EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

Summary: Amazon's Kindle will emerge as the e-Reader market leader and prime content supplier for electronic books. But the company isn't doing anything to help improve content standardization.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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Amazon's Kindle will emerge as the e-Reader market leader and prime content supplier for electronic books. But the company isn't doing anything to help improve content standardization.

With the doldrums of summer ones thoughts turn to backyard barbecues, suntans at the beach and lazy afternoons paging through pulp fiction novels, or in my case, technical publications I've been pushing to the back burner for the last several months. Indeed, I already have a few e-Reader devices, including an iPad and a few SONY readers, but the new Kindle 3 really has me contemplating a purchase.

After all, the Wi-Fi version is only $139.00, it's extremely light and compact and by all accounts has really good performance. Amazon has finally perfected the device with its third incarnation. Sure, I've been heavily critical of the company in the past, but with the price dropping (and inevitably, it will drop even more) even the most persnickety holdouts like myself will eventually capitulate and see it as a no-brainer purchase.

Android Tablets and iPads and other multifunction devices WILL eventually rule the roost, but until they iron out their sun glare issues, I'm not dragging one to the beach or sitting out on my deck with one and digging into a Sci-Fi novel anytime soon. And there is that nagging little battery life thing. No, I haven't forgotten about that either.

But there is one thing that's keeping me from whipping out the AMEX and clicking the "Buy Now" button at Amazon, and that's the lack of EPUB support.

Frankly, I really don't understand why Amazon would leave this out of their current generation of devices. I can understand why they would want to continue with AZW and their own DRM for content sold on their own store, but frankly, Amazon doesn't sell every electronic book that you can possibly buy.

I may want to go buy specialized content from say, O'Reilly, or Cisco Press, Pearson Education, and any other vendor doing educational books, which are all adopting the industry-standard EPUB format, which was established by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). And yes, I do realize many of these vendors also provide content in PDF format, which the Kindle can read, but lets face it, PDF isn't exactly an efficient format for electronic books.

Amazon's competitors, Barnes & Noble, SONY and Apple have embraced both DRM-free and DRM-enabled versions of EPUB. Arguably, in Apple's case, they're not using the Adobe Digital Editions implementation of EPUB DRM, and you can't move books purchased in iBooks to a Nook or an SONY eReader (although the other two platforms are able to do this, respectively) but they all use EPUB in their submissions process.

And you can't use library loaned EPUB books on a Kindle, like you can with both Nook and Sony. Apple, you shouldn't be slouching in this department either.

From the perspective of self-publishing, the toolsets that Amazon SHOULD be using and recommending for content creation would tend towards using the same ones that are used to produce EPUB books. I mean, there's no reason why Amazon should have to bake its own toolsets for generating the content in the first place, and my understanding is that they don't.

Even Apple, which is probably the most proprietary company in existence, points publishers towards a number of open tools and even Adobe's own InDesign software as part of the iBooks SDK to create EPUBs.

Then there's the issue that customers don't want to have to re-buy their content. Presumably, if you're a SONY eReader or a NOOK user, you don't want to have to take your entire library and have to re-buy it on the Kindle if you want to switch to that platform. Ideally, you'd like to take those DRM ePub files and just drag and drop them between the devices.

There's also the issue that I generate a lot of my own content. I strip websites and take various Office documents and turn them into EPUBs for archival purposes. I use the Open Source Calibre tool to convert all sorts of files into EPUB and I maintain a library of about 5000 documents and free books on it, all in EPUB. Calibre also has the ability to create personalized EPUB magazines based on RSS feeds and other public news sources, which is a feature I also use.

Arguably, I could use Calibre to produce the aging MOBI (Mobipocket) output, which the Kindle is able to read, but that complicates things far too much. I want to keep one format, for all of my ebook data. And I want it to be portable.

Amazon, it's time you join the EPUB club. And when you do, my AMEX and Prime subscription is ready.

