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Sony To Convert Online Bookstore To Open Format

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-sony dept.

Sony 107

Dr_Barnowl writes "The BBC reports that Sony is to convert its online bookstore to the EPUB format. While this format still allows DRM, it's supported on a much wider variety of readers. Is this a challenge to the Kindle? It's nice to see Sony opening up to the idea of open standards. Even if you still have reservations about buying a Sony device, you might be able to patronize their bookstore sometime soon."

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Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075833)

From a construction page [hxa.name] it looks to rely on XHTML, CSS and XML which, like both the open doc formats, makes complete sense. Not only is it trivial for me to build a document but with a very simple XSLT I can transform all of my epub files to very readable web pages. What boggles my mind is how long XML has been out there and yet we have to wait until now for big companies like Sony to adopt this over something like Amazon's AZW file format. The epub format looks simple and elegant and logical ... I'm honestly a little bit scared that I'm missing something since it's root kit Sony using it.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (3, Informative)

Ardaen (1099611) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075871)

Sony is such a large company, the left hand probably has no clue what the right hand is doing. Give it time, I'm sure eventually the evil root kit department will catch on. The format supports some DRM, I'm sure using that and creative interpretations of the standards they can break interoperability.

After all, why sell a customer a working product when you can repeatedly sell them replacements for a defective product? I say this as I remember how Sony portable music players went from high quality near-indestructible products to DRM ridden a few years ago.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (2, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075957)

After all, why sell a customer a working product when you can repeatedly sell them replacements for a defective product?

Ah, the joys of capitalism. My 35 year old Soviet radio in the kitchen still works perfectly.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076045)

It should be noted, a good many 35 year old(and rather older [antiqueradio.org] ) capitalist radios are still humming along.

What you are experiencing is the joy of (relatively simple) standards.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076489)

Eh. Every 35-year old thing you have sitting around had better be working, or you're just a pack rat.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076923)

Sure, but the new ones are shit. I'm probably going to cry when my mid-80's digital alarm clock gives out. You can't get them with a proper circuit board any more, they're all printed boards that will die pretty quickly.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#29081745)

They're also much cheaper in real terms - i.e. work out how many hours an average worker needs to work to buy a radio now compared to 35 years ago. That being said I'm sure there are people still making clock radios that will last a long time, they're just more expensive.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

Unipuma (532655) | more than 5 years ago | (#29081809)

Which is part of current culture's problems. It's cheaper to make some disposable piece of crap, and in 30 years time, we toss about 6 devices away, filling up a huge junkpile.
We could have spend just a little more, and have something that actually keeps working, but then you'd not have the newest and most shiny device all the time, and hey, we just ship our (toxic) waste over to China anyway, so who cares. And if you don't have the money to buy the latest shiny thing, just borrow it. There's nothing wrong with spending more money than you own and can pay back your loans for, is there????

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076683)

After all, why sell a customer a working product when you can repeatedly sell them replacements for a defective product?

Ah, the joys of capitalism. My 35 year old Soviet radio in the kitchen still works perfectly.

Does your Beta deck still work?

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29078077)

Radio is still a standard supported by CURRENT products.

Beta is not.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (0, Offtopic)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 5 years ago | (#29085741)

Radio is still a standard supported by CURRENT products.

Not for long.
Seriously, the switch-off of analogue radio is looming almost as fast as the switch-off of analogue TV.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29079813)

Used a Betamax C7 just months ago for fun. It records and plays fine. There was also a super high end Betamax SLC9 (I guess) which has amazing features like invisibly marking tape with equal kind of electronics... It worked too.

In fact, if Sony (and others) made similar kind of quality electronics today, they would go chapter 11 because of the price (no Chinese sweatshops) and the quality (why change if it works?).

We, customers looking for 10 bucks cheaper products created this mess and now bitching about it. Look to those legendary devices, computers, none of them are made in dictatorships. They were made by properly educated, paid workers.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 5 years ago | (#29079973)

Technology has been improving at rates that were unimaginable when your Betamax was built. It is in such a state of flux right now that there's no value in a 30 year old video player, phone, music player, display device, etc.

A simple device designed to do one job that used a glut of resources to build lasted 30 years (25 of it off and in a box somewhere). What a marvel of craftsmanship.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076735)

Most old radios work because they're just a simple fucking radio. Now if you old soviet communism still worked, that would be impressive.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

Verunks (1000826) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076865)

After all, why sell a customer a working product when you can repeatedly sell them replacements for a defective product?

Ah, the joys of capitalism. My 35 year old Soviet radio in the kitchen still works perfectly.

in soviet russia the radio hear you

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#29078429)

Sorry, correction:
In Soviet America TV watches you.

This correction inspired by an invention that the cable companies recently voted invention of the year. It allows them to tell which channel is currently being watched by which TVs.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29080341)

And my 50 year old capitalist valve set still works fine too.

