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Publishers Campaign For Universal E-Book Format

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the they-also-want-a-pony dept.

Books 348

As the battle rages for control of the e-book market, publishers are starting to unite behind a common desire: a universal e-book format. David Shanks, chief executive at Penguin Group USA, said, "Our fondest wish is that all the devices become agnostic so that there isn’t proprietary formats and you can read wherever you want to read. First we have to get a standard that everybody embraces." The company's president, Susan Petersen Kennedy, explained that book publishers did not want to "make the same mistakes as the music industry, which had an epic struggle over electronic distribution and piracy and lost huge market share."

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348 comments

ePub (5, Insightful)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410738)

Issue solved. Everyone should just listen to me.

Re:ePub (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32410762)

Or how about PDF? LAWLAWL!!!!111oneoneone

Re:ePub (3, Insightful)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410874)

If I recall (it's been awhile since I've taken an engineering course) the first rule of engineering is if it isn't broken, don't fix it. Why reinvent the wheel when ePub is a perfectly good standard that is already darn near universal.

Re:ePub (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410952)

In that case, use DVI for binaries and LaTeX2e for raw ASCII.

Re:ePub (4, Informative)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411170)

One of the problems with epub format is there is no standard drm layer - in a sense thats one of the problems with PDF. PDF is an iso standard, perfectly fine for publication, but allows 3rd party security handlers - you can use Adobe's, or you can use one of a dozen other ones - and that in itself is the big problem with ebooks today.

Re:ePub (2, Informative)

mike260 (224212) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411298)

Plus PDF is only really for fixed layouts, so it's not much use if you want the same file to target both a phone and a tablet.

Re:ePub (2, Insightful)

Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411332)

One of the good things with epub format is there is no standard drm layer

There, fixed that for you.

Seriously though, what's wrong with plain old PDF? I know EPUB is good for text, but poorly suited for things demanding a specialized layout like comics, but PDF handles that just fine. If you can plug in any DRM layer you want (or none; that's my preference), then what else do you need? Not having a standardized DRM would be good because it will immediately be cracked and then your standard is effectively dead. Well, dead if you want to actually use it with DRM, but what publisher in their right mind would want that...

Re:ePub (5, Informative)

Nakor BlueRider (1504491) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410948)

ePub is a really good choice. Aside from the fact that it's an open standard, it has the option to plug in any DRM the publisher wants to use/write for it. Hopefully they eventually learn better, but since for now they won't settle for anything that doesn't include a DRM option, that's an advantage for it. It's specifically designed for reading books on an eBook reader, including keeping track of where the pages actually change (when reading at different zoom levels). I'm honestly a bit surprised the industry isn't already switching to it.

That said, I'm not fond of the Adobe Digital Editions DRM that it tends to come packed with at the moment on DRM'd books. The required software is not very good quality. The eReader style DRM is at least a lot easier to work with. (Of course, DRM-free remains the ultimate goal; at this point I pretty much only buy DRM-free eBooks anyway.)

Re:ePub (4, Insightful)

Rary (566291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410994)

Issue solved. Everyone should just listen to me.

Issue not solved.

It seems to me that the main complaint about ePub is that it is text-centric, and doesn't do well with any book that requires a particular formatting, or includes anything other than text. That means no comic books, obviously, but it also eliminates many Kurt Vonnegut novels, among others.

Re:ePub (2, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411070)

It seems to me that the main complaint about ePub is that it is text-centric, and doesn't do well with any book that requires a particular formatting

That's what PDF is for. An ebook format should explicitly *not* allow for fixed layouts, as it interferes with reflow on mixed display sizes.

That means no comic books, obviously

Comics belong in a completely different format. They should be stored as pages of panels plus page-level layout with graphics, with the user having the option to view the original, full page layout (to appreciate the art of the original composition), or individual/groups of panels for reading on smaller-screen devices. It makes absolutely no sense to cram them into an ebook format.

Re:ePub (2, Insightful)

Rary (566291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411194)

But wouldn't it make sense to have one format that has the flexibility to handle different types of books? From a publisher's perspective, why would they want a different file format for their graphic novels than their text-only books? Why would they want to sell certain authors who happen to enjoy playing around with the layout of their pages separately from all the rest?

I'm not saying ePub isn't a good starting point, but to have the "issue solved", as the original poster stated, it needs a bit more flexibility.

Of course, none of this really matters, as the issue the publishers are really struggling with is which DRM to support universally.

