Archive for October, 2007

Hachette Book Group standardizes on Open epub Format

Today Hachette Book Group announced that it will no longer be delivering eBook content to distribution channels in proprietary file formats, becoming the first major publisher to announce adoption of the IDPF epub standard. This move, coming hard on the heels of formal approval of the core standard just weeks ago, underlines the costs and hassles publishers have faced dealing with a plethora of incompatible proprietary eBook file formats, and many other publishers are expected to follow suit. Additional coverage from The Book Standard and Publishers Weekly.
The increasing mainstream adoption of digital publishing and eBooks – noted in today’s Telegraph – stands to be significantly accelerated by convergence to open interoperable standards for eBooks. Hachette’s move also signals the breadth of support for open standards: this is not one or a few companies getting together to dictate a solution. The IDPF’s nearly 100 members include publishers, technology vendors, trade and textbook publishers, educational institutions, libraries and other governmental bodies, and this group unanimously approved the new epub standards earlier this month. The point is not to advantage any single vendor or publisher, but that the industry as a whole can only grow if we create an open, healthy ecosystem that inspires confidence on the part of publisher and consumers. There’s more work to do – DRM is still a tough nut – but with epub providing the open standard complement to PDF for reflow-centric text-based content, we are well on our way.

What’s the Future of iTunes Store?

Interesting Slate article Apple vs. Everyone by Ivan Askwith, focusing on the recent new alternatives to Apple’s online music distribution hegemony and potential future scenarios for both music and video .
The article glosses over the key point that “iTunes” is not synonymous with “iTunes Store“. Even the new directly-competitive Amazon Music Store prominently touts right on its top banner “All songs compatible with iTunes…”. It’s interesting that Apple’s dominance of PC music library software is somewhat independent of iTunes Store and even iPod – and is predicated on Apple’s support of the open standard MP3 format. With only 22 iTunes Store songs per iPod there would be an awful lot of empty iPods and iTunes libraries if it weren’t for unprotected MP3s from CDs and other sources.
Could one possible outcome be for Apple to retain its PC music player dominance by supporting multiple stores, and maybe even non-Apple devices, more explicitly in iTunes? Or will the linkage between iTunes and iTunes Store grow ever tighter, with users seeking freedom of choice in content sources and downstream devices forced to seek elsewhere for well-integrated PC music library solutions? And how will this shake out for other content types? In music Apple certainly has the pole position – but for video downloads it’s stil early days and other solutions – including our forthcoming Adobe Media Player – are certainly still in the hunt.
For eBooks and other text-based content I think it’s even less likely that we’ll see a single monolithic end-to-end solution with majority market share. There are just too many channels via which books, magazines, and other publications get out to readers. The Slate article points out that Universal controls “one out of every three new albums sold in the United States” – print publishing has consolidated quite a bit but no one has that kind of control. That’s why Adobe’s supporting open eBook standards, including PDF and IDPF epub, making sure our Digital Editions software supports acquisition from the user’s choice of Web-based retailers and libraries, and working to enable multiple devices to consume this content.