Sorry, what was your point again?

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#29084605)

Well, they designed it to keep working, so the audio bug in it is less likely to be detected. If it breaks, at the very least, they will either have to sneak another bug into your home, or you (or your repairman) may discover the bug and then you'll go on a hunt for all the other bugs in your home and office.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 5 years ago | (#29080519)

In music, Sony sells the player and new content.

In books, Sony sells the reader, but only gives away old content.

Ergo, Sony is open in this device category because the company has no IP interest in the field. If Sony were to buy a publisher, things might change.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (4, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075931)

That was actually one of the goals for the format--all you need to make an ePub is a text editor and a zip utility. However, the zip file must be assembled a certain way (a mimetype file must be the first file and zipped with no compression so the rest of the file starts at a certain byte offset). I've been fiddling around with the format for a few months and it's really quite nice and fairly robust (as far as ebook formatting goes).

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076085)

Because zipping some text files normally would have been far to horrendous to even contemplate.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077467)

What's the advantage of epub over a simple html file?

I read books with http://www.fbreader.org/ [fbreader.org] and it supports both epub and html (and other formats too).

Most of my books are html files so I get boldface chapter headings and whatnot (prettier than a txt file). What does epub add that I don't get with html?

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077551)

Metadata (book title, author, publisher, title image, etc.) and machine-readable separation into chapters mostly. Additionally, it's compressed (as was already stated in the GP), which is a pretty big deal for human-readable text.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077649)

Metadata (book title, author, publisher, title image, etc.) and machine-readable separation into chapters mostly.
 
Interesting. Not that it's of much direct value to me with most books (who cares if a novel is separated into chapters, I'm not particularly interested in most cover art, and I keep the title and author as part of the filename. On the other hand, I can see where the chapter thing could be useful for technical manuals.
 
Additionally, it's compressed (as was already stated in the GP), which is a pretty big deal for human-readable text.
 

FBReader can read compressed html. "Herman Melville - Moby Dick.html.bz2" works fine with FBReader.
 
Thanks for the answer! I've learned something.

Call me cynical (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076583)

But I think Sony using this in practice in the way you describe is considerably less likely than Microsoft porting Exchange to FreeBSD.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076669)

Just to clarify, the Sony reader (I own a PR505) had embraced the ePUB format quite while ago.

So this is really a matter of Sony converting their older proprietary book document to ePUB to capture a larger ebook marketplace. It's not an epiphany, it's just a minor marketing evolution.

And YES, Kindle take note!

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

jonored (862908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076905)

AZW is actually mobipocket format with a token change (Device IDs for azw allow a character that isn't allowed for mobi), which in turn is ePub packaged to fit into a palm DB.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (1)

jonored (862908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076927)

er, apparently I was mixing up OPF, (Also XML based, looks almost the same) and ePub. Oh well.

No, never. The Sony rootkit requires response (1)

JimmytheGeek (180805) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077091)

Corporate dissolution is suitable, since you can't incarcerate a fictitious person.

Re:No, never. The Sony rootkit requires response (1)

Boycott BMG (1147385) | more than 5 years ago | (#29078371)

Actually, the corporation responsible for the rootkit, Sony-BMG, no longer exists. Sony-BMG was a 50-50 venture combining Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG). About a year ago, Bertelsmann decided to get out of the music business, and sold its stake to Sony, so Sony now owns 100% of a music publisher again. Convoluted, I know, but that is the nature of large conglomerates like Sony and Bertelsmann.

Re:Great Scott! It Actually Makes Sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29077527)

Here's another page on constructing an ePub file [jedisaber.com] . It's much easier than I thought, and the page has a nice set of template files. And the format is supported by Calibre [kovidgoyal.net] , which is a great tool for converting between ebook formats.

The thing is, we should have been at this point a long time ago ... but noooooo. Every company had to try their own hairbrained proprietary scheme and hope they could get everyone else to conform to it and pay royalties, even though the basic idea is, well, kind of obvious these days (some kind of XTML/CSS-based format).

I suppose some patent troll will probably try to undermine ePub too.

Are we sure we're actually talking about Sony? (3, Interesting)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075857)

Sony? The company that brought us Memory Sticks, UMDs, Betamaxes, Minidiscs, and hundreds of other propietary formats, using an open standard?

*head explodes*

Seriously, I'm glad that Sony is starting to open up a bit. In addition to the usual Memory Stick slot, Sony's new eBook readers come with Secure Digital slots too. Things like this are making me seriously consider buying a Sony for my first eBook reader.

Re:Are we sure we're actually talking about Sony? (4, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076131)

Sony do seem to be mellowing a bit, and I think that should be encouraged as much as possible.

I was surprised to find that the Playstation 3 supports standard USB gamepads in all games. Anyone can make a compatible controller for the PS3 now, and in fact have done so myself. On the other hand, the XBOX 360 uses some kind of cryptographic authentication to make sure that no-one except Microsoft authorised third parties can make controllers (read: you have to pay them lots of money).