Re:ePub (5, Interesting)

elh_inny (557966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411118)

I actually consult for Penguin (but also other publishers so hopefully I am not as biased), I am also on the ePub committee and I must tell that at least in it's current form epub is not the solution to all forms of content.
Also Apple tends to do unspecified things to epub deliveries and standard compliant epubs fail Apple check, but it's hard to blame them yet, they're just trying
Moreover it is the publisher who chooses to wrap their epubs in DRM or not so Penguin, not Apple is causing the incompatibilities to some extent.
Amazon is obviously the biggest offender with their proprietary outdated format which is almost the same but not quite an epub.

I also agree that epub is the most sensible solution right now, but like I said it's not there yet and simply doesn't work for non-reflowable content (think anything rich media, graphic or design heavy) which is a lot of content...

Suggestion: (1)

doconnor (134648) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410744)

HTML

Re:Suggestion: (1, Offtopic)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410838)

HTML

Which of the eighty nine thousand variations?

Re:Suggestion: (1)

doconnor (134648) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410866)

Any of the eighty eight thousand variations that modern web browsers and handle.

Re:Suggestion: (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410916)

Any of the eighty eight thousand variations that modern web browsers and handle.

I wonder how the typographical types like Knuth and the graphics arts types like Tufte would react to the idea of not knowing how their pages will render.

Yeah for pot boiler romances no problemo, but some folks will have a cow at the idea that their page might be formatted into something they literally can't imagine by a device they know nothing about.

Re:Suggestion: (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410992)

For Boones and Mill-type books, it not only doesn't matter what it renders like, it doesn't matter if the pages are in order either. Nobody reads them for the plot. I'd argue LaTeX/DVI or Postscript, as then all devices (from speech synthesizers to graphical displays) will work.

Re:Suggestion: (2, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411222)

I wonder how the typographical types like Knuth and the graphics arts types like Tufte would react to the idea of not knowing how their pages will render.

They generally haven't tackled the problem that HTML was designed for: displaying in a usable form in windows on displays of different sizes, shapes, resolutions, and color capabilities. Most "typographical" standards start with the assumption of a print medium, with known pages sizes and the ability to use any kind of ink. This is fine if the goal is a standard for printed material. It fails significantly for electronic displays, whose sizes and other info isn't knowable at "publishing" time, and will vary for different readers.

When a book is published, the entire run is usually made with pages all the same size, and all readers get a book with pages exactly that size. When a web document is created, it is then downloaded by people with screens of wildly different sizes. The same standard for typography/markup/formatting/whatever doesn't work for both of them.

One of the ongoing annoyances with HTML is all the web sites that subvert the design by forcing specific sizes and shapes of things (fonts, panels, etc) in the document. The result is "pages" that don't fit properly on a lot of screens. We're seeing a lot of that right now with the growing popularity of smartphones and similar tablets such as the iPod. But all the problems with poorly designed HTML fade into insignificance compared to the results of trying to read typographical-standard docs in formats like PS and PDF, which almost always require 2-dimensional scrolling on small screens. If the publishers standardize on one of the older "typographical" standards, this is exactly what they'll be foisting on all their customers.

Those customers would be much better off with HTML as the standard, despite all its problems. And with time, most of the small-screen gadgets will probably have better HTML rendering, which will mostly mean ignoring all the size=, width= and height= attributes, and formatting the content intelligently for the screen that's in the reader's hands. And also letting the reader specify things like fonts to fit their eyes.

Of course, we could have done a lot better with HTML, if we'd ignored the pressure from the "artistic" web design crowd to include all the formatting junk that's so popular with much of the current HTML-editing software, and has the side effect of making the pages not work well on screens different from the large screens used to create the pages.

(It's interesting and instructive to try reading /. on a smartphone. ;-)

Re:Suggestion: (1)

VGR (467274) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410962)

This one. [w3.org]

The standard one (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411002)

http://www.org/ [www.org]

H.T.H.

Course it should probably be zipped as well.

Re:Suggestion: (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411050)

Meh. For ebooks, I'd say modern HTML is overly-complicated. If you were going to use HTML, you'd want a customized version that took away anything not relevant to ebooks (e.g. forms) and then add back in special ebook features (e.g. better pagination support). So really what you'd be talking about is some kind of XML that has been optimized for ebooks and, for familiarity's sake, resembles HTML. AFAIK that's kind of pretty much what EPUB is. May as well use that? Some people are already using it, which makes things easier.

Re:Suggestion: (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411164)

I see your HTML and raise you an X.

It already exists. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32410752)

*.txt

(or *.pdf, if you're a stickler for pretty graphics).

Coming up with a "new standard" at this point is just wasted effort.

