Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Introduction to eBook Devices and Formats

Joshua Tallent, eBook Architects

No one present yet develops for eBooks.

3 sections of eBook world: devices, formats, and retailers.

eBooks formats

Kindle (Mobipocket), ePub (industry standard), PDF, LIT (Microsoft), eReader, and others.

Amazon selling 70-90% of eBooks.

Mobipocket, based on HTML 3, very little CSS, proprietary XML code, binary compiled format. .PRC, .MOBI, or .AZW extensions. .AZW created by Amazon for Kindle.

Strengths are its popularity, simple layout, and accessible to most non-techies. Weaknesses are it's proprietary format, simple layout, and limited distribution channels.

Mobipocket Creator or KindleGen (from Amazon site) to create a file, the latter command line from a source file. calibre is another, but not for production-quality work.

In addition to Kindle, can open with BeBook, Hanlin, iRex, but even they are moving to EPUB.

DRM (digital rights management) is proprietary to Amazon. Kindle uses same DRM as Mobipocket, but Mobipocket books can't be put on Kindle.

ePUB format

Open source, open standard, based on XHTML 1.1, CSS 2, XML, wrapped in a Zip file. No inherent DRM.

Strengths include it being open source, modern technology & standards, broad industry support, wide consumer acceptance, robust formatting, and active development.

Weaknesses include multiple rendering engines, not HTML5, development has been slow, no good development tools, lots of misinformation, and competing DRM standards.

Can create with InDesign CS4, calibre, epub-tools, RoboHelp/FrameMaker. Can buy from many stores.

DRM is the bane of the ePUB world. Two competing DRM standards: Fairplay (Apple only), and Adobe Content Server (Sony, nook, etc.)

Other formats include .LIT, from Microsoft, but not really maintained, and eReader (PDB), formerly Palm Digital Reader, now owned by Barnes & Noble, but it's difficult to format, and B&M moving to ePUB. Smashwords is another, but it's really just a Word document formatted by their style guide, but it's a good way to get work out there.

eBook devices

Kindle 1, decent hardware, SD card option, 4-color grayscale, no longer for sale.

Kindle 2, 16-color grayscale, better processor, no SD card storage.

Kindle DX, 9.7" E-ink screen (E-ink is a low-power, non-reflecting screen, allows for long battery life, only draws power when changing screen, but B&W only.)

Sony Pocket Edition, Sony's smallest and cheapest, only 200 MHz processor, less storage than Kindle.

Sony Touch Edition PRS-600, about the same as Kindle 2, but has a touch screen.

Sony Daily Edition, 3G access (via AT&T), 7.1 inch touchscreen.

Barnes & Noble nook, 6-inch E-ink screen, 16-color grayscale (but color section on bottom for navigation)

Plastic Logic QUE, 105-inch E-ink touchscreen, business device, reads PDF, WORD, PowerPoint, high price.

iPhone & iPod Touch, can read a variety of documents depending on the app installed.

iPad, 9.7-inch screen, ePUB, eReader/PDB, Mobi/Kindle, iBooks, Stanza, and more.

Android devices, ePUB, eReader/PDB, and more (Archos 5 is a 5-inch tablet that runs Android.)

DRM systems

Adobe Digital Editions Protection Technology (ADEPT)

Apple Fairplay

Pros: possibly protects content from piracy.

Cons: Makes purchasing and using content difficult, interoperability issues, ties consumer to single source, effectiveness against content privacy unproven.

eBook market is growing at 200% per year, but still too much fragmentation now to know what the eBook market is going to look like 3 or 4 years from now. 

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