Re:Are we sure we're actually talking about Sony? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076881)

I'd like to see Sony open up the PS3 just a little bit more, so that Linux can use the fancy graphics hardware. Even if it were via a library licensed in such a way that only Free Software could use it (so that commercial games would still be forced to kick money back to Sony), if such a thing is legally possible, that would be fine by me. That would be enough to make me quit boycotting Sony!

Re:Are we sure we're actually talking about Sony? (1)

DinDaddy (1168147) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077199)

They probably are quite scared to do that as it would open up the ability for people to play PS3 games under hacked conditions, with all that entails. And may violate some blu-ray consortium rules as well, for all I know.

Re:Are we sure we're actually talking about Sony? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077211)

I will still wait for the "extend" phase.

Re:Are we sure we're actually talking about Sony? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29083833)

I LOVE my Sony E-Book! Two months ago, I bought a Kindle DX (the big, latest one) for my favorite sister-in-law, but after messing with it, I'll stick to my Sony. Kept me going on ferries out to the end of the Alutian Chain (Alaska), and other remote work sites. Perfect for those of us with work that takes us to remote places in rough conditions.

Layer DRM on top? (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075875)

This is open-washing.

Is there a word for that? Like the eco companies green-wash, Sony, Microsoft etal have all been open-washing all their stuff lately and it just isn't open by the non corporate double speak definition.

Re:Layer DRM on top? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29075881)

I kind of like "open-washing."

Re:Layer DRM on top? (2, Interesting)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075909)

Googled openwashing and it only came up with 1,530 results, some of which where about open washing machines.

Whether this concept has an official name or not, open has lost its meaning, and only specific formats, licences and specifications have the property of open-ness as people around here would have it.
It's going to confuse the hell out of the public, now that consumers and companies have started to identify open-ness as a "DO WANT" attribute.

It's OUR language (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076639)

IBM tried this language takeover thing in the 1980's, and it didn't work out for them. Otherwise we'd all be calling hard drives "fixed disks" and motherboards "planar boards".

They can't have "open". It means what it means and I have do doubt that Sony's implementation won't fit the definition. We just need to point this out to the idiots who are abusing our language and the problem will go away.

Re:Layer DRM on top? (1, Informative)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075941)

I think it can be considered open/documented for other companies to use in their own devices, not open for users to access any content in this format whenever their heart desires. As evil as DRM is, consider this analogy: openssl doesn't magically allow everyone into your system, but it doesn't make it less deserving to be called "open".

Re:Layer DRM on top? (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076017)

That's grade A BS right there.

DRM is by design and by law not user modifiable. If it were, it wouldn't work at all because users would modify it to give themselves free access. OpenSSL, by contrast, can be modified by anyone to their hearts content: you can make it use "4" as a random number every single time it needs one if you wanted to (not that I'm recommending this, of course).

Your either inadvertent or intentional blurring of the meaning of the word "open" is exactly what MS did with its "Office Open XML" format, which is precisely what GP was pointing out.

Re:Layer DRM on top? (3, Interesting)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076179)

We're talking about different things.

DRM is by design and by law not user modifiable

Exactly my point. However, we're speaking here of the difference "This is our DRM method and we're not telling anyone how we've done it" and "This is our DRM method but any other developer can use the algorithms and substitute their own encryption keys". A piece of content crippled by either scheme remains crippled for the consumer, but the second case allows for reimplementations of the same thing by companies other than Sony. Have I made my point clearer?
And no, it is hard to consider OOXML "open" even by such a loose definition, because it isn't even possible to reimplement it due to poor documentation!

Re:Layer DRM on top? (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#29078507)

Re-implement? It isn't even possible to implement it ONCE!! The format that MS is calling OOXML doesn't meet the standard that they bought and paid for. (Except in a truly trivial sense that allows a zipped Czechoslovakian translation of a Japanese document to be legitimately called an OOXML version. You wouldn't BELIEVE the exceptions that thing allows! Just make it a binary blob with a one-time pad and it fits as legitimate OOXML...not that anything could read it. [Note: The particular thing that I'm thinking of could only save that one document, nothing else, and there isn't a program that could read it.])

Optional DRM layer on top. (1)

krischik (781389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29082603)

The DRM layer is optional - there are quite a few customer friendly eBook shops who sell without DRM.

If you buy a safe at a yard sale (2, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076701)

If you buy a safe at a yard sale, and it comes with the condition that you don't get the combination, but rather must gain the seller's assistance each time to insert or remove things, is the safe "open"? I think not.

Re:If you buy a safe at a yard sale (1)

DinDaddy (1168147) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077251)

It is if you take the door off.