Re:It already exists. (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410834)

No kidding. ASCII is the universal format type, and unicode ain't far behind these days. If you want renderings, fonts and so forth preserved, then there's PDF. Why would you want to build some other format when just about every computer released in the last 10 to 15 years can read these formats?

Re:It already exists. (2, Insightful)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410896)

You're kidding, right? PDF is a document format designed to preserve the layout of a paper book. It doesn't reflow for different screen sizes. At all. This makes it less than useless for the current eBook market, where you have a hojillion different devices, each with its own display resolution, dimensions, and layout format.

And encoding text characters (the job of ASCII and Unicode) is just one of a million different things that need to happen to communicate information through text. If we'd listened to you 30 years ago we'd all still be reading 80-column green text in vi, or [shudder] ed.

ePub is the open, easy standard for electronic books. It's a no-brainer.

Re:It already exists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411094)

And encoding text characters (the job of ASCII and Unicode) is just one of a million different things that need to happen to communicate information through text. If we'd listened to you 30 years ago we'd all still be reading 80-column green text in vi, or [shudder] ed.

Why is that such a problem?

Now, granted, there are many things -- magazines, scientific journals, etc. -- that don't TXTify very well. But if you're just reading a Dan Brown novel or something, why do you need anything more complicated?

First of all, .txts reflow perfectly well if they are made without line breaks (or line breaks only at sections). Second, .txts and eye-candy aren't mutually exclusive -- an eReader app could pretty easily render plaintext in a "pleasing" ink-on-paper appearance -- or even let you choose your own fonts and colors. Third, .txts are absolutely positively guaranteed to work in ANOTHER 30 years, so you won't have to reconvert all your books when ePub or something goes out of style. Finally, nothing (and I mean nothing) is more space-efficient than a .txt (or a zipped .txt)

Perhaps it's not suited for all books, but it's suited for most of them. Besides, it's here now and it works.

Re:It already exists. (1)

lordmatrix (1439871) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411248)

Acrobat Reader supports reflowing. Once I got a very narrow PDF (weird "letter" or "formal" format I think) and I was searching for a "reflow". I found it. It's great.

Re:It already exists. (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411284)

ASCII is the universal format type, and unicode ain't far behind these days.

ASCII and Unicode aren't format types; they're character encodings. They say close to nothing about how the text is presented on a page or screen.

Re:It already exists. (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410854)

(or *.pdf, if you're a stickler for pretty graphics).

PDF is an epic fail if you're rescaling to a new "paper" size. And each reader is, of course, a different size.

Personally I'd buy an ebook reader if it was 8.5x11 inches at readable DPI and did PDFs, because that seems a nearly world standard electronic data sheet format.

Re:It already exists. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410910)

Personally I'd buy an ebook reader if it was 8.5x11 inches at readable DPI and did PDFs,

Turn your laptop sideways and rotate the on-screen display. Today's wide-screen laptops have to be better at something!

Re:It already exists. (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411154)

I find PDF to be epic fail on everything. Maybe it isn't irritating to read if you send it to a publishers and have them print and bind it for you? Give me .txt and let me size and wordwrap it as it suits the display device (or window) i am using at that moment.

Re:It already exists. (5, Informative)

angus77 (1520151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411250)

Personally I'd buy an ebook reader if it was 8.5x11 inches at readable DPI and did PDFs, because that seems a nearly world standard electronic data sheet format.

Um...except for the fact that the rest of the world uses A4 as a standard. The rest of the world doesn't even use inches (that's over 6 billion humans, by the way).

Re:It already exists. (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411328)

PDF is an epic fail if you're rescaling to a new "paper" size. And each reader is, of course, a different size.

I understand that most PDF reader software doesn't scale just the text or resize the pages well, but is this an inherent property of the PDF format, or simply representative of the common uses to which it is being applied?

Re:It already exists. (2, Insightful)

Homburg (213427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410860)

Ebooks in plain text are a bit of a pain in the ass - how do you break up paragraphs (one paragraph per line? Separated by a blank line? First line indented? Tab or space indent?)? How about chapters, and larger divisions (parts, books)? How does your plain text ebook include the author and title of the book in a way your ebook reader can extract? A format with a little bit of structure and metadata is a real improvement over plain text.

Re:It already exists. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410868)

It's called ASCII. And it's great!

Combine it with an expanded ansi screen driver (more color range) for nice color "text graphics", and the ability to switch the color palette to something that gets rid of that ugly cyan and magenta, and you're good to go.

But of course once you do that, it's "too" universal - there's no reason that people would prefer your version over anyone else's.

Re:It already exists. (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410912)

It's called ASCII. And it's great!

