? You buy a dedicated ebook reader like a Kindle or a NOOK and you’re locked in to that company’s content. Part of this problem has to do with ebook formats (e.g., EPUB or Mobipocket) while another part of it stems from publisher insistence on the use of digital rights management (DRM). Let’s look at these issues individually.

Platform lock-in

I’ve often referred to it as Amazon’s not-so-secret formula: Every time I buy another ebook for my Kindle, I’m building a library that makes me that much more loyal to Amazon’s platform. If I’ve invested thousands or even hundreds of dollars in Kindle-formatted content, how could I possibly afford to switch to another reading platform?

It would be too inconvenient to have part of my library in Amazon’s Mobipocket format and the rest in EPUB. Even though I could read both on a tablet (e.g., the iPad), I’d be forced to switch between two different apps. The user interface between any two reading apps is similar but not identical, and searching across your entire library becomes a two-step process since there’s no way to access all of your content within one app.

This situation isn’t unique to Amazon. The same issue exists for all the other dedicated ereader hardware platforms (e.g., Kobo, NOOK, etc.). Google Books initially seemed like a solution to this problem, but it still doesn’t offer mobi formats for the Kindle, so it’s selling content for every format under the sun — except the one with the largest market share.

EPUB would seem to be the answer. It’s a popular format based on web standards, and it’s developed and maintained by an organization that’s focused on openness and broad industry adoption. It also happens to be the format used by seemingly every ebook vendor except the largest one: Amazon.

Even if we could get Amazon to adopt EPUB, though, we’d still have that other pesky issue to deal with: DRM.

The myth of DRM

I often blame Napster for the typical book publisher’s fear of piracy. Publishers saw what happened in the music industry and figured the only way they’d make their book content available digitally was to tightly wrap it with DRM. The irony of this is that some of the most highly pirated books were never released as ebooks. Thanks to the magic of high-speed scanner technology, any print book can easily be converted to an ebook and distributed illegally.

Some publishers don’t want to hear this, but the truth is that DRM can be hacked. It does not eliminate piracy. It not only fails as a piracy deterrent, but it also introduces restrictions that make ebooks less attractive than print books. We’ve all read a print book and passed it along to a friend. Good luck doing that with a DRM’d ebook! What publishers don’t seem to understand is that DRM implies a lack of trust. All customers are considered thieves and must be treated accordingly.

The evil of DRM doesn’t end there, though. Author Charlie Stross recently wrote a terrific blog post entitled “Cutting Their Own Throats.” It’s all about how publisher fear has enabled a big ebook player like Amazon to further reinforce its market position, often at the expense of publishers and authors. It’s an unintended consequence of DRM that’s impacting our entire industry.

Given all these issues, why not eliminate DRM and trust your customers? Even the music industry, the original casualty of the Napster phenomenon, has seen the light and moved on from DRM.

TOC NY 2012 — O’Reilly’s TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they’ve learned and join together to navigate publishing’s ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012

Lessons from the music industry

Several years ago, Steve Jobs posted a letter to the music industry pleading for them to abandon DRM. The letter no longer appears on Apple’s website, but community commentary about it lives on. My favorite part of that letter is where Jobs asks why the music industry would allow DRM to go away. The answer is that, “DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.” In fact, a study last year by Rice University and Duke University contends that removing DRM can actually decrease piracy. Yes, you read that right.

I recently had an experience with my digital music collection that drove this point home for me. I had just switched from an iPhone to an Android phone and wanted to get my music from the old device onto the new one. All I had to do was drag and drop the folder containing my music in iTunes to the SD card in my new phone. It worked perfectly because the music file formats are universal and there was no DRM involved.

Imagine trying to do that with your ebook collection. Try dragging your Kindle ebooks onto your new NOOK, for example. Incompatible file formats and DRM prevent that from happening … today. At some point in the not-too-distant future, though, I’m optimistic the book publishing industry will get to the same stage as the music industry and offer a universal, DRM-free format for all ebooks. Then customers will be free to use whatever e-reader they prefer without fear of lock-in and incompatibilities.