Re:If you buy a safe at a yard sale (1)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077271)

You're damned right, it's not open to me the consumer. However, if the company making safes has published their blueprints for anyone to make their own safes of the same kind and purpose, I would definitely call such a safe (or rather, its blueprints) open to fellow safe manufacturers, despite the fact that all such safes would share its rather unfortunate trait to limit their owners' ability to operate them.

Re:Layer DRM on top? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076067)

DRM is an optional part of the open standard. DRM in itself is not evil - how most companies implement is.

I would fully support any DRM that does not assume I am a crook. Let me back up my purchase, let me lend my purchase and I'll support you

Re:Layer DRM on top? (4, Insightful)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076093)

It isn't "openwashing". There is a danger (to Sony) that the market for ebook hardware will be dominated by the big bookstores. Amazon and B&N, because books are their primary business, can provide a huge number of ebook titles, more than Sony's online store could ever hope to. These ebooks can only be read on their own devices (Amazon's ebooks on the Kindle, B&N's on the upcoming Plastic Logic device) and not on the Sony Reader, an Illiad device, or whatever. Well, they work on an iPhone, but that's a different market, not the e-Ink market. There is a danger to Sony that no matter how good or cheap their device is, people won't buy it because there's not a big catalog of books available for it.

So they hit on the idea of focusing on the ePub format, trying to make it the standard for sales of ebooks. If enough sellers go along with it, if most every non-Amazon and B&N seller goes along with it, then eventually there will be enough content usable on the Reader that Sony can compete with Amazon and B&N on things like hardware and price. They're trying to eliminate the big bookstores' inherent advantage, that's it. If a few people see this news and say, "Open formats, gee whiz, now I'll buy a Sony Reader" the so much the better (for Sony), but that's not their intention.

That said, the Sony Reader is also not really in need of "openwashing", because it's very good with open formats. This is strange to say about a Sony device, but it's true. The Reader already supports epub, which the Kindle doesn't. The Reader has always been better for open formats, even pdf (if you don't mind slow and cramped). You don't even need to use Sony's software. Just plug the thing in to a USB port and drag your ebooks over, like its an external flash drive. I've had a Reader (a PRS-505) since last fall and have read 60-70 full books on it. The only DRM that's gotten onto the machine was attached to a couple of pdf ebooks I checked out of the Chicago Public Library. The Reader has been quite happy with free and open files from Project Gutenberg, from Mobileread, what I've bought from a few small presses, and from what the excellent (free and open) Calibre software has pulled from the web for me.

Re:Layer DRM on top?YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077987)

There is a danger (to Sony) that the market for ebook hardware will be dominated by the big bookstores. Amazon and B&N, because books are their primary business, can provide a huge number of ebook titles, more than Sony's online store could ever hope to.

You clearly don't understand the eBook market at all. The cost of adding new eBooks to your online store is virtually nil, and eBook publishers want their books carried in every possible store unless someone very big (e.g. Amazon) is actually willing to pay for an exclusive eBook arrangement -- which is yet to happen AFAIK, and likely subject to legal action if it did. As such, there is no reason besides Sony's own refusal to carry a publisher (which has been the case with Sony to my own exact personal knowledge) on why it can't offer all the same titles as any other eBook vendor. It's all in what kind of deal Sony offers to the publishers. If Sony demands 90% of the list price to themselves then publishers may want to skip over them. So far, Fictionwise is the most "expensive" eBook publisher, and the only reason that they have gotten away with it so far is because they also sell the most books. With new competition opening up this may change and FW may have to become more reasonable.

Re:Layer DRM on top?YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#29078865)

You clearly don't understand the ebook format at all. In the last 3 years, I have bought 3, read it, "three" ebooks - the rest of my 200 title collection were free, both in price and licence. Maybe you are part of the consumer culture, but either way you are wrong. Sony sells hardware, they are not a publisher. And I don't even own a sony device. Maybe you want everything "owned" by some corporate entity, you get what you pay for I guess. Personally, I want what I have already paid for, for nothing. There is nothing new worth having, at least so far.

Amazon and B&N - both US (1)

krischik (781389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29082675)

Quite interesting how ever pro Amazon argument I find here on /. does not scale up world wide. News-break: Humans living outside the US can read as well. And even worse: we also got money as well to buy eReaders. I know you view of the world has just scattered but there it is.

And speaking of B&N: Fictionwise which is owned by B&N and sells work wide also offers ePUB. In fact B&N themselves plans to move to ePUB as well.

Re:Layer DRM on top? (1)

HAKdragon (193605) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076099)

Apple did the same thing with AAC when the iTunes music store first came out.

Re:Layer DRM on top? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29081321)

This is open-washing.

Yes Several: Lies, FUD, Bullshit, Horseshit, Marketing

Patronizing (4, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075935)

...you might be able to patronize their bookstore sometime soon...

Heck I can do that right now. Nice to see you joining the 20th century Sony!

