Amazon, Others License Adobe Reader Mobile SDK

I’m excited to be able to announce four new licensees of the Adobe Reader Mobile 9 SDK: Neolux Corporation (Nuutbook), Netronix, Tianjin Jinke Electronics, and last but not least Amazon.
Amazon today announced their new large-screen Kindle DX, including that they have integrated PDF via Adobe’s Reader Mobile technology, giving users instant access to millions of business and personal documents. The integration of PDF technology allows users to simply email PDF files to their Kindle email address or quickly move them to the device using a USB connection. The Adobe SDK also supports PDF reflow, so that text can automatically adapt to the screen size, allowing users to consume PDF documents with an enhanced reading experience.
The Adobe Reader Mobile SDK has previously been licensed by leading device makers worldwide including Bookeen, iRex Technologies, Lexcycle, Plastic Logic, Polymer Vision Ltd, SONY Electronics, Spring Design and others.
Adobe Reader Mobile SDK supports reflowable PDF technology and the EPUB file format, an open eBook standard with broad support from the publishing industry. The Adobe software engine also offers support for Adobe Content Server 4, Adobe’s popular content protection technology that allows publishers to securely distribute eBooks and other digital publications..
I do want to clarify that Amazon’s integration of the Adobe Reader Mobile SDK into the Amazon Kindle DX only includes PDF support, and not support for EPUB or Adobe Content Server 4 protected content. I’m encouraged that this is a first step by Amazon toward open file formats and interoperability, but it is just that: a first step. I find the new large-screen form factor attractive, but as a consumer, I don’t like products that lock me in to a closed architecture. On that basis, I’m afraid I can’t yet recommend the Kindle family, since the commercial eBook support is limited to Amazon’s proprietary format and DRM, for which content can only be acquired from their online store. And, this content is not interoperable with any other reading systems. By contrast the Sony Reader product line offers complete compatibility with both PDF and EPUB, including unprotected and ACS4-protected publications that can be acquired from many different online retailers and libraries. And, this content can be transferred and used on PCs, with Adobe Digital Editions and Sony EBL software, as well as to other compatible devices that will be released soon by other Adobe partners. That’s the open, interoperable ecosystem that Adobe and its partners are working to foster.

Announcing Open Publication Distribution System

Stanza, the leading iPhone eBook software, includes an excellent online catalog system that enables users to seamlessly acquire free and commercial content from within the application. The Lexcycle team built this system in an open, extensible manner using Atom. Adobe and Lexcycle have been working together on Adobe PDF and EPUB eBook support, and now we are deepening that collaboration in working together, along with the Internet Archive and others, to establish an open architecture enabling widespread discovery, description, and access of book and other published material on the open web. The Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS) is a generalization of the Atom approach used by Stanza’s online catalog. I’m grateful to the Lexcycle team as well as my friend and colleague Peter Brantley for their efforts on behalf of open access and interoperability.
This work is at a relatively early stage, as evidenced by the “DRAFT” notice on the specification wiki and the intentionally lightweight process (i.e. not yet involving a de jure standards body), We are taking a page from the way Atom itself was nurtured in the early going. If you are a reading system provider, or a distributor of free or commercial digital publications and are interested in signing on as a supporter and contributing to the definition of OPDS, get in touch with Peter, myself, or Marc Prud’hommeaux at Lexcycle.
I believe this effort has the potential to be a critical enabler to the growth in access to and adoption of digital books., For consumers, OPDS will deliver seamless integration of convenient acquisition from many sources, on any device or reading system, without lock-in to “One Store to Rule Them All”. For content distributors, ODPS will enable reaching consumers across multiple reading systems and devices: not as a replacement for online Web stores, but as a valuable supplement and on-ramp. For reading system developers, OPDS will make your device/application more useful and valuable. Stay tuned for more soon about how OPDS will be utilized within the Adobe digital publishing solution set.

500,000 free Google Books available for Sony Reader – in EPUB!

The news is out that Sony will be offering free public domain eBooks from their only bookstore, from Google Books (Forbes, WSJ, NYT). Google already offers free online viewing and PDF downloads of the public domain books they’ve scanned: the real news here is that these ebooks (over 500,000 of them) will be made available as EPUB downloads. This means they will be able to reflow and adapt to different size screens. On the Sony Reader and EBL software, it’s Adobe Reader Mobile technology that implements the EPUB rendering, so these eBooks will be fully compatible with the many other devices and smartphone applications that are also planning to integrate Adobe’s technology, as well as with Adobe Digital Editions. This marks a major milestone in the rapid adoption fo EPUB as the standard format for reflow-centric publications, and a further step towards recognition that with PDF for paginated documents, and EPUB for reflow-centric documents, the industry is ready to move on from the “Tower of eBabel” of proprietary eBook formats that have plagued publishers and impeded consumer adoption.