The music industry made the transition, why can’t we?

Related:

tags: , , , , , , ,
  • Julian

    You seem to be overlooking the fact that you don’t have to buy your books from Amazon to read them on your Kindle. I have had my Kindle 1 week short of a year and I think I have bought 2 e-books from Amazon. The Web is full of books that you can download for free and read on your Kindle.

  • http://www.bigbie.net Marc B

    By this logic Apple and Microsoft should unify their OS and all programs should run on each. I should be able to buy Pods to work in my Keurig. Itunes should work on a Zune. My Verizon phone should be able to move to all other carriers. Droid apps should all run on iPhones and vice versa.

    Most corporations have some way of trying to lock you into their products, to suggest otherwise is just wishful thinking for a pie in the sky blog post of “I wish”

  • Peter Brülls

    Marc, I’m afraid your analogue doesn’t work. There are valid reasons why operation systems and their hardware are incompatible with each other. While they are superficially the same, they work quite different and some do certain things better than others.

    Not so with standard ebooks. There isn’t really anything that mobi does better than ePub 2. That’s why a kindle book can get converted by calibre into ePub and vice versa. They still render the same.

  • http://tlrobinson.net/ Tom Robinson

    I agree EPUB is probably the best choice.

    Whatever the standard is, it should just be based on semantic HTML. Pretty much every device these days can render HTML anyway. Slap a nice stylesheet on it and a little logic for jumping between pages, table of contents, etc, and you have an eBook reader.

  • Felix

    Marc – are you aware of the difference between applications and data? It is a fundamental distinction and one which is no arbitraliy invented in order to lock users in – differnt microprocessor use differnt instructions sets. Creating programs which run across platforms is more difficult and produces slower programs.

    Content on the other hand is not affected by this distinction, once you have, for example, a PDF reader on whichever hardware you own you can read any PDF.

    To answer a couple of your examples:

    My Nokia phone will work on any carrier I select.

    iTunes (a cross platform application for copying media on to a portable MP3 player) could technically work perfectly well with all devices. It was, as you say, a decision made by Apple to lock you in to there equipment that it does not.

    Would you expect CBS to prosper if they broadcast TV programs which only worked on Sony TVs?

    Would you buy a film on DVD if it only worked on Samsung equipment?

    Your suggestion that such openness is ‘pie in the sky’ is shown to be nonsense.

  • http://www.BillSmithBooks.com Bill Smith

    Joe:

    I believe you are 100% right.

    That is precisely why big publishing will never go for it.

    Big publishing is scared. Publishers are dealing with the collapse of traditional book retailers and the one thing they do know is that they don’t have this ebook thing figured out.

    Never mind that non-DRM would allow readers to seamlessly read their ebook on whatever device they wanted and thus would encourage them to buy more books.

    Nevermind that non-DRM would give readers a variety of choices of hardware and book vendors instead of locking them in with one hardware and software vendor (in the minds of most consumers).

    Nevermind that non-DRM would give publishers more control over their products, now and in the future. (Cause seriously, who doesn’t expect Amazon to eliminate agency pricing and reduce royalty rates the very nano-second they think they can get away with it?)

    No, we have to have DRM because it protects our content and can’t be broken. Oh wait.

    But non-DRMed products can never sell. Look at how badly people like Louis CK, Trent Reznor, Cory Doctorow and lots and lots of indie artists did when selling non-DRMed content. All dismal failures. Not a one of them made a dime..

    Oops.

    Well, still, look at digital music. A disaster.

    Oh, sure, more music is sold now than ever before. It’s just that more singles are being sold because now customers have the option to buy just the one or two songs they want rather than being forced to spend $15 on a CD to get the one song they really want.

    The publishing industry has an opportunity to reinvent itself for the future. But I expect the big publishers are going to fumble the ball…again.

