Ebooks, Ebooks Everywhere…

June 2nd, 2006 · No Comments
by Booksquare

As our faithful readers know, we have been strong supporters of Project Gutenberg — Gutenberg’s mission is to digitize public domain books and make them available for general usage. This volunteer-driven effort still seems to fly under most radars, but we will happily admit to utilizing this service frequently.

From July 4 through August 4, 2006, the World eBook Fair will be held, providing access to approximately 300,000 free ebooks. The vast majority of these works are books currently in the public domain; the remainder, in-copyright works, have been included with permission from the copyright holders. Planned as an annual event (with the number of books participating increasing every year), the Fair is designed to highlight the breadth of ebooks available online today.

The Boston Globe goes on to explore the stop-and-start nature of the commercial ebook market, finding that reading devices are a stumbling block. Except, of course, that people are reading on PDAs, cell phones, and iPods. Dedicated ebook readers, while a nice idea, remain too proprietary and expensive to achieve widespread adoption. The truth of the matter is that ebook readers must function as multi-purpose devices. This means that ebook texts must be as accessible and flexible as possible.

Oops…did we just veer into the world of digital rights management? Sorry. We didn’t mean to rant on a such a lovely Friday, but, now that we’ve started, what the heck? To date, only one format is (almost — there is always an exception) universally usable: plain text.

No, no, we do not expect anyone (except Gutenberg) to take that route. Just remember that as formats come and go — as formats do — that text is always usable. Next up the food chain, we have PDF. The reader is free and most Internet users have familiarity with the format. Sure, not every Internet-ready device can download and open PDF, but we suspect that’s only a matter of time. PDF offers security advantages that plain text does not. PDF is not a bad choice.

The comes device restriction. You know, rules that say you can only download this once to that device and forget about reading the book on both your iPod and laptop. That violates something-or-other. Now look at your favorite book. Pretty much, the only usage restriction is that you can’t read underwater. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time with a laminating machine. What you do in your own life is no business of ours.

It is important that today’s copyright holders (mostly aka publishers) recall that readers read in all sorts of situations. Making electronic books usable in all situations is a bare-minimum imperative. Today’s up-and-coming voracious readers are not always picking up paper, and the ebook market that nobody sees as growing is merely a sleeping tiger (are sleeping tigers ever really mere?). Windows-only, Mac-only, iTunes-only, one-device-only…do not fall into this trap.

Because there will be a smarter, savvier publisher out there who is more than happy to take your audience away from you.

[tags]ebooks, project gutenberg, world ebook fair, drm[/tags]

File Under: The Future of Publishing