Feeds

Adobe captures ebook standard. What now?

E Pluribus E-Books Unum E-Reader?

Security for virtualized datacentres

Among the charming aspects of the fledgling electronic book industry is the way very large corporations can skirt ethical boundaries in the field - yet not make much money.

Adobe Systems, the company whose EULA prohibited reading Alice in Wonderland aloud, and an outfit that once arrested a Russian programmer for pointing out that the DRM on Acrobat wasn't very good, now has a standard for ebook behavior all its own.

Rejecting the post-modernist assertion that really it's all text, some six months ago, the New York-located International Digital Publishing Forum, and its one employee, Nick Bogarty, announced that agreement had been reached on a new electronic books standard.

This format, .epub, was to be the XML-based, multi-device, reflowable, universal format two underemployed men in their 50s had demanded. Also, .epub would support PDF. Because everyone knows how great PDF looks on a PalmPilot or cell phone. It may be worth mentioning, there is one gold sponsor of the IDPF, Adobe, and the IDPF's sole employee, has announced he's leaving the position. To go work at Adobe.

Adobe says its Digital Editions and InDesign will read and create .epub. Digital Editions is kinda like Macromedia's FlashPaper, save where FlashPaper let anybody make any document web-viewable in seconds, Digital Editions only supports books in .epub (and PDF).

Formatting issues

Needless to say, apart from a handful of front-runners, nobody greeted the launch of Digital Editions with much enthusiasm. Even the IDPF failed to add a working guide to creating the format on its site.

There are some flawed .epub examples from IDPF members that wouldn't load or validate.

Then there were some weird Adobe creations - .epub samples generated by InDesign which add additional files not required in the IDPF spec (as well as the optional PDF for your cellphone). These work, but don't even meet Adobe's own spec.

The backstory to all this is that Amazon owns a firm by the name of Mobipocket. Mobi is already the largest ebooks retailer, despite not integrating with Amazon's site. Mobi also figured out years ago the wisdom of not charging for software that creates ebooks in its format, and converting anything from Word Documents to simple HTML to PDF (Mobi will support .epub as an input...eventually).

Then Mobi really got smart and became the only large ebook retailer to give away Project Gutenberg texts, rather than make a few bucks at the expense of customer retention.

Mobi ain't perfect. There was a poorly-handled outage recently, and the company's location in France apparently means no Mac support until skilled programmers can sneak out when the bodies are next dumped at Chateau d'If.

Book 'em, Adobe

However, in October Amazon's got an electronic ink-based reader coming. There is, in other words, almost no reason to pay attention to Adobe's .epub format. Except maybe for Sony's Reader, which is expected to support .epub files some day.

But clearly the point of this "standard" is to, in the next congressional buying cycle, go for regulatory capture in the form of a "Digital Archive Integrity Act" which will require schools and libraries to buy only "standard works" - no doubt from "standard vendors" such as Adobe, and create barriers to entry for pesky new competitors, like the upstart ebook Romance publishers, which are currently giving Harlequin fits. It's the kind of thing you'd fear, given the implications for censorship when control of content ends up in very few hands,

I guess we don't have to be too worried, as long as Adobe can't even code to its own bought-and-paid-for spec. ®

David Moynihan is webmaster at munseys.com.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.