    In a few years, the Big 6 will be shells of their former selves while the indie authors blaze the way forward.

    – Bill Smith
    http://www.BillSmithBooks.com

  • Gar

    I too hate that I have to buy different format eBooks to run on my variety of devices (although, there is a Kindle reader app for just about every hardware device I have). We were talking recently about all the purchased eBooks we had on our Palm devices that are no where around today. What will happen to our current DRM content when today’s ‘big’ providers go away, Borders was too big to fail.
    I question the ‘comment’ above around conversions across formats. Some valuable formatting is lost as pages flow differently and eBooks act differently across different devices if they were written hardware specific. ePub to Mobi is not a sure thing much beyond all the words are still there.
    While we wonder if the Publishers will ever jump onboard, what about the Authors? How do they feel about their hard work being open to the world to share. Sharing, in the eyes of a family, is not the same as stealing. Surely emailing a copy of the eBook they have to their neighbor(s) after everyone showed interest isn’t stealing, that is just sharing. Gone are the excuses people have that their copy wont work on someone else’s hardware. And gone are the sales from those neighbors. ‘Open’ eBooks do get shared, just because they aren’t seen on Torrents doesn’t mean they aren’t being redistributed. Once an Author’s checks start drying up, they will be more likely to lean towards systems that give them a level of security. They need to put food on the table too. If they are impacted enough, gone will be the quality books as authors look to other ways of income.
    This is completely my opinion… a bit based on my author friends chatter, but otherwise do not represent any companies.

  • Oliver Peng

    Having moved [houses/apartments] 9 times in the past 11 years, I’m always looking for ways to reduce clutter and purchasing eBooks is one of the primary ways I can 1) reduce boxes and boxes of books to move and 2) not have to throw away or store books offsite and have everything at my fingertips.

    I’ve since purchased a Kindle and will soon be acquiring an iPad. You’d think I’d be jumping to buy eBooks over physical books. In the past 6 months I’ve bought 1 eBook and 7 physical books. My biggest hesitation? DRM. Even knowing I can read it across multiple devices, I hate the idea of my content being on lock down.

  • http://www.indietainment.org Kerri

    Calibre will transform any ebook format to any other for any device. We have kindles, a kindle fire and a nook and have no problem transferring our books from one device to another our sharing then with friends. We don’t get them from B&N or Amazon though. We go to Obooko, Smashwords and the Gutenberg project.

    If we all stop buying DRM plagued, overpriced books they will come around.

  • http://pazuzu.yolasite.com/ Matthew Sawyer

    I sell my ebooks across multiple online distributors and design my own books. – no DRM and the format is bare bones. I also have free ebooks available!

    I write horror stories and if I don’t finally gather paying fans, well – there does another author who supports open and readable ebook formats.

    Most authors are desperate and move where the wind blows. That means if a publisher insists using DRM, that book will become locked. Again, the way around that is support independent authors (me) – and I’m even giving away free stuff.

    I know you’ll like me – I’ll be in dreams and wicked nightmares.

    PS Calibre is the bomb! That’s free too!

  • http://eugeneciurana.com Eugene Ciurana

    Great write up, and fully agree. I would just like to add something else.

    I purchase books from Amazon and Apple on a regular basis. The first thing I do, as soon as the book is downloaded, is run it through calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com) and a couple of filters to remove the DRM. Then I put the book in my favorite reader’s format and read it that way. I can then read it on my iPad, or iPhone, or whatever without having to worry about the DRM issue.

    Until publishers see the light (i.e. I commend O’Reilly for sticking to PDF and no crazy DRM on purchases!), I see technological circumvention as a valid alternative to stupid digital restriction management.

    Cheers!

  • mike

    If there was a steam like marketplace for ebooks that you could get non drm ebooks from and acfually not try to charge the same price as the physical versions, the publishers would be hitting records for revenue. It is going that way for games, music, movies, and the first people to figure that out will be the ones laughing alll the way to the bank.