What about the majority of the world's population, who use writing systems that don't reduce to ASCII (or even Latin-1)? Even English speakers might want quotations of foreign words in their texts to appear as they ought to instead of gibberish.

Re:It already exists. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410958)

UTF-8 unicode. ASCII compatible, more or less, with the full unicode set when necessary.

Re:It already exists. (2, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411176)

Speaking as someone who implemented the text file handling part of an ebook reader that never shipped, I can tell you that "simple" ASCII is anything but. First, you have to guess the encoding. Good luck with that. Then, you get to guess whether a newline is a paragraph break or a line break. If you decide it's a line break, then you get to decide if a paragraph is indicated by a blank line or a leading tab or spaces. Then, you get to decide whether multiple indented lines in a row are paragraphs or a block indent. Then you get to emit the HTML markup that they should have used to begin with and render the result.

Plain text is about the worst format you could choose for an ebook. And don't get me started on text files that use overstrike for bold/underline. Been there, parsed that. Not fun.

Re:It already exists. (1)

koiransuklaa (1502579) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410930)

TXT is fine if that's what you're after. Many customers want a bit more and I can't blame them.

PDF is not even close to being a usable generic ebook format: Try reflowing a PDF based on your screen width.

Still, you are right that there's no need for a new format -- or at least Mr Shanks should explain what he needs that's not available in ePub.

Re:It already exists. (1)

kumarei (758510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410944)

Plain text and PDF are both inadequate, for what should be obvious reasons. Plain text does not allow formatting, font selection, or images. PDF was originally intended for printing, which means that PDF documents are built to display in a very specific pre-formatted way. Ebook readers can come in all sizes and shapes, and have to be able to adapt the display of the content to fit the context. That said, there are already formats out there that seem to fulfill all or most of the requirements for ebooks. I'm not really sure why the want a new format rather than adding to one that already exists.

Re:It already exists. (1)

RandomFactor (22447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410960)

FTA - "The issue, he said, is the fear of piracy and how to set a common digital rights management system to thwart it."

That is the stumbling block. Not a common format, a common DRM.

Re:It already exists. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411090)

More like .docx

I'm kidding, calm down.

Re:It already exists. (1)

Nakor BlueRider (1504491) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411158)

RTF is a better choice than either, if you really want to keep things simple. But neither really adds up to ePub at this time for anything that includes images at all. Then there's metadata, text reflowing/resizing and so forth.

Re:It already exists. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411238)

epub has already been around for a little while. It's an open format, you don't need proprietary readers to read it, you don't need proprietary writers to make them. It is device form factor agnostic too, at least to an extent.

Re:It already exists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411268)

HTML is really better suited to ebooks than either of those. It supports formatting and embed-able media support, while remaining reflow-able and being easy to render down to plain text.

Coincidentally, ePub is basically just html files and a manifest in a zip archive.

Laughingstock of the world (3, Insightful)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410778)

Susan Petersen Kennedy, explained that book publishers did not want to "make the same mistakes as the music industry, which had an epic struggle over electronic distribution and piracy and lost huge market share."

Well shit, even the book industry is laughing at the music industry now.

Re:Laughingstock of the world (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411036)

After the fashion industry laughed at the music industry, it seemed impossible the music industry could fall any lower in the eyes of the world.

They Don't Mean Format (5, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410784)

There are plenty (as the comments already reflect) of obvious format choices.

They mean Digital Restrictions Management. It is a mistake to let them say what they want is a universal format. What they want is some form of control that isn't vendor-locked to a distributor who isn't them. And it ain't gonna happen.

Re:They Don't Mean Format (2, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410828)

If they mean DRM, then they should take a second look at the music industry, which dropped DRM more than a year ago.

Re:They Don't Mean Format (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410942)

Exactly. The publishers want to take control away from the retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., and it's just not going to happen.

I mean, what exactly would be the retailer's motivation? There is none. If anything they would readily acknowledge it would hurt them. So why would they go for this?

Re:They Don't Mean Format (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410984)

Right. The fact is, you can make a reader that reads multiple formats, so that's not *really* the problem. I mean, creating hardware or software to read the books is a hell of a lot more convenient when you've standardized things, but the real problem that makes vendor lock-in an issue is DRM.

If they really wanted to avoid the mistakes of the music industry, they would drop DRM immediately and move towards making extremely convenient distribution, storage, and backup. That's how you maintain some measure of control. If they don't do that, then I almost feel like they can't complain when they're left without a functional business model.

Re:They Don't Mean Format (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411062)

Why would they mean DRM when the fashion industry has only just ridiculed the notion as protecting anything? The timing suggests they're trying to leverage the fashion world's very public statement, which can only mean that they're wanting to look at solving the problem some other way. Not necessarily a better way or a workable way, but different.

