November 11, 2008

Sony adopts open .epub eBook standard and opens to other publishers

Original Post from August 12th 2008.

I heard this on the Buzz-Out-Loud podcast I listen to from CNet, and hence found the news on the CNet News web ( here.

Sony, starting next month, will support the new, and well supported I am lead to believe, .epub eBook format in their PRS-505 eReader. This will presumably be done via a firmware update to existing customers with a PRS-505 (what of PRS-500 users?) and a roll to a new firmware version in the production version.

Not known for their strong support of open standards, or more accurately; known for their own determined pushing of their *own* standards; Sony will be the first eReader vendor to support the .epub format.

I was skeptical that this really meant that Sony PRS users would be able to get eBook content from other publishers or online stores, but the Sony statement reads:

"This upgrade opens the door to a whole host of paid and free content from third-party eBook stores, Web sites, and even public libraries," (Steve Haber, senior vice president of consumer product marketing for Sony Electronics).

And the article goes on to state:

"Publishers including Harper Collins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin are offering texts in the .epub format. (Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS. CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)"

So, that seems pretty clear. It will make life easier for online stores (and webs with free eBooks) if they can just produce one .epub document that then adjusts itself to the size of different screens and offers all readers adjustable font sizes etc, instead of the current situation where they create multiple file format versions, and formatted for different screen sizes. Enough to dynamite the eBook market? I doubt it, but a welcome step for consumers I think.

We'll see if Sony push out a firmware update for existing PRS505 and PRS-500 customers (like myself) and if more titles appear on the Sony "Library" online Bookstore.

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