  • Rocky

    Passed a book on to a friend?! Hell, we’ve constructed entire buildings in every town, funded by the government to share books at no cost, they are called libraries.

  • Kevin

    Amazon, apple, b&n etc should sell every book in all different formats and if you have purchased a book in one format you should be entitled to download it anytime in any other format. This will insure that book works on all devices and it will still have the same quality, because sometimes quality losts in converting.

  • mast

    I totally agree the DRM issues is a bunch of crap. And amazon, while able to get eraeaders mainstram, and undoubtably the largest, it is the absolute worst. My family uses Nooks (5 of them), with which I can load nearly any format I want into my native reader library, and the DRM is fairly easy to circumvent on actual B&N content. There are also websites like smashwords where you can purchase non-DRM content.

    I wish we could get authors to host their own ebooks, so all the money could just go directly to them.

  • Andrew

    The book industry wishes it had the problems of the music industry. Music has rabid fans clambering to consume. How many people do you know who “Don’t read” versus how many people “Don’t listen to music?” I’d say I know 10x people that don’t read, and one person who doesn’t listen to music. And music is a better investment, in that you will likely listen over and over, whereas a book is normally a “one-and-done” affair.

    Selling without DRM is a big leap of faith for an industry, it’s assuming that your product is worth purchasing and that given the opportunity, people will not steal it. But DRM as a whole is bad for customers, so it’s bad for business.

    I think the biggest method of managing digital rights is actually through ease of purchase. It is hard to find a bigger group of luddites than the reading community. Imagine explaining to your grandmother how to steal a book through torrent sites. Now imagine showing her how to download on her Kindle, her iPad, her Nook, whatever.

    That is the strongest argument I can think of against DRM.

  • http://Www,blork.org/blorkblog/ Blork

    I agree with the need to settle on a standard. But there’s something else that I don’t see mentioned very often that I think is important: persistence of notes and highlighting.

    When I make margin notes or highlight passages on a paper book, those notes and highlights will always be there. Is that the case with notes and highlights made on a Kindle or iPad?

    I’d like to think that in 10 years time, when I’m three or four devices removed from the one I used to read the book, and maybe two or three platforms removed, that my notes and highlights will still be there.

    Is that the case now? If I make notes on a Kindle, will I see those notes if I run the file through Calibre and open it on an iPad? If I make notes on an ePub book in iBooks, will those notes appear if I open the file on a Nook? Will notes made on a Nook today still show up on the Nook of 2022?

  • chris

    Use Calibre for ebok management. Problem solved.

  • http://www.likepie.net Simon

    The biggest issue I think that the publishing industry has with digital formats is that they come from a physical business model where there is a supply and a demand and the product that they sell has a limited number of physical copies and therefore has scarcity giving it actual value.

    In a digital medium scarcity is all but erased as a near infinite number of copies can be made and distributed with little physical effort.

    DRM in my opinion is the publishing industries way to inject scarcity into the digital platform by attempting to limit its numbers to only those that they produce – a decision fed by the fear that consumers will always deviate to the cheapest option and if the cheapest option is free then why pay?

    DRM has been proven not to work, and the publishing industries fears have been mostly unfounded. There will always be consumers whom are willing to pay, and those who aren’t or are unable to do so; the skill with any digital business plan is to discover ways to give value to their product so more people see value in buying a copy rather than getting a “pirated” version.

    TD;LR rather than using DRM to keep an old business model running publishers should work harder to give their digital editions more value so consumers see a benefit in purchasing them.

  • jme

    Why I still don’t own an ebook reader, even though I want one since years:

    *) At work we currently have a small library from where everyone can borrow books and take them to their office. Cannot do this with a Kindle, so thanks but no (yes they have a borrowing-feature but that’s so utterly limited that it becomes useless).

    *) Addison Wesley (for example) offers all their books as PDF. I don’t know of a single reader or phone app that does PDF really well. PDF is about the worst ebook format out there.

