Universal eReader Platforms
I know I haven’t updated in donkey’s years and I have no good excuse! I’ve been lazy and have just collapsed in front of the TV after work…although I was busy last week and this coming weekend is fully booked, my last entry was far more than two weeks ago…I promise I’ll put more effort into my posts from now on!
I read and interesting article in my publishing news updates today: Universal platforms for eReaders…never going to happen, right? The eReader market’s already established itself as dependent on the platforms that they’re read on. The Kindle only reads books from the Kindle store, the Kobo and the Nook both have their own stores and file types that don’t allow mixing. Although this concept doesn’t really sound strange as such, if you think about it, it’s a ridiculous idea. The example the article used was cars…if you bought a BMW, imagine only being able to buy gas from a BMW gas station…ludicrous! So why is it so easy to accept in the eBook market?
One of the main reasons for this is that eBooks are a fairly new concept and the idea is still being experimented with. Publishers are worried that eBooks will go the same way as the music market where everyone downloads books illegally and the industry starts in a downwards spiral (let’s face it, we’ve all downloaded music without paying a penny). To try and counter this, they introduced DRM (Digital Rights Management), which the music industry once used for their songs as well. The funny thing about DRM is, not only is it possible to hack it, but some of the most highly pirated books aren’t digital, but physical, books. All that’s needed is access to a high speed scanner and creating copies of books is easy as pie! Even the music market dropped DRM, so why in the world would the book industry think it’s a good idea…?
One of the biggest issues DRM presents is the message it gives to customers: we don’t trust you. As long as you have a music player, you can listen to your mp3’s anywhere. Epub is probably the closest equivalent to an mp3 in popularity and distribution (everyone uses Epub’s except for Amazon), but even having a universal format does not lift the platform lock. A Nook cannot read eBooks from a Kobo store.
There are ways to get around this of course. There are apps for the iPad that allow users to read ePub and Kindle files, but they’re separate apps, meaning users have to flip through two different libraries if they’re looking for a specific book. Even on the more flexible platform, the two formats cannot be unified.
As the digital reading industry is still developing, I think a sensible solution will be found eventually, the question is just when? If the industry becomes too accustomed to this arrangement, will they agree to change at all or will they assume that, because it’s worked so far, and sales are still rising, that customers are satisfied with the platform lock-in, with the separation?
The ToC Perspective: A Call for a Unified E-Book Market