Is lack of EPUB support holding you back from a Kindle 3 purchase? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topic: Mobility

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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111 comments
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  • RE: EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

    Yes, the lack of ePub support is one of the reasons I don't have a Kindle; I have the Sony Touch. The other reason is the keyboard ... it takes up too much space, for something I would rarely use. What I like most about the Sony is that I can put it in my pocket quite easily.
    roteague
    • Yes you can read ePub on a Kindle

      @roteague...ePub books can be downloaded and read on a Kindle. The Savory Hack makes this possible.

      http://blogkindle.com/2009/04/epub-and-pdf-support/
      kyron.gustafson@...
      • Conversion isn't good enough

        @kyron.gustafson@...
        Sure, there are lots of ways to create a rough approximation of an epub book that the Kindle can read. But the .mobi format is inherently flawed and is unable to replicate the full richness of the experience possible with a well-designed epub.
        Charleski
    • want to read epub on kindle

      want to read epub on kindle , a useful guide here.
      http://www.epubor.com/how-to-read-epub-on-kindle.html
      epuborrenee
  • You nailled this one, Perlow. ePub is the ONLY barrier for me.

    If I saw a headline stating that a Kindle update was to include ePub support and Amazon verified it, I'd order a Kindle faster than WhisperSync can pull down an ebook.

    Not because I give a flying fart about open formats-- but because I want to be able to borrow ebooks from my local library.
    ericesque
    • RE: EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

      @ericesque good post. I purchased a kindle and am disappointed that I can't borrow books from my local library. All other ereaders are supported by my library.
      JerseyShore
  • RE: EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

    Yes, I have a Kindle 2, but just purchased a Nook for the very reasons outlined above. I would have upgraded to the Kindle 3 had I been able to check out library books.
    zmoon@...
  • Epub or nothing

    My wife reads a lot of library books and our library supports EPUB. She will not consider an ebook reader that she cannot use with the library. I'll probably buy a Nook or one from Borders in the next few months but not a Kindle without EPUB.
    skeptic2007
  • YES! Has Amazon given a good reason why...

    ...the Kindle does not support EPUB? I'm sure Kindle sales would sky rocket if (when?) EPUB is supported - Me for one.
    Bruce Lang
    • RE: EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

      @bdlang@... Totally agree. They were my number one choice but that was a deal breaker for me. I'm going with the Nook.
      gara56
      • RE: EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

        @gara56 --then there is this argument: it seems most people here think a book is simply a vehicle of conveyance for information but it is much more and supports several microeconomies. Books are also collected--Modern Firsts are collected by author, by bindings, by illustrators, editions, by materials used to design the books, by colophons, and yeah--by design and cover art work. These are tangible items--things not available when a book is virtual.


        I have a library of over 7K hard bound books. Many of them are medieval or 18th C -19th Texts but I also have modern books. I love books. I read them but I also buy them for the bindings, the designs and all the other stuff mentioned above including (for some) the fonts. For me, the only thing that interests me about Kindle vs Nook or epub is being able to get my books (mostly reference books of arcane matters) in a format that is more portable. That is not there--not at a library level, not as an Amazon or Nook level. I am not computer savvy but it certainly ALWAYS is money as the bottom line--and in America, that view is often myopic, self centered and short sighted. In the case of converting to any type of e reader the cost to present microeconomies is not even considered. It is believed progress is King. But as Amazon proved, what they give can be taken away and there is no TANGIBLE., TACTILE item to be traded, reviewed or dissected in an aesthetic sense.

        Books are conveyors of information like cars are conveyors of people--because like cars--what is in them is a given, but how they look, operate and the artistry of each is a genre unto itself. I need to decide between a Kindle and some other reader--but I am not interested in reading simply for entertainment--most bibliophiles require a bit more and for us--all of these techie toys portend not only the loss of places like Borders--but the death of not only an industry but in truth, perhaps, the contraction of an art and a demise in those with access to such art.
        harbinger10
  • The problem is that if a bookseller cannot ...

    ... protect their copyrights (or the copyrights of their authors and/or publishers), they WILL NOT use EPUB. Nor will they use any other open format which will permit unlimited reproduction and distribution of content.

    Putting DRM on an open format just defeats the purpose of the open format because DRM keeps you from porting the content to an "unapproved" device.

    It really doesn't matter if Kindle accepts the open EPUB format or not if no one makes protected content in that format. You can talk about open standards all that you want but most vendors do not create content in those standards specifically BECAUSE they are so portable.

