We’re anticipating that the eBook functionality on the newly announced Apple iPad will spur further consumer interest in eBooks and we welcome the decision Apple has made to standardize on the EPUB format. With export support from professional publishing tools like Adobe InDesign, EPUB allows publishers to streamline the authoring workflow by reducing the number of formats to which they output.
However, in a recent study commissioned by the Book Industry Study Group, the number one complaint consumers noted about the e-reader experience is that “certain e-books [are] specific to certain e-readers.” (Book Industry Study Group. “Consumer Attitudes Toward E-book Reading” Jan. 2010, p. 28). Clearly, consumers value content interoperability as a key feature of the digital reading experience, preferring to not have their content specific to one device. Although Apple has standardized on the EPUB format, because it employs its own DRM to protect eBooks consumers will lose out on much of the benefit of an interoperable format simply because they won’t be able to transfer content across devices.
For example, EPUB content protected with Apple DRM won’t work on numerous eReaders like the Barnes & Noble nook and the Sony Reader, not to mention future, forthcoming models. Similarly, protected EPUB eBooks obtained from thousands of online booksellers (including Barnes & Noble) and most public libraries (including The New York Public Library)—are unreadable on the iPad.
In the coming months, we’ll see a plethora of tablets besides the iPad hit the market. Before investing in a library of eBook content, readers should consider how they’ll be able to access their content across the range of devices—eReaders, tablets, desktop PCs, and smartphones—that they use on a daily basis. The Adobe eBook Platform—including the thousands of online booksellers and libraries using Content Server 4 to protect PDF and EPUB eBooks and the 30+ device manufacturers building compatible eReaders—allows consumers to download, transfer and read EPUB eBooks across PCs, smartphones, and dozens of dedicated eReader devices. The result is a reading experience not limited to a specific platform, but tailored to the consumer—whenever and wherever they wish to read.