Actually Sony was first (1)

krischik (781389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29082699)

Just to set things right: Sony had an eBook reader and an eBook shop before Amazon. And Sony is selling world wide - something that Amazon did no manage yet. So Sony is changing there already existing eBook reader and an eBook shop to be more attractive to customers world wide.

While Amazon only has the tiny advantage of being most successful in the US.

Okay, but... (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075969)

I have a first gen Sony reader and the thing that sold it to me was that it could read RTF and PDF formats, so I don't get why this is news.

Re:Okay, but... (1)

estarriol (864512) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076585)

Yes... and this is hardly the first time recently that Sony have erred on the side of openness. The PS3 uses a standard laptop hard drive (even replaceable by the user without breaking warranty), standard USB keyboards and gamepads, standard USB mass storage driver, standard bluetooth for headsets and even (at least on the original models) had card reader slots for a wide range of standard memory cards. It's the most open interconnected console ever.

Compare it to the Micro$oft XBox 360 and it's practically the posterboy of openness.

Sony did a bad bad thing for a long time, but they are *really* cleaning their act up now. Time for them to get some positive karma for it, eh?

The most open interconnected console ever? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076729)

Let's go with a Dave Barry quote here: That's like calling a plant the most eloquent asparagus ever.

Re:The most open interconnected console ever? (1)

estarriol (864512) | more than 5 years ago | (#29081701)

OK, I'll bite. What level of interconnectivity "should" consoles be doing? Or what level would actually impress you, if that's a more appropriate question?

this is a good move (4, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#29075977)

This really is a great move on Sony's part. I've had a Sony Reader for a few months now, and I've really taken to the ePub format (especially compared to Sony's LRF/LRX format). First, the Adobe ADEPT DRM scheme has been cracked, so I can decrypt all the books I buy. And second, because the ePub format itself is relatively simple to understand, I can easily go through my books and reformat them the way that I prefer (use a certain body font, change the margins and paragraph indents, remove blank lines between paragraphs, etc). The problem was that there were only a handful of ebook sellers in the US that sell books in the ePub format. However, it's pretty prevalent in Europe and elsewhere in the world, so I've been buying my books from overseas (and some have even been cheaper than their domestic non-ePub counterparts thanks to the weak dollar). But being able to buy new books in ePub format straight from the Sony bookstore for $9.99 a pop is pretty enticing. I'm looking forward to the transition.

Re:this is a good move (1)

dmoynihan (468668) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076007)

What on earth are you talking about?

Where are you buying books overseas? Only WH Smith [whsmith.co.uk] and Waterstones [waterstones.com] have epub books overseas, neither has more than maybe 12,000 titles, and the collapse of the dollar means that books priced in pounds are far more expensive for readers here.

Your comment is entirely nonsensical. It's almost as though you were a planted commenter for Adobe, [slashdot.org] the provider of DRM for Sony's openwashed reader.

Re:this is a good move (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076063)

What on earth am I talking about? Many books at WHSmith and Waterstones are £5-6, which comes out to ~$10 after conversion fees. Compare that to many of those same books going for $12-14 at Books on Board or Diesel eBooks (really the only two US ebooksellers that support ePub), and the choice really becomes a no-brainer.

As for being a plant, just because I can see the value in certain companies' technologies, it doesn't mean I'm on anyone's payroll. Ideally Sony (and any other ebookseller) will dump Adobe's DRM scheme (which is nothing more than a nuisance). But for the time being, it's something I can live with, mainly because it's been cracked and can be removed easily. And don't tell me I should spend all my time reading Bain's DRM-free books--I'm really not a fan of pulp scifi. I tend to prefer literary fiction and nonfiction.

Re:this is a good move (1)

dmoynihan (468668) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076089)

But those sites don't have literary fiction in any quantity... come on, the inventory's tiny.

Re:this is a good move (2, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076211)

You're right--the literary selection is fairly small. For instance, I can't get my Nabokov, Calvino, Borges, etc there (for now at least). But thankfully, I already have bookshelves full of their works. Going forward, though, many newly published books are being made available electronically, so I'm able to pick up a lot of what's been released in the past few years (though I'm still waiting for an ePub version of the new Pynchon that came out last week). And at the same time, the back catalogs are slowly expanding, too.

It's true at the moment that ebook devices are primarily the realm of genre fiction (romance, scifi, endless cashcow series, etc). But as more people adopt e-reading devices, ebooks will eventually break out of those restraints. And I'm willing to help lead that charge.

I got a pretty good deal on my reader, and since I've bought it, my bookreading has just about tripled. What used to be a book every week or two has now turned into a book every 3 or 4 days. I still prefer the typographic aesthetics of printed books, but I'm willing to make some sacrifices in order to satiate my desire to read. That's why I may seem pretty gung-ho about this whole ebook thing (and hence welcome this move by Sony). Purchasing my reader truly has changed my reading habits.

Re:this is a good move (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076177)

the collapse of the dollar means that books priced in pounds are far more expensive for readers here.

