Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sony's new eBook reader

Sony has announced its new eBook reader, due out in time for the holidays. I know I got all excited for the last eBook reader, out about 6 years ago, but maybe technology has improved enough to make this one worthwhile?

One question I had...where is Sony getting the Connect content?

And speaking of eBooks, did I mention the NetLibrary interactive user demo that my part of the creative world worked on? We have a few refinements to make, but still. I'm excited to think it will help users be more successful with eBooks and eAudiobooks from libraries.


David said...

While the new Sony is a leap from the last time an e-book reader hit the stores we're really looking at dead gadget walking.

Sony for years has believed in proprietary media formats that combined with their massive catalog of titles drive consumer demand.

So Sony's many content divisions will find a way to prop it up at least for the first year as they did the UMD movies on the PSP only to watch the flow of content dry up.

Yet one company has learned that you need more content options if this idea is going to work. That company is Apple.