    *) Right now I have to switch between *three* apps on my Android for reading ebooks.. aldiko, moon+, thinkoffice (wtf!! but it’s the only thing that works for pdf).

    *) If a book costs 40$, why does the ebook cost 35$? I bet most of the money doesn’t go to the autor but stays at the publisher, yet publishers have labour free income with ebooks.

    *) When I buy a book, why don’t I get the ebook for free? Or: why do I have to pirate the ebook, if I already own the book.

    Please fix this and let me know when you’re done.

  • Eric Freese

    I am not a fan of DRM. But DRM in and of itself is not necessarily evil. Having several incompatible, competing DRM platforms is evil. Amazon has their own, Apple has their own, and most everyone else (B&N, Kobo, Sony, Google, etc.) uses Adobe’s Content Server. This means, that if users create their accounts using the same login credientials across those stores, the books purchased in those stores should be portable. It is Amazon and Apple who are trying got lock customers into their ecosystems.

    Many people have posted about Calibre, of which I am also a user, but for new content, a reader is forced to remove the DRM before Calibre will do anything with it.

    A world without DRM would be a better place (thank you O’Reilly!!), but a world with a single DRM scheme would also allow publishers some protection while allowing readers to have portability – perhaps not a bad compromise.

    Also a world where publishers bundled the eBook with the print book would be appreciated as well (again thank you O’Reilly).

  • Robert-Reinder Nederhoed

    Hi, I bought a Nook precisely because it’s not locked. Yes it has ties to Barnes&Bobles’ webshop, but I can attach a USB cable and drag and drop ePub and PDF from my PC to my eBook. No hassle, no lockin.

    B&N is even filing an antitrust complaint versus Microsoft for it’s claim on patents used in the Nook (based on Android):
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20111111121548972

    Interesting article, none the less!

    Kind regards, Robert

  • Mike

    I want to make a point about piracy:

    books ( physical or electronic ) are unique in the sense that it takes considerable effort to actually get any use out of them, i.e. read them. If I illegally download 20,000 copyright eBooks, the most that I’ve actually stolen from anybody is not what I can hoard but what I can actually read. For me personally, that’s maybe one book a month max, but even someone who can read much faster than me, there is a pretty hard limit at how much one can actually read.

    It’s like stealing $5,000 but only being able to spend $5-$20 of it per month. I’m *not* saying that it makes piracy or stealing OK, I’m just pointing out that eBooks have an intractable quality that seems to make them more resistant to piracy than music or movies. Yes, it takes time to listen or watch, but it doesn’t require engaging the brain, which is unfortunately the most effective deterrent to piracy.

  • Renney Doser

    Being a big SciFi book fan I found and fell in love with the Baen book website. I wish I could get all my books from them because they allow you to download your books in any format. Our family owns four computers, two kindles and two iphones. Using their website I can read my books on my computers, iphone or kindle. Why can’t all book publishers follow this example? I only buy from Amazon that which I can’t get any other way, but it unsatisfying because I have to steal back my kindle from my wife or daughter in order to read.

    Best regards,

    Renney

  • Jim Davis

    All it takes is a thread like this one justify DRM: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/pfcha/not_trolling_can_someone_walk_me_through_the/

    A couple of thousand people rationalizing that they have no moral obligation to pay for electronic content? Yeah, I can see why people were pushing SOPA. It wasn’t the answer… but capitulating to people that see no value in electronic content isn’t the answer either.

  • John

    I can’t agree more! I own a Sony reader. A book I wanted to read was only available through Amazon (self published author). I bought the book, DL it to my computer and then stripped the DRM in under 30 seconds and I am now reading it on my Sony. But what I did was “illegal”. BS! I paid for the book, I shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to be able to read what I paid for!!!!