I presume you're not from the United States then? The US Dollar has increased in value by over 25% against Sterling over the mid 2008 price and, ignoring the last 10 months of financial turmoil, is pretty much at a five year high against the Pound.

Earlier this year you could buy 1GBP for less than $1.40 - compared to around $2.10 at the Dollar's weakest point last year.

Re:this is a good move (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076239)

You're right, I got my POVs mixed up. The last time I purchased something from the UK was a number of years ago, when the exchange rate was about 2-to-1. Since it's now at about 1.60-to-1, I welcome the change. But you're right, it's because the value of the dollar has gone up in respect to the pound and not vice-versa.

Breaking News: The are more countrie the US and GB (1)

krischik (781389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29081749)

Re:this is a good move (1)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076943)

A while back I bought a used Kindle so I could use it solely to read library books, which is possible with a few scripts that have already been talked about here on Slashdot. But now my local libraries are providing almost all of their new ebooks on EPUB format, not Mobi (Kindle's format). If you want to check out library books with an E-Ink device, Sony is the way to go.

Re:this is a good move (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076979)

Funnily enough, my local library is still using PDF and Mobi formats. Since PDF displays, but isn't reflowable, I've been checking out the Mobi files, decrypting, and converting to ePub. But apparently ePub support for my library system is coming.

Re:this is a good move (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077165)

I'd love to have a Kindle or a Sony reader but they don't sell the content in Amazon's case the device outside the US, in Sony's case the books outside of US, Canada and UK. Boo. The next comparable digital ink ereader I've saw is in the ±1000US price range. There are others that are about the same price but use LCD screens.

Re:this is a good move (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29077357)

I'd love to have a Kindle or a Sony reader but they don't sell the content in Amazon's case the device outside the US, in Sony's case the books outside of US, Canada and UK. Boo. The next comparable digital ink ereader I've saw is in the ±1000US price range. There are others that are about the same price but use LCD screens.

Both W.H. Smith and Waterstones will sell to anyone who has a credit card. And you can buy from the Sony store from anywhere in the world using a gift card. Over at the Mobile Read forums are several people who will purchase gift cards for you if you are outside the US.

Can they de-sell products to you? (0, Troll)

PinchDuck (199974) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076013)

If they can't, then I generally support the move. However, I have a hard time believing that Sony "Root Kit" Corporation would do anything that would actually allow the users a measure of freedom with their products. I remain skeptical.

And meanwhile in East Texas (3, Funny)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076065)

A patent troll company is filing a lawsuit to stop this sudden outburst of common sense by Sony in its tracks.

Re:And meanwhile in East Texas (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076793)

common sense by Sony in its tracks.

As in abolishing ATRAC-3 for audio TRACKS?

*ducks*

Re:And meanwhile in East Texas (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076993)

They did abolish ATRAC some time ago, for the US and Europe at least. They shut down the Connect store and told everyone to convert their ATRAC to some other format because they were stopping support for it.

Re:And meanwhile in East Texas (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077511)

...it was a really bad play on words. Loosen up!

ebook devices (3, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076103)

One more thing to mention about this. Since Sony will be opening up the bookstore to any ebook reader that supports Adobe-encrypted ePubs, there's a page that lists the devices [adobe.com] that use this particular DRM scheme. (The Bookeen Cybook Opus is apparently a very nice little device.) Ideally the DRM scheme will eventually be abandoned (much like it was for iTunes) and any non-DRM-supporting ePub reader will be supported. But for the time being, there's a fairly decent selection of devices that will be able to be used with the Sony store once the transition is completed.

It's a shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076107)

Damn, this sucks.

I was hoping Sony would stubbornly attempt to refuse the adoption of open standards. I was hoping Sony would continue to take the line they have for the past decade+: restrictive formats for media both on a software and hardware level, mandating how a user should use their products, and generally trying to tap the user for as much cash as possible.

I hoped they would continue to do this because I think it would break them. I think the issues of open formats (and generally the nonrestrictive use of electronic devices) has gained enough traction nowadays to become a factor that companies cannot ignore; whereas in the past they could do so with relative impunity.

I'll admit to being very bitter but it's a shame that Sony might be able to get away with screwing people for years on end and then suddenly change it up simply because they cannot afford continue their extortion practices any more.

Oh well, free market and all that. Keep fighting the good fight Howard Stringer.

66819a6ac5d64d52436b4958ba72a6e047186d80

Bad, bad sign (2, Funny)

cbraescu1 (180267) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076133)

It's a bad, bad sign (for Sony, that is). The next marketing coup could only be a happy-faces-announcement that their book reader went Open Source... and you know what this means about the viability of that product / company...

Sony lost badly the first *war* (not just battles) with Amazon. Now they are trying to retreat, regroup and make alliances. In the meanwhile, Amazon keeps selling their Kindle ebook readers and receiving tons of money.

