Friday, September 07, 2007

E-books.... just around the corner, this time, maybe?

I remain confused as to why, exactly, publishers seem to be getting excited about e-books. I'm excited, because I think the environmental and consumer benefits would be large. But if I were a self-interested publisher, I'd do everything in my power to keep my books from being released in digital format for fear of being Napsterized. And I say that as a strong critic of copyright laws. Nevertheless, with Sony releasing the Reader, publishers began working with electronics manufaturers to create online bookstores. Now, it seems, Amazon is working on it's own e-ink reader project, which may turn out to be the killer app or teh suck. Color me optimistic:
Several people who have seen the Kindle say this is where the device’s central innovation lies — in its ability to download books and periodicals, and browse the Web, without connecting to a computer. They also say Amazon will pack some free offerings onto the device, like reference books, and offer customers a choice of subscriptions to feeds from major newspapers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the French newspaper Le Monde.

The device also has a keyboard, so its users can take notes when reading or navigate the Web to look something up. A scroll wheel and a progress indicator next to the main screen, will help users navigate Web pages and texts on the device.

People familiar with the Kindle also have a few complaints. The device has a Web browser, but using it is a poor experience, because the Kindle’s screen, also from E Ink, does not display animation or color.
That's not a show-stopper for me. This might be:
Some also complain about the fact that Amazon is using a proprietary e-book format from Mobipocket, a French company that Amazon bought in 2005, instead of supporting the open e-book standard backed by most major publishers and high-tech companies like Adobe. That means owners of other digital book devices, like the Sony Reader, will not be able to use books purchased on Amazon.com.
Good God. The DRM market for music is falling apart as we speak, and any drm on text is going to be even more useless than the DRM on music -- and that's saying something. What could posess Amazon, watching so many before it fall of this cliff, to think that maybe, if they're lucky, they'll grow wings?

1 comment:

Jer said...


I remain confused as to why, exactly, publishers seem to be getting excited about e-books.


What - you don't think publishers would get excited about a technology that might finally deliver the killing blow to both the used book market AND public libraries - two areas that the book publishers have long viewed as cutting into their profits (in much the same way that the music industry sees online sharing as cutting into their profits, actually)? You don't think that the publishing industry wouldn't get excited about finally being able to tell people what they can do with their electronic text that is merely LICENSED by the purchaser, rather than dealing with all of the pesky "right of first sale" laws that come through actual ownership of a book? The publishing industry is very, very interested in anything that they perceive may improve their bottom line, and electronic publishing does that in many ways - some good for the consumer (such as elimination of a lot of cost wrapped up in printing) and some very, very bad (such as a workaround to the right of first sale and the used book markets).


What could posess Amazon, watching so many before it fall of this cliff, to think that maybe, if they're lucky, they'll grow wings?


See point one above. Without adequate DRM "insurance", the publishers are unlikely to take the plunge into this new area - all of the benefits that they see to electronic distribution disappear if de facto sharing can occur between readers. Putting DRM impediments in place makes de facto sharing less likely and so makes it worthwhile to implement at the behest of publishers until you can convince them that it doesn't really work and only annoys customers (see Steve Jobs, iTunes, and the music industry).