Adobe and Barnes & Noble eBook Collaboration

Adobe and Barnes and Noble announced today a partnership to advance the open eBook platform standard. This was part of a broader announcement by B&N featuring their new nook device – which is very sweet – definitely the highest techno-lust quotient of any eReader device to date.
The adoption of EPUB, PDF & ACS4 by B&N is an extremely significant milestone. First, it puts to rest concerns that B&N would adopt EPUB as a base format but frustrate consumer expectations of interoperability and confuse the marketplace with a non-interoperable content protection solution based on their Fictionwise eReader acquisition. Instead, B&N is adopting the cross-platform Adobe solution that is already used by Sony, OverDrive, and nearly a hundred others. And, by adding support for password-based content protection for EPUB, Adobe is addressing the need to deliver a more lenient “social DRM” option as part of our solution. And from the perspective of the overall ecosystem, today’s announcement is huge: we have, within the last two months, seen two “legacy” proprietary eBook formats – BBeB and eReader – superseded by the open standard EPUB solution with Adobe’s cross-platform content protection. In essence, there is now a clear “DVD of eBooks” format standard, and everyone significant has adopted it (with now only one remaining exception).
This partnership is a double win-win: a win for both companies involved, as well as for the rest of the ecosystem and consumers. It’s clearly a good move for B&N and Adobe, it’s going to help accelerate consumer adoption of eBooks by cementing the standard eBook platform – EPUB and PDF with the option of ACS4 DRM – and giving consumers content portability across their choice of devices.
While Adobe and Barnes & Noble work at very different levels of the value chain, I feel we really have a shared vision, one that William Lynch, President of, emphasized at the nook launch: “Any Book (Magazine, or Newspaper), Any Time, Anywhere (On Any Device)”. Today, we all took a big step towards realizing this vision.

One Response to Adobe and Barnes & Noble eBook Collaboration

  1. Mike Perry says:

    I’m still uncertain what this partnership means in practice. The Kindle, Nook and iPad have large enough screens to display most books at or near full size. There’s no need for all the complications created by reflowing text. The same PDF export that creates the print version could be used to create a page-identical print version. It might even be possible to create a combo-package format that contains both PDF and EPUB. An iPad would use the PDF, while an iPhone would use the EPUB.

    Does this partnership mean that many ebooks will be distributed as PDFs, at least until EPUB can handle more complex layouts? That’d certainly be a welcome development. PDF is a mature and capable technology and both publishers and applications know how to create PDF books. On the other hand, EPUB is still at the HTML 1.0 stage with a nasty equivalent of browser wars developing. An EPUB may display one way on a Nook and differently on an iPad, creating headaches for everyone. That’ll delay the adoption of ebooks.

    In short, does this partnership between Adobe and B&N also mean a partnership between PDF and EPUB, with ebooks being distributed in both formats?