If I were Sony I would run away from this line of business as fast as I could. Now it's just Amazon, next year it would (might) be also Apple with their tablet.

Not where I live... (1)

krischik (781389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29082455)

...is Amazon selling tons of devices. In fact they sell almost zero. I would think that world wide Sony is selling more the Amazon. Of course we don't know that as no one is releasing sales figures.

If anybody need to retreat and regroup it's Amazon after there European T-Online and Vodafone deals went sour.

I know that /. is US-centric - but the eBook market isn't and only 5% of the word population lives in the States.

Martin

DRM? (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076227)

While the market is still burgeoning, content providers arenâ(TM)t going to back any e-book format that doesnâ(TM)t protect their copyright, so at least for now, digital rights management (DRM) is a fact of life.

Okay then, move along, nothing to see here. Safari Books Online lets me download technical books in DRM-free PDF format. Feedbooks lets me download public domain and creative commons fiction in DRM-free PDF format (I've just finished reading Ventus [feedbooks.com] , which I'd thoroughly recommend). Why on earth would I buy DRM'd eBooks?

Re:DRM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076941)

so you can read the twilight saga and the Harry potter novels

(**DUCKS**)

PDF doesn't compare favorably to ePub (1)

Shane dot H (1615249) | more than 5 years ago | (#29078651)

PDF is terrible for small screens. Although the text can be zoomed and/or reflowed, it's still a pain in the ass to read text that has been formatted for A4 sized paper on a 6 inch display. It's better to have a dedicated ebook format where the formatting metadata is designed specifically with these displays in mind. And of course, ePub, while it allows for DRM (just like PDF), doesn't require DRM. PDF is a great standard for what it's used for - not necessarily ebooks for dedicated ebook readers, though.

Not really as "open" as all that (2, Informative)

Robotech_Master (14247) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076535)

As the Wall Street Journal points out [wsj.com] , they're going to be layering Adobe's proprietary DRM on top of the ePub. So even if ePub is itself an open format, it's going to be contaminated by Adobe DRM. (There's still no way to read Adobe DRM'd books on the iPhone/iPod Touch, by the way, unless you crack them.)

Re:Not really as "open" as all that (1)

Bruce Stephens (6634) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077019)

Quite. So to buy/use one of these ebooks in this "open" format I need Adobe Digital Editions, available only on Windows or Mac. There are surely worse formats, but this one doesn't seem especially free software friendly.

Be careful with desktop e-books (with DRM) (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29079847)

Just a warning in case you change your mind or get compatibility. Adobe Digital Editions are pretty down to "demo level". There isn't even a dedicated application. There is some Adobe Air thing which you can't buy anything.

Always have at least 3 downloads guarantee while doing anything with DRM books and make sure there is no time limit. I am saying these as I stare to a Kim Stanley Robinson e-book which I could never read after changing my mac, adobe lost interest, amazon changed to something else etc.

Well, still better than paying more price to shipping and handling rather than the author himself. (not in USA here)

It's Not Sony, It's the Market (1, Insightful)

machineghost (622031) | more than 5 years ago | (#29077147)

Sony has not "gone open" in any significant sense at all; the only thing they deserve credit only for is making a good business decision. Think about it: when Apple started the iTunes store, they were creating the marketplace, so they went proprietary. Then Amazon came in to the MP3 market, and "went open" because they were the one locked out of the marketplace.

Same thing is happening with eBooks: because Amazon created the marketplace, they went proprietary. Now Sony wants to break in, so suddenly they're all about open formats. But it has nothing to do with Sony in general. You can bet that the next time they think they can get another Walkman, they'll go to the mat with another Betamax/VHS, Blue-Ray/HDDVD, etc. fight to the death over their latest proprietary format.

Sony 3's controlling proprietary formats, they always have, and they (almost certainly) always will. They just settle for open formats when they're late to the table.

Re:It's Not Sony, It's the Market (2, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29079783)

If you ask audio and video professionals, there hasn't been a single proprietary, undocumented Sony device which doesn't tie to some mpeg standard ever.

Betamax is proprietary? For God's sake, they invented VIDEO, it better be proprietary. VHS was the same deal too, it was just JVC was clever to license it to rivals and nothing else.

BluRay is H264, AAC, VC1, Java, all open formats in 50 GB of space which movie industry desperately needs to race with pirates. Dolby/DTS audio codecs are "secrets everyone knows" BTW.

Let me tell what actually happened. First, Sony has a new CEO. Second: Amazon was really stupid to play games with intellectuals who READS BOOKS and abuse their DRM. Sony guys also reads slashdot etc. and they have seen comments like "at least Sony e-reader exists", from NY Times respected authors to. So, they wanted to milk the situation in hand benefiting end users.

Same goes for Amazon Mp3 store. If iTMS and the horrible myth that iTunes has own, secret codec didn't exist, Amazon would happily deal with MS and go with Wmedia DRM. Wanna bet?

