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Ebook formats and the allure of customer lock-in

Sanders Kleinfeld on obstacles to a unified ebook format.

Sanders Kleinfeld (@sandersk), author of “HTML5 for Publishers” and publishing technologies specialist at O’Reilly, recently sat down with me to talk about ebook formats, challenges publishers face accommodating the formats and how HTML5 might change the game. With all the various ebook formats and platforms requiring multiple publishing outputs becoming something of a hindrance to workflows, I asked if he thought we’d ever see a universal format. He said he worries that vendors won’t be willing to give up customer lock-in:

“I’m really optimistic, and I really hope so. I think that’s what they’re striving for with the EPUB3 standard, which is based around all these open technologies — HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript … What’s disappointing right now is that Amazon is very set on their Mobi format for their Kindle device, Apple has made strides away from EPUB 3 with their latest iBooks 2.0 and iBooks Author … I think vendors that make these devices are interested in maintaining that lock-in for customers. That’s a challenge the industry faces — trying to push things back toward open standards, which I think is best for everyone.” (Discussed at 2:43.)

He also said a lot of what’s behind DRM is about achieving customer lock-in and that vendors might be obstacles in that regard as well. (Discussed at 4:21.)

You can view our entire interview in the following video:

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  • http://www.ampersand_pubs.com Peter Turner

    One thing I wish more folks would talk about is how publishers are going to deal with the fact that their author contracts pretty much require them to protect copyright on behalf of the copyright holder, the author. In order to convince authors and their agents to that publishing sans DRM is advantageous they’ll have to demonstrate that it drives sales. That’s a tough one to prove.