  • Justin Walker

    I own a Nook, but all my friends have a Kindle. If there is a book I want them to read I have to buy the physical version not digital. I got an E-Reader so I could downsize my gargantuan book collection. However, in the year since I’ve made my Nook purchase, I’ve only bought a handful of digital books.

    Bill Smith:

    I read your comment and it makes me sad to see small minded thinking from big headed publishers. Imagine a community market where publishers sell content DRM free. If piracy is a concern then why not have the content registered to a device’s ID. Then if the consumer passes the book on, the next person has to register the content to their device and the original consumer looses that content until it is returned? All E-Readers have wifi, it wouldn’t take much to add a friends list and trade books via their device where all trades can be monitored.

    Why not sell a full version of a novel and a condensed version for people on the go? It would be like selling a single track instead of the whole album. You could even sell book subscriptions. A quarterly or bi-yearly fee that gives you one book a month, or access to so many books a month in a particular genre. An example would be $50 for four months to subscribe to Romance and you can read up to three books a month plus you get one book per month you can keep.

    It seems to me that publishers should be the ones taking a stand to book sellers rather than the opposite. They are the ones with the content. If publishers stopped and considered other market ideas for selling digital content the world would be a better place. For publishers and consumers.

  • userulluipeste

    PDF??? Didn’t you heard of it? It’s for a long time already a de facto format for portable documents of any kind, including books. Your entire article is based on a false assumption that there is a need. There isn’t!

  • http://www.24pagebooks.com Martin Edic

    This presupposes that books retain their format when moved to digital. As the iBooks Author model shows, the reality is more like fiction titles still look book-like while non-fiction becomes an entirely new beast. 12 years ago I wrote a comprehensive book on Kitchen design (with my brother Richard) that included hundreds of photos and illustrations. In a recent discussion with the publisher (Taunton) we came away realizing there was no point in a revision when someone designing a kitchen can view and save from 46,000 photos of kitchens on Houzz 9among other sites). However can build a useful iBook that can become a tool for helping design a kitchen, something you can annotate and take to the appliance store with you. This is only possible with the proprietary format Apple offers with iBooks Author on iPad.
    Settling on basic epub is a temporary solution at best. And yes, I am a publisher of ebooks and would like to see a standard format but…

  • vincent

    By this logic Apple and Microsoft should unify their OS and all programs should run on each. I should be able to buy Pods to work in my Keurig. Itunes should work on a Zune. My Verizon phone should be able to move to all other carriers. Droid apps should all run on iPhones and vice versa.

    Marc B:

    You are completely confusing the difference between application versus data. Those were all applications you listed. If you had given a correct analogy, it would have been like one of these:

    * my music CD can only play on a Mac, not on a PC

    * my Sony DVD can only play in a Sony DVD player, not Samsung, Panasonic, LG, etc.

    * my JPG photo can only be viewed on an iPhone, not an Android or Blackberry

    * my MP3 file can only play on an iPod, not a Zunes or Sony player

  • Harley

    Justin Walker,

    I think you miss the point of what “DRM free” means. If you have to un-register it from one device to use it on another, then by definition it must contain DRM. “DRM Free” means that it’s completely up to the consumer of the book what they do with it.

    Speaking of that though, when the major music puslishers sell MP3′s, they embed the email address of the purchaser, and a PO number in the file. This is so that if they post it on bittorrent without taking the time to clear the ID tags, they will know who did it.

    That allows the publisher some sense of security, without any decrease in convenience.

    userulluipeste,

    Epub reflows and works well on any screen size and aspect ratio. It also allows changing font sizes for people who aren’t comfortable with the tiny default fonts. PDF is locked down to a particular layout.

    Also, Epub works better as a reading format, because you can always flip pages rather than needing to scroll downward.

    So, even though you say “there isn’t a need”, Epub has tangible advantages over PDF.

  • Jeff

    Steal it until they get it.