You bet it is competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29077299)

When Sony, of all companies, finally understands that the biggest problem holding back ebook adoption is not the hardware, not the software generally, but the DRM restrictions and users' reaction to them, they are going to be the ones to make headway over the competition.

Call me crazy, but maybe after the last 2 decades or so of Sony killing its own products with ridiculous DRM, proprietary schemes, and other follies, they more than anyone else have the experience to realize playing the DRM game isn't worth the hassle when it costs them money and their customers don't want it. Maybe they're finally turning a corner?

Good luck Sony. Ever since the rootkit fiasco I didn't think I'd ever be saying that.

ePUB won't kill Kindle (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#29078025)

Claims that ePUB will kill Kindle are clearly bogus. All that Kindle needs to read ePUB books is a software update. If the market is getting away from Amazon because of a lack of ePUB compatibility then expect to see an ePUB update made available. Until then, they're doing quite well with Kindle since you don't need Kindle hardware to read Kindle books. Free Kindle readers for iPhone/iPod Touch are already available and expect them on other platforms soon. And these readers all integrate back to your Kindle if you have one (i.e. pick up reading on any one device right where you left off on the other one). I don't think Amazon is in any danger at all yet, and has good options to respond if they do find themselves in that situation. For now they're the iPod of eBooks.

only 5% of world population live in the US (1)

krischik (781389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29082521)

As a German living in Switzerland I find postings like your rather amusing. I know that /. is US centric but that should not stop you from thinking more globally.

Yes Amazon dominates the US eBook market - but that is only 5% of human population. Amazon's T-Online and Vodafone deals when sour - so a world wide release for Kindle is further that ever.

More and more eBook shop go DRM free and DRM free ePUB can be read fine on your beloved iPhone.

As it is Sony dominates the market outside the US and Amazon inside and all bets are still open.

Martin

Re:ePUB won't kill Kindle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29082643)

The iPod of eBooks? Do we have any kind of numbers from Amazon that would support that claim? The only way they are the iPod of eBooks right now is that they have the most buzz.

And if this move forces the Kindle to release a software update to support an open format, I say, "Mission accomplished." Nobody hates the Kindle because of the hardware. Most complaints about the price of the device and/or the DRMed closed format.

Re:ePUB won't kill Kindle (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29085081)

If Amazon is making anything on the Kindle, it ain't much. But selling e-Books is almost pure profit. Bandwidth is cheap in quantity. Amazon has no incentive to make it easier to load the competitor's books except remaining relevant. But then, the Kindle will have to sell for more money, and it will be less appealing. So ePub support on Kindle would kill its dominance. At that point there's little reason for Amazon to remain involved with the hardware.

Do you believe them? Really? (1, Flamebait)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 5 years ago | (#29080281)

We're talking about the rootkit corporation. The one that had the people making mod chips arrested. The one that has fought against open standards long and hard for a lot of years. Don't think so? When was the first Sony portable music player released, and when was the first one that supported anything other than Sony's proprietary formats released?

Sony is an interesting corporation and they do turn out some useful devices (along with some turkeys) - but one thing they are absolutely not good at is "open standards" and anyone who believes their public relations BS on this subject is a fool.

Re:Do you believe them? Really? (2, Insightful)

AmigaBen (629594) | more than 5 years ago | (#29080819)

When was the first Sony portable music player released, and when was the first one that supported anything other than Sony's proprietary formats released?

Uhm, 1979 and 1979? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkman#Cassette-based_walkman [wikipedia.org]

But DRM _is_ the problem. (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 5 years ago | (#29083681)

My Rocket eBook, manufactured by Nuvomedia (and later by Gemstar), finally dropped dead. I have about $300 worth of purchased content for it. It is DRM-protected and keyed to a serial number that is embedded in the device.

The customer representatives that could tell the server to re-encode it for a device with a different serial number have been laid off. The servers capable of re-encoding it have been shut down. And the company who has the records proving I own the content is long out of business.

What good would an open format have done me? I believe the Rocket eBook file format has long since been reverse-engineered. An open format would be nice, but the problem is the DRM, not the format. The free market has shown itself to be fairly capable producing format converters via reverse-engineering; they're not perfect, but they're at least as good as Microsoft's ability to convert from one version of Word to another!

DRM is not acceptable to me until it meets these criteria:

a) It indeed manages digital rights. That is, it is actually aligned with the true legal rights the vendor has, and does not permit the vendor to arbitrarily impose any restrictions it wishes.

b) It must give me what I get from a book: the right to fair use (such as photocopying portions of it if they are short enough for me to have taken longhand notes); the right to lend it to a friend, the right to sell it to a used-book store, the right to buy used copies, the right to expect it to be readable for a hundred years.

c) It must be fail-safe. If the company goes out of business, the book must not become worthless just because some electronic gadget reached its natural end-of-life.

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