EPUB strikes again

EPUB strikes again

Summary: As the EPUB format gains traction, Google is throwing its weight behind it, releasing 1 million books from its book project as EPUBs.


I mean that in a good way, of course. EPUB is the only e-reader-compatible file format (of the 30 or so floating about) that seems to make real sense for education and has enough industry traction to make a dent in e-textbooks. Sony's announcement that its Reader products would standardize to the format with third-party DRM as needed tipped the scales further in EPUB's favor.

Now, according to PC Magazine,

Google's massive supply of public domain books just got a bit more portable. The company today announced that it would be releasing more than one million books in the format, which is compatible with the iPhone, Android handsets, and e-readers from Sony and Plastic Logic.

This should be on the order of one million books, free from DRM and usable on any number of devices (except, at least natively, the Kindle). Perhaps the greatest advantage of EPUB for students, though, is the ability of the book text to "reflow" on a variety of devices. While this doesn't solve the image problem of textbooks, it makes a whole lot of books readable on everything from an iPod Touch to a netbook to a full-blown laptop. It also makes the books more accessible to visually impaired students because of the ease with which text can be resized.

The Google Book Project had previously used PDFs for storing and disseminating its public domain documents, but PDFs obviously don't render well on very small screens. According to Google's blog,

By adding support for EPUB downloads, we're hoping to make these books more accessible by helping people around the world to find and read them in more places.

Sounds good to me!

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Security

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • The nice thing about Google ...

    ... is that it aligns itself with the interests of consumers when it comes to serving up content. Because of this, I think Google has the best chance of winning in the ebook (and other content) spaces. I believe if Google couples its services acumen with slick local (e.g. desktop) interfaces, it will do very well.
    P. Douglas
    • At the same time

      it is recording everything you do. For the moment, they claim to do no evil. But, how long will that last. They know more about more people all over the world than anybody else. Absolutely frightening.
      • That is why ...

        ... I think companies and individuals putting all their data into the cloud is such a bad idea. Google, which is run by humans, is subject to the same frailties as humans. I believe people should expose the least amount of data to the cloud they can get away with, and keep the rest, close at hand, under their control.

        The above not withstanding, Google does have some good qualities. E.g. I like the way the company helps out small artists who rely on YouTube as a media outlet. And I love the way it butts head with Big Media from time to time. I think however that it should do things like more prominently feature its Shows YouTube section, and encourage more grass roots productions of shows.
        P. Douglas
    • Who's content?

      That is always the sticky question...
  • Open standards

    It's good to see open standards taking front & center stage, these days.

    Hopefully, these developments will put enough pressure on Amazon, to support ePub, as well.

    Supporting ePub could ultimately be advantageous to Amazon, since people would feel more comfortable buying the Kindle and materials from Amazon (books, magazines, etc.), knowing that they can move to another device in the future...if they want to.
  • RE: EPUB Help & Manual strike...

    Although it's a Windows Help-and-other-file generation application, one of the best tools we have seen in *CREATING* EPUB files is with Help & Manual.

    EPUB seems to be on the right track to becoming the defacto standard, and in H&M, perhaps other tools too, EPUB has a quality editing and EPUB-output software.

    (and no, this author is NOT employed by Help & Manual)
  • "Third-party DRM as needed.."?

    "Sony?s announcement that its Reader products would standardize to the format with third-party DRM as needed"

    Do you have any details on how this is going to be handled?

    The vague generalization scares me. That third-party DRM may make it incompatible with other devices capable of EPUB, but not the specific DRM. Books might still be tied to this particular family of readers.

    • Sony Reader & DRM

      I read something about books purchased
      from the "Sony Bookstore" expiring after
      21 days. Sony seems addicted to DRM.
      After they infected customer PCs via Sony
      music CDs I refuse to buy any Sony products.
      • Sony Reader & DRM

        Then you've obviously read only the headline of whatever article that was. The 21 day expiry refers to the [i]library[/i] service they have. With an special library card you can loan an ebook from your local library and, like regular oldfashioned library books, they need to be 'returned' after the loan period.
        However if you purchase a book (not loan) it's yours, without day limit. Also you don't [i]have[/i] to purchase your books at the Sony bookstore, any epub book will work, with or without DRM.
  • RE: EPUB strikes again

    I have been using a Sony PRS 700 for a while now and minus the annoying glare sometimes I really like it. I originally bought it so I would not have to print 1000's of pages of computer manuals but have since discovered the vast treasure trove of Googles books.

    One thing that I would like to see, google or sony come out with a simple tool that allows users to highlight text in the google books to be fixed. There are a lot of mistakes in the google books, from spelling errors(due to what ever OCR they are using) and content issues(such as a table of contents that does not go to the right pages and are missing chapters). The next time ebook reader is launched have those sections uploaded so Google can review and fix them. The process right now is to find the sections, get on a computer and email the book name the issues at hand. This is very awkward, most people do not remember where the issue was after they read it and usually forget to tell google in the first place, adding a tool that can be used on the fly would help a lot.

    • Simple tool for automatic corrections; good idea!

      Your idea of a simple tool allowing users to highlight errors for automatic harvesting and later correction makes a lot of sense! I hope google (or someone) acts on it.

  • RE: EPUB strikes again

    Hi again, Chris.

    For Kindle users, an easy way to read the Google ePub books on a Kindle (w/o adding a nice hack). It takes about 3 minutes to do.


    - Andrys
  • They need to work on the name "EPUB"...

    ...my 13-year-old kid thought it referred to an electronic bar, like, you know, where they serve booze.

    Quoth he, "Virtual drinks on line for only $9.95!"
    Henry Miller
    • But do you . . .

      Get a real buzz and hangover, or a virtual one?!?


  • RE: EPUB strikes again

    Ebooks on the Sony Reader do not expire after 21 days. I have books I purchased from the Sony store last year and I can still find and read them on my Sony Reader.

    I think the confusion here is, some libraries are offering ebooks you can "borrow" for a fixed period of time and the drm scheme they use causes them to self-delete from the reading device after that fixed period of time.

    If libraries did not use a mechanism like the above, it is highly unlikely that publishers would provide them with ebooks, for obvious reasons.
    Old Publisher
  • RE: EPUB strikes again

    I get most of my ebooks in RTF because I use a computer to read them. I'm not going to pay as much for an ebook reader as a netbook or a cheap laptop and then only have a one trick pony. Sorry. I can read it in RTF or change it what ever I want.

    You can get a lot of free books from Gutenberg.
  • RE: EPUB strikes again

    The argument seems to be that EPUB is needed because PDF doesn't work well on small displays. So why not fix the problem with PDF instead of going to yet another standard?