Monday, February 01, 2010

Apple iPad adds to e-book platform confusion

The Boston Globe ran a piece today about the new Apple iPad's insistence on its own platform that will not be compatible with other electronic readers. The Associate Press article by Peter Svensson is a nice analysis of the problem that is cropping up, with Amazon's Kindle, and now the Apple iPad insisting on their own independent systems that will not allow users who buy an e-book for one reader to import that book to another reader. I am not clear whether the Sony Reader, the other major e-reader on the market also has their own platform that is incompatible. Rather than developing a uniform platform that would help build a market for e-readers, these marketers are more fixed on cornering their markets and driving competition to the wall.

Even as Apple’s iPad will probably energize electronic reading, the new device is undermining a painstakingly constructed effort by the publishing industry to make it possible to move e-books between different electronic readers.

The slim, 1.5-pound tablet computer unveiled last week will be linked to Apple Inc.’s first e-book store when it goes on sale in a few months. The books, however, will not be compatible with Inc.’s Kindle or with the major alternative e-book system.

Apple’s creation of a third choice is likely to further frustrate and confuse consumers if they accumulate e-books for one device, then try to go back to read them later on a different one. The effect could be akin to having to buy a new set of CDs every time you replace a stereo system. It could also keep people from buying new e-readers as better models come out if they aren’t compatible with the books they already have.

This could cool consumers’ enthusiasm for e-books, the way sales of digital music downloads were hampered by a variety of copy-protection schemes.

“There are going to be some potentially painful lessons’’ for consumers when they try to move e-books they already own to new devices, said Nick Bogaty, senior manager of digital publishing business development at Adobe Systems Inc., which provides the major alternative e-book system.
I am still hoping that Ray Kurzweil's Blio (blogged about here, will be a worthy entry into the fray. Blio is platform independent, being a piece of software you download to any electronic device you choose. Blio will work on an PDA, a cell phone, a laptop, netbook, tablet PC, whatever electronic device with connectivity to the internet you choose to read on. And it is free, with thousands and thousands of low-cost books when they are still in copyright. It has excellent audio capabilities where book publishers allow the read-aloud function to be enabled. For children learning to read, or those learning a new language, the read-aloud function can coordinate with a function to highlight words as they are read. Blio has graphics capabilities that allow the book to be displayed in the same manner as it would be in a printed book -- allowing graphs, charts, maps, illustrations of all types to be reproduced in full color and detail. Blio has not yet been released (perhaps this is a testament to the marketing savvy of Kurzweil, who knows his parade would have been rained out by Apple's release). But I am waiting! At this point, it is looking more and more as though it might be the product to save the e-books market.

The decoration is two dogs in a tugo'war (perhaps I should have tried to find three dogs!). This photo is "Coco and Trey tug" courtesy of

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