  • Sara
  • http://www.riidoo.com Anders Borgström

    You are right. Abandon DRM!! In sweden, Elib distributor has done it already and the sales works excellent. No piracy trauma at all. And the enduser love to be able to move the epub- and pdf-files around freely between their devices.

  • http://bytesandsuch.com Don Birdsall

    Many years ago the CEO of a razor company, I believe it was Gillette, invented a clever marketing concept. Give away the handle and the consumer would have to buy the blades in order to use it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple are using the same strategy to market their digital content. That is why we have competing formats. A unified format simply will not work.

    Fortunately, as many have already commented, there are numerous format converters and DRM removal tools. When required, the use of these tools is simply a nuisance factor. At this time the savvy consumer consumer can locate almost any desired digital content and prepare it for reading and the digital device of his or her choice.

    The existence of competing formats is actually good for consumers. It promotes competition in which the OEM’s will continually improve their products in the hopes of increasing their market share. Remember, epub and mobi formats were developed for early PDA type reading devices that are now obsolete!

  • Jian Qiu Huang

    Given time the ebook industry will settle into one format and DRM free. The industry is still at its infancy and players are jockeying for some competitive advantage in a manner that they best know how. Look at Amazon, the largest on line retailer in ebooks, and their latest attempt to future ‘lock’ in authors/publishers in the Select option. Select is an option for authors to make their offering exclusive to Amazon at the expense of other retailers. Again another attempt to gain supremacy through exclusivity.
    Soon these players will realise that in the long run, customers reign supreme, taking ‘user experience’ as a yardstick, the current supporters of exclusive platforms and DRM ebooks are yet realise that their mere existence is to serve customers first and market supremacy second.

  • http://newstechnica.com David Gerard

    We really don’t need a single format – calibre converts reliably between ePub and mobi (e.g. I convert ePubs lots for my mobi-only Blackberry), and the converters for any other formats will be duly improved with real-world use. The key thing is a lack of DRM, so we’re _allowed_ to convert.

  • http://www.dittymac.blogspot.com Virginia Llorca

    First and foremost, DRM is a joke. Why bother? Then, I wish they would leave my indents and italics alone. Other wise, love the whole process.

  • E. Bard

    I agree with so many of you. The EPUB format is easily the best way to go (or maybe .epub3 to allow for the new media rich enhanced books to be consumed on a variety of devices – but that’s for another blog post topic I’m sure). I personally refuse to buy a $12 or $14 for an e-book that I will then have to read on my computer because my e-reader isn’t a Kindle and I’m reluctant to ‘hack’ the DRM. Even the conversions from one format to another using Calibre aren’t seamless. The sooner we have a unified format, the better.

  • http://www.bookonpublish.com Dan Oja

    The idea of using a limited subset of HTML that requires a special reader might have made sense for first-generation text-only e-readers, but I don’t think it makes sense now, with multimedia tablets.

    Doesn’t it make more sense to create content that used all of the features of HTML and runs in a browser rather than a proprietary reader?

  • http://kevinlomas.net Kevin

    It is time the ebook went the way of the MP3, before EU courts have to force them to, in the same way they did with Apple and the ipod.

  • Ian E. Gorman

    Even today, your don’t have to be locked in by Amazon, if you can find non-DRM books.

    If the ebook is non-DRM, you can convert it to a number of different formats by using
    “calibre” (http://calibre-ebook.com/), which will also keep the different formats organized under a single book heading. You can convert your eBook to Kindle, or to any other eReader that tickles your fancy. You can even remove DRM to do this, if you do not fear lawyers.

    But why should the buyer have to do this? It has been about 100 years since all electricity generating companies went to AC, so that ordinary consumers would not need AC-to-DC and DC-to-AC converters.

  • http://www.dittymac.blogspot.com/ Virginia Llorca

    Interesting you wrote this before the small indie publishers file suit against Amazon over DRM. Do you think they are trying to stick a finger in the dike or breach the dike? I still say DRM is a non- issue and wish Amazon would use their law budget to promote books. Mine for instance.