    It's the <i><b>defacto standard</b></i> that really matter. You know the ones - they are standards merely because that is what most people use TODAY. Whichever vendor ends up dominating the market will be the one using the "standard".

    The nearest thing that we have to a standard today is PDF and that is only because Adobe has ported readers to every OS platform that matters. Free "virtual" PDF printers will convert any other printable format into PDF. Despite its inefficiencies, PDF is exceedingly versitile.

    Kindle included PDF because they HAD TO. Their own format was derived from the MOBIpocket format - which originated with geeky PDA-based e-readers.

    Whomever wins the e-Reader wars will define the 'standard'. My money is on the Kindle.
    M Wagner
    • You do understand...

      @mwagner@...

      Barnes and Noble have over a million books in their catalog--all in ePub? :) Sort of shoots your theory down in flames, eh?
      wolf_z
    • You've got the wrong idea about open format

      @mwagner@...
      The idea isn't so that pirates have free reign, it's so that the format is interoperable. Companies don't have to reinvent the wheel (though they constantly do) and consumers are protected from a company deciding to dump a product or platform.

      And I won't get into it, but DRM is everyone's friend when it's implemented correctly.
      ericesque
      • RE: EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

        @ericesque <br><br>When I can buy a book, paying for it exactly once, and read it from any of the dozen or so computers in my house, from my ereader, and from any computers or ereaders I may buy in the future, <i>then</i> I might no longer consider DRM my enemy. I doubt it will ever be my "friend."
        Henry Miller
      • Uhhh, are you REALLY that stupid?

        @Henry Miller

        Got news for you bunky. That's EXACTLY what both Amazon AND B&N have done. In case you haven't noticed, BOTH have Apps/programs outs for just about any machine you have, except each others dedicated E-Readers.

        Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=amb_link_352814002_3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-6&pf_rd_r=0ZD6V2QF5T9ZZ6Q5Q9KQ&pf_rd_t=1401&pf_rd_p=1268267022&pf_rd_i=1000426311

        Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/free-nook-apps/379002321/?cds2Pid=28709

        At least READ about what's going on before you comment, 'Kay?
        JLHenry
      • No, actually, I'm fairly bright.

        Amazon seems to support iPhones, Windows, Macs, Blackberry, iPad, and Android. The Nook list is even shorter. Linux is conspicuously absent from both lists.
        Henry Miller
      • And you won't see . . .

        @Henry Miller

        It for Linux anytime in the near future for the same reason you won't see MS making MS Office for linux, either.

        There's not a big enough market of Linux machines, no Mass Market for Linux machines, and therefore no reason to support a version for it, either. Now if Linux had a market share even half that of Mac, then you MIGHT see some change. But not until then.

        I'm not anti-Linux (others here will tell you I've used Ubuntu myself - I'm a geek, too, after all ;) ), but I DO try to keep a realistic view about things.
        JLHenry
      • RE: EPUB: The final barrier for Kindle Adoption

        @JLHenry Since when Amazon competes with Linux in distribution content? Last time I checked, Microsoft doesn't make Office for Linux because Linux is the competition, and because the only reason Microsoft Office.mac is done is a shady story of contracts that began when Microsoft bought some Apple shares.

        There may be another reasons, apart from a "big enough market". Also, last time I checked, Linux was making massive inroads in third world countries, and all the "market share statistics" are flawed when they only ask USA costumers, or when they only check English-spoken sites. So, there isn't a little market with Linux either.
        alejandronova
      • Amazon and Linux.

        @alejandronova

        Does Apple make iTunes for Linux? No. Microsoft AND Apple AND anyone else will make software to sell for Linux when the Linux OS market gets big enough. That means Sales of software and/or books is enough to offset development costs. Too many people think that all you have to do is port the software over. After you move it over, you have to compile it for the OS in Question, then run it through it's paces to make sure it doesn't crash the OS or itself, and to eliminate as many bugs as possible. That takes time and money, neither of which they're likely to see a return on. So neither MS or Apple, nor anyone else (Amazon in this case) are going to port their software over until they can at least project a reasonable time frame to see a profit from it.

        And "MAssive inroads" means nothing unless the places where it is making those inroads have enough disposable cash to buy digital music, books, etc. Most of those countries don't exactly have large pools of those in the middle class capable of buying said items.
        JLHenry