Adobe Buzzword – now with EPUB support

I’m jazzed that Adobe Buzzword, the cloud-based document editor that’s part of our free Acrobat.com service, now supports EPUB export. For more on this and all the other new features check out the team’s What’s New document (open access – no Acrobat.com account required).
A big shout out to Aspose, who develops the file import/export filters used by Buzzword. They did the work to add EPUB export to their commercial engine, which you can license to embed in your own server or client application.
Some folks are wondering how best to utilize the EPUB export. If you post EPUBs as web links or attach to emails, compatible software such as Adobe Digital Editions that registers for the .epub extension / MIME type enable users to directly open these files. If you have a Sony Reader model 505 or 700, you have native EPUB support, and can directly transfer EPUB (and PDF) documents to your device from Sony’s EBL software or Adobe Digital Editions. In the coming months, many device and smartphone applications will be coming onto the market that support EPUB via the new Adobe Reader Mobile SDK. Depending on the device, email and/or browser support for EPUB may be available.
Of course if you are using Buzzword to create a commercial eBook, you probably are already aware that EPUB has quickly become the preferred format for submission to aggregators and distributors, and is fully supported, along with PDF, by Adobe Content Server 4, and all of our Content Server solution providers.

New Reader Mobile SDK Announced

Adobe today announced the new Reader Mobile SDK, which supports PDF, EPUB and Adobe Content Server DRM. We also announced five new licensees planning to ship enabled solutions this year, including Lexcycle (Stanza), Bookeen (Cybook), iRex Technologies (Iliad), Polymer Vision (Readius) and Spring Design. This is a really big step forward in our strategy for enabling digital publishing with an open platfrom that’s fully interoperable across PCs and devices. Much more to come, but meantime additional information (including an inquiry form for prospective licensees) on the new Adobe Developer Connection Reader Mobile site.

Adobe eBook support coming to iPhone via Stanza

Lexcycle announced today at O’Reilly Tools of Change that they are incorporated support for Adobe EPUB and PDF eBooks into the Stanza reader for iPhone, with support for Adobe Content Server DRM. This is a great step forward for our vision of enabling consumers to enjoy content on whatever device they choose, and publishers distributing EPUB or PDF via Adobe Content Server will gain significant additional reach, with no additional work. Lots more to come soon on this, and on other mobile device partnerships.
Meantime, link: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/lexcycle-announces-support-adobe-ebooks/story.aspx?guid=%7b783FD2BD-46D6-4C7D-A568-7000F854CE5B%7d&dist=msr_1

New Technologies For “Green” Displays

A NYT article today, Bright New Phone Displays That Don’t Guzzle Power, reviews several emerging technologies contending to transform the mobile phone display landscape. Covered are E Ink’s color electronic paper, LEDs, and the intriguing Qualcomm MEMS solution (micro-mirrors that selectively reflect colors). I find it hard to handicap this technology horse race, and it’s certainly too soon to count out the incumbent LCD, which has the advantage of huge economies of scale. The OLPC XO laptop, with it’s gray-scale “eBook mode”, demonstrated that display controller tricks could make a conventional LCD display reflective and far more energy-efficient. And this technology is now being commercialized by the for-profit OLPC spin-off Pixel Qi.
The main takeaway for me is that, one way or another, we are within a few years of ultra low power displays being mainstream. And while the driving mass-market use cases will be internet browsing, video watching, and gaming, devices using these displays will also be great for immersive reading. Already the iPhone is preferred by some for eBook reading, over purpose-made E Ink based device like Sony Reader and Kindle. The tradeoff of small size, less resolution, poor battery lifte, and the harder-on-eyes light-emitting display is, for these folks, outweighed by no additional cost and the convenience of not having an additional device to carry around. And a substantial amount of eBook reading is still taking place on notebook PCs, as evidenced by the rapid adoption of borrowing of PDF eBooks from public libraries . How will this equation adjust when next-gen mobile phones and future netbooks-cum-tablets have high-readability displays and batteries that last for many days?

15,000 EPUB eBooks from Random House

Random House yesterday announced an expanded eBook program, increasing from 8,000 to over 15,000 titles within the next few months. As noted in the related Publishers Weekly article this initiative is based on EPUB. Given adoption of this magnitude, the PW article may be the last time EPUB is referred to as “the emerging standard format for the industry”. Kudos to Matt Shatz and the Random House team!

In Defense of eBook DRM

I rashly volunteered to take part in a ‘ Point – Counterpoint’ on digital book DRM, over on ToC. Peter Brantley got to argue the popular side (especially on an O’Reilly blog) – i.e. DRM is “Bad, bad, bad”. Peter and I may not see eye to eye on this issue, but I have tremendous respect for him, and think this is a critically important dialog for our industry to have. Hopefully advancing that dialog will be worth all the slamming I’m about to receive for daring to argue the upside of eBook DRM.

Office Printing Declining = Digital Reading Increasing

Last month the Economist took note that paper consumption by U.S. office workers has been declining since 2001, after doubling over the 20 years prior (despite much talk about the “paperless office” starting in the 1970s). Ironically, this peak was marked by publication of The Myth of the Paperless Office, and Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal review in the New Yorker The Social Life of Paper, a peerless paean to paper. But all that theorizing about the innate superiority and longevity of paper seems to have been dead wrong. As the Economist notes in a related article, it seems to be more of a generational thing: “Older people still prefer a hard copy of most things, but younger workers are increasingly comfortable reading on screens and storing and retrieving information on computers or online.”
This was part of a broader look by the Economist at how so-called discredited technologies are often just ahead of their time.
The Economist didn’t mention eBooks, but it’s a pretty obvious connection. Tellingly, Amazon is selling The Myth of the Paperless Office as a Kindle eBook for $9.99, or in paper for $34.00 plus shipping.