Re:They Don't Mean Format (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411152)

Not necessarily a better way or a workable way, but different.

Watermark all the images in the books and kick back and have a brew.

The only downside is the server-side processing requirements are greater, and there'd be a way to know who owned a used book originally.

I can live with that. Traditional DRM, not so much.

Re:They Don't Mean Format (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411178)

and there'd be a way to know who owned a used book originally.

to clarify: the holder of the seller's keys would, not the subsequent buyers.

Re:They Don't Mean Format (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411092)

They mean Digital Restrictions Management. It is a mistake to let them say what they want is a universal format. What they want is some form of control that isn't vendor-locked to a distributor who isn't them. And it ain't gonna happen.

Precisely. It's all about the DRM. If we are lucky this will play out exactly like it did for the music industry. Those fatcats didn't voluntarily stop using DRM - they just got so sick of Steve Jobs and his monopoly control of itunes that they figured dropping DRM was the lesser of two evils. It was either keep DRM and lose pricing control to Jobs or drop DRM and regain pricing control via multiple reseller like Walmart, Amazon. The tv & movie guys have avoided dropping DRM because Apple does not hold a monopoly on video playback devices. If the ebook market goes the way of the mp3 player, then the ebook publishers will probably have to go to something like plain HTML in order to escape Jobs's tyranny.

.txt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32410790)

Done. Next!

pdf (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410792)

Problem solved.

Re:pdf (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410922)

Nope. It doesn't account for differently-sized screens with different aspect ratios, nor the desire for differently-sized text. PDF is really designed for a set display size.

Issue already solved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32410794)

I'm guessing mr. Shanks doesn't know about ePub [wikipedia.org] , a free and open e-book standard made by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)..

And Apple's iBookstore already uses ePub.

A crippled standard, he means (3, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410796)

"Our fondest wish is that all the devices become agnostic so that there isn't proprietary formats and you can read wherever you want to read. First we have to get a standard that everybody embraces."

"Oh, and don't get me wrong, we already have good standards, but they don't suck enough. By that I mean they don't arbitrarily restrict our readers in stupid ways. I long for the day we have a universal sucky e-book format."

Re:A crippled standard, he means (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411000)

"Oh, and don't get me wrong, we already have good standards, but they don't suck enough. By that I mean they don't arbitrarily restrict our readers in stupid ways. I long for the day we have a universal sucky e-book format."

How about ".docx"? That would be freaking lovely. Seriously. I'm surprised he didn't suggest it.

Either that or F all those unicode guys and their multicultural junk, I'm using EBCDIC. And when it doesn't sell, it'll be proof "no one wants ebooks" so we'll just can that market.

Format (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410808)

The current readers can read .txt files can't they?

Re:Format (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411098)

Uhhh, no. And most character sets don't render into 127-character standard ASCII anyway. You couldn't even do English correctly, owing to the special-cases where overlapping characters are used.

PDF? (1)

mozumder (178398) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410814)

Duh?

Re:PDF? (1)

Imagix (695350) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410972)

Ick. PDF doesn't reflow well. My ebook reader isn't exactly the screen dimensions as what the PDF was rendered in. PDF is good for rendering a _specific_ page. ePub, mobi, azw (and a bunch of others) are all ebook formats which deal well (or at least better) with different "page" sizes. They will reflow the text when I go from a Kindle 2 to a Kindle DX, to an iPad, to a desktop computer. PDF will probably look good on the desktop, probably reasonable on the iPad and Kindle DX, and lousy (more accurately, it will still look accurate, but will be cumbersome to read as you have to zoom and pan around each PDF page) on the Kindle 2.

Re:PDF? (1)

Nakor BlueRider (1504491) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410990)

PDFs are great on computers and some devices, but don't always work as well on eBook readers. Other formats such as ePub have better capacity to reflow and resize text while keeping images at a single size; reflowing text on an eBook reader often causes errors in PDF files. It depends on the reader in question of course, but if we're looking for an industry standard, it should be as widely compatible as possible, and ePub would fit the bill better than PDF for that.

Not PDF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411010)

PDF is an excellent format for print, because it lets you specify your layout down to the smallest detail. The problem with PDF is that it only works if the page size of your device is the same as the page size of the PDF file.

Changing the font size in a PDF file doesn't work (you can zoom in, of course, but then you have to scroll left to right and top to bottom to read). Using a screen with a different aspect ratio than your PDF has similar problems.

Sony has done some clever work to "reflow" PDFs in their reader, but it doesn't work for everything, and it's a bit slow.

ePub would be my solution of choice.

Re:PDF? (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411096)

Wow, way to completely miss why ebook formats exist in the first place.

Let me guess... you don't actually read ebooks, do you?

Dream on... (2, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410836)

"...First we have to get a standard that everybody embraces..."

Good luck with that...if the battle with HTML 5 is any indication. Heck, what about document formats? Good luck with that too!

We have one already... (3, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410840)

..ink on paper. Advantages as follows:

1. Someone will steal an iPad or eBook reader from your bag at the airport, not a dog-eared paperback.

2. For all the tree-huggers out there, you can only use paper from sustainable sources.

3. If it takes you 12 hours to read a book from start to finish, it will take you the same time to read the eBook. On most devices that means carrying around a spare set of batteries or finding somewhere to recharge.

4. Electronic media is all about "me me me" whereas physical media can be loaned to family and friends, thus encouraging more social interaction.

5. A used book can be given away to a charity or be sold to go towards the price of the next book.

Re:We have one already... (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410884)

3. If it takes you 12 hours to read a book from start to finish, it will take you the same time to read the eBook. On most devices that means carrying around a spare set of batteries or finding somewhere to recharge.

Doesn't E-Ink displays only require power when you change the picture, aka turn the page?

Re:We have one already... (1)

Imagix (695350) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410938)

Yep. My Kindle typically lasts about two weeks between charging. (Less if I leave the GSM radio running)

Re:We have one already... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410968)

6. Printing books has a long pollution consequence chain, from the paper mill onward.

7. Electronic media are great for giving to friends. I email .pdf manuals quite often. Did I mention "no packing or postage"?

8. I can carry many electronic pubs on my USB key. No one steals my electronics at airports because I hand-carry them too.

Re:We have one already... (2, Interesting)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411236)

Printing books has a long pollution consequence chain, from the paper mill onward.

What about the pollution from the factories making all the integrated circuit boards for the readers? And what about disposal of eBook readers? Paper rots...

7. Electronic media are great for giving to friends. I email .pdf manuals quite often. Did I mention "no packing or postage"?

You can buy a paper book and legally loan it to a friend or give it to someone else. Is a PDF going to be licensed in the same way? What about digital watermarking on eBook so it can be traced back to you?

I can carry many electronic pubs on my USB key. No one steals my electronics at airports because I hand-carry them too.

That's a moot point. Far more electronics are stolen in public places than paperback books because of the value, how careful you personally are is irrelevant.

Re:We have one already... (1)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410998)

1. Someone will steal an iPad or eBook reader from your bag at the airport, not a dog-eared paperback.
On the other side, you have to carry the dead weight of some paperbacks in your luggage, instead of just one light eBook reader.
2. For all the tree-huggers out there, you can only use paper from sustainable sources.
How exactly do you do that? I mean, if you don't happen to be the publisher of the book.
3. If it takes you 12 hours to read a book from start to finish, it will take you the same time to read the eBook. On most devices that means carrying around a spare set of batteries or finding somewhere to recharge.
eBook readers (based on e-ink) can stay about a week, of continuous use without recharging. I charge mine only when putting new books inside, and it's enough.
4. Electronic media is all about "me me me" whereas physical media can be loaned to family and friends, thus encouraging more social interaction.
eBooks can be given to everybody, encouraging worldwide goodwill
5. A used book can be given away to a charity or be sold to go towards the price of the next book.
You have a point there, even if the price of the books should go down thanks to ebooks, reducing the second advantage.

Re:We have one already... (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411180)

On the other side, you have to carry the dead weight of some paperbacks in your luggage, instead of just one light eBook reader.

Most hand luggage isn't weighed in my experience, and nobody in their right mind will put a sensitive electronic device in their check-in baggage.

How exactly do you do that? I mean, if you don't happen to be the publisher of the book.

The publisher has nothing to do with the paper source, at least as I understand it. The publisher gets a printer to print the book, the printer gets their paper from a supplier, presumably its the paper manufacturer that works out which pulp source to use.

eBook readers (based on e-ink) can stay about a week, of continuous use without recharging. I charge mine only when putting new books inside, and it's enough.

Not knowing more about the subject, I'll accept this answer.

eBooks can be given to everybody, encouraging worldwide goodwill

With DRM, by which most eBooks are currently published, that's not possible. Plus the article makes no real comment about DRM-free formats, only that it needs to be a universal one.

You have a point there, even if the price of the books should go down thanks to ebooks, reducing the second advantage.

That's yet to be seen and has not happened with music, where individual tracks cost more than the actual CD. But I accept that might change.

Re:We have one already... (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411116)

2. For all the tree-huggers out there, you can only use paper from sustainable sources.

And the ink? And the diesel trucks shipping it all over? I find that all unlikely.

3. If it takes you 12 hours to read a book from start to finish, it will take you the same time to read the eBook. On most devices that means carrying around a spare set of batteries or finding somewhere to recharge.

Slashdotters are just weird. Every day, they drive their car 600 miles without stopping, ten hours continuous, so electric cars are totally useless for them. They only read books in continuous 12 hour stretches, always at the beach in full sunlight, always far away from an electrical outlet.

4. Electronic media is all about "me me me" whereas physical media can be loaned to family and friends, thus encouraging more social interaction.

My oh my, you're hanging out with the wrong crowd, if you think you can't share electronic media.

5. A used book can be given away to a charity or be sold to go towards the price of the next book.

I give away electronic media, and apply my revenue (zero) toward the (free) cost of my next electronic media, if you know what I mean. Seriously, "buying media" is only done as a fan donation or as a hoarder/collector mentality now a days. Welcome to the '10s.

Re:We have one already... (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411306)

And the ink? And the diesel trucks shipping it all over? I find that all unlikely.

I don't know enough about ink technology to comment, you could be right. But as I said previously, what about the pollution due to the manufacture and disposal of the electronics in eBook readers.

Slashdotters are just weird. Every day, they drive their car 600 miles without stopping, ten hours continuous, so electric cars are totally useless for them. They only read books in continuous 12 hour stretches, always at the beach in full sunlight, always far away from an electrical outlet.

Not at all, but clearly a printed book has greater versatility in terms of where, and for how long, you can read it.

I give away electronic media, and apply my revenue (zero) toward the (free) cost of my next electronic media, if you know what I mean. Seriously, "buying media" is only done as a fan donation or as a hoarder/collector mentality now a days. Welcome to the '10s.

Yes, but that's *NEVER* a valid answer, is it? To something to give away free to others "in this manner" means that it had to be created in the first place and bought by enough people to justify its creation... if *EVERYONE* gave it away then no money would be made from it so it wouldn't be published in the first place.

PDF - easy, universal (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32410872)

Here's my wish for PDF to be chosen. Unfortunately it seems almost to obvious and easy for the consumer, so I'll not be surprised if some other format is chosen for god knows what reason (tighter digital restrictions most likely).

I have bought a couple of e-books directly from manning.com. All in PDF (I've avoided whatever other digital format they're trying to push). Easy, convenient and excellent value.

I do applaud the publishers for realizing that they need this. Now please don't make another mistake of music industry by making the content loaded with DRM, which only hurt legitimate customers (yes, the music industry has, at least partly, realized that drm has no value-add what-so-ever)

Re:PDF - easy, universal (1)

Homburg (213427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410936)

Easy, universal, and a terrible format for a world where people have different screen sizes and want different size fonts.

Same mistakes (4, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410876)

They don't want to make the same mistakes, and yet they're following the same path anyhow.

DRM DOES NOT WORK.

If someone tried to sell me a security measure that encouraged thieves to attempt to steal my products while preventing my legit customers from using them and made everyone angry, I'd tell them where to shove it.

Re:Same mistakes (2, Insightful)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411144)

The goal isn't to permanently lock down the media forever. It's to make it hard to copy during the initial high sales period. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it doesn't.

But flatly saying it "doesn't work" is misinformed, not insightful.

Re:Same mistakes (2, Insightful)

Bugamn (1769722) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411288)

But flatly saying it "doesn't work" is misinformed, not insightful.

This is Slashdot. Saying how evil DRM is always helps karma.

Re:Same mistakes (4, Insightful)

m2shariy (1194621) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411214)

Yes this is a DRM issue. Each vendor has it's own DRM scheme and typical reader does not support all schemes, so each vendor pretty much requires it's own device. And yes, I bought a DRM protected book for my device once, making it work was one of the most revolting computer experiences I've ever had. Since then I just download my books DRM free.

Cool - how about html? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410880)

DRM could be combined with file compression, and the decompression/unlocking (copy & save-as disabling) tool could be available as a Firefox plugin. So long as publishers aren't locked into electronic distribution via only one vendor, it really shouldn't matter whether the same books are available in several formats. If the common format is the one most convenient for the people doing the reading, it'll eventually win.

Re:Cool - how about html? (1)

Nakor BlueRider (1504491) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411106)

Actually, ePub files use XHTML and CSS. They already have the ability to plug in a DRM layer (with no specific standard demanding a certain sort at this time) and include text reflowing and resizing (while keeping images at the same size up to as large as the screen in question allows). They also track page numbers based on the original book's page size. So effectively, it's probably the implementation you're asking for.

A little late to the game (1)

LarrySDonald (1172757) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410900)

While it's a smaller market (and yes, it is. Way. A number 1 bestseller is barely worth a neilson point) it's already pretty fragmented. It's good that they're trying and perhaps with some luck they can get somewhere, but we're already talking post-itune/zune/et al universe compared to music. Nothing works well with anything else, except of course, if you don't pay for it and just pirate or stick to only the material specifically for your device. As usual, legal works need to be at least as good as their pirated counterparts to those who buy them, as in "if both of these were free and legal, I'd have no preference".

Agnostic? (1)

cartman (18204) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411052)

Our fondest wish is that all the devices become agnostic so that there isn’t proprietary formats and you can read wherever you want to read.

I'm continually amazed at the extreme terminological imprecision of some people in the tech industry.

The word agnostic means someone who believes it's impossible to know whether God exists or not. It does not mean a device which can display book files from multiple publishers. That new usage is not even vaguely analogous to the old one, because it does not connote uncertainty or lack of knowledge at all, nor does it involve knowledge about spiritual matters. For example, the device in question has no uncertainty about whether the book files exist, and holds no opinions on spiritual matters.

The Greek root gnosis doesn't just mean knowledge; it implies knowledge of spiritual matters.

Re:Agnostic? (1)

angus77 (1520151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411318)

This use of the word "agnostic" has become common, and what on earth is wrong with that? It all comes down to context.

Re:Agnostic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411338)

There is a step missing between "agnostic" (wrt god) and agnostic (tech): it used to be "platform agnostic", and we all know that the choice of platform is a religious matter.

It's Easy (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411064)

Let's get together and call it text. Oh gosh! Somebody did that a couple of hundred years ago.

RTF (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411074)

.txt has no image capacity and formatting is difficult.

Re:RTF (2, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411210)

The 'rtf' standard is different in every single Microsoft (its creator) application that supports it.

Its not actually a standard more like a collection of formats that closely resemble each other but aren't actually the same in subtle ways that you'll never figure out.

Lack of Piracy for books (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411122)

I don't think publishing will see nearly the same scope of piracy due to the nature of their customers (well read, well heeled. educated, and generally able to afford books). Also, any idiot can put together a few microchips a battery and a headphone jack with a digital watch display. The internals of an ebook reader are about the same as an MP3 player, but you need a decently high quality screen and great battery life to really use pirated ebooks. The vast, vast minority of people read entire novels in their computer chair.
 
The people out there paying $45.96 for the latest hardback copy of Stephen King's new novel aren't really interested in reading it in front of the computer, and if they can afford an ebook reader are probably happy to pay for the privilege to read it on that. Books don't appeal on a 1:1 level to people who pirate the latest Britney Spears or Justin Biber CD. Maybe 1% of those people pirating mainstream music and movies are interested in pirating pleasure reading novels. Even fewer would have ever bought the book full price in hard cover.
 
On the flip side you have smaller poorer countries that import a lot of American culture that they might be losing potential sales to, where it's simply not possible, or very difficult to buy in their country.

The publishers are the ones standing in the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411140)

The publishers are the ones standing in the way by demanding DRM.

But now they want to have their cake and eat it too. So they'll attack Amazon and Apple for building their own DRM systems instead of handing Adobe or MS a monopoly by licensing theirs...

Text + formatting metadata (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411230)

A long time ago, when Project Gutenberg texts were really the only "ebooks" one could find, I had the idea of creating a separate data file that would accompany the .txt files. My idea was to leave the actual content of the book in plaintext for maximum portability, but allow fancy formatting (pagination, font, links, etc) via a separate binary file which would reference the .txt by character position. The key point is that the original Gutenberg texts would not be touched.

If edits were made to just the .txt without updating the formatting (which would mainly consist of fixing typos or OCR errors), then the binary could be "updated" by doing a diff between the old and new .txt files and offsetting the formatting positions appropriately. The beauty of it is that the binary could be updated independently of the content.

I foresaw another group of volunteers, essentially residing above the Gutenberg group, that would format the content to match specific editions of the books. Multiple formatting could accompany a single .txt, allowing the reader to select the edition they wanted.

Anyway I thought that sort of scheme would be the ultimate ebook format, but since it obviously isn't DRM friendly it would never fly in this day and age.

As long as the standard .... (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411270)

Is an open-source, unencumbered one that could allow us to have an ebook on a PC as well. I am tired of closed source, patent encumbered shit.
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