La Riposte

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What’s Wrong With E-Readers Today

I am a great fan of the written word, and of books in particular. There is a certain comfort in thumbing through the pages of an old favorite, or sitting down to explore a new discovery, page by printed page. That said, I’m no Luddite – I purchased my Kindle early on, and it has been an invaluable piece of technology for me as I’ve traveled the world, allowing me to carry a substantial library and accompanying notes in my cargo pocket, and accessing new books on demand wherever I can find a cell-phone signal.

But this is not meant to be a review singing the praises of the Kindle (or illuminating its minor faults.) And certainly it’s not a comparison of popular E-Readers – you can find that here if you’re interested.

The thing that bothers me about the E-Reader industry at the current stage is the failure of the major E-book distributors to adopt a single, non-proprietary format that enhances the ability of people to access print media electronically from any source. A person should be able to own a Kindle, an I-Pad, or a Nook, and still be able to check out a digital book from a library, download one from Amazon or I-Tunes, or purchase the electronic copy of a new hardcover they’ve just skimmed at Borders. They should also be able to “loan” their E-book to another reader, give it away, or sell it. E-Reader platforms should compete on their individual merits – ergonomics, ease of use, etc. – not on their ability to access proprietary content.

The proprietary content idea is not new – it first appear in the music industry, and although it led to the virtual demise of some brands (who mourns for Real Player?) linked to the I-Pod, it has made Apple a ubiquitous player in media sales. Sadly, Apple continues its proprietary model with E-books, and Amazon has so far chosen to go the same route.

Two major organizations are seeking to change this approach, by rather different methods; Defective by Design, which seeks the removal of Digital Rights Management (DRM) from all media, has been collecting signatures to pressure Amazon and Apple into mending their ways, and the International Digital Publishing Forum has created an open-source “standard” called EPUB, which is supported by Google Books (for out-of-copyright items) and is used in much of the rest of the world.

For now, I’ll be enjoying the simplicity of ordering books through Amazon, but will also be pressuring the company to embrace the global standard for future releases, move away from a focus on DRM, and make it easier for Kindle users to obtain material from other sources.

Of course, a clever computer programmers have already figured outhow to change Amazon’s proprietary format into EPUB, so if Amazon should choose to remain proprietary, and another company launches a better reader that provides one-touch, anytime, anyplace ordering of good literature, it’s nice to know that I’ll be able to take my Kindle library with me when I go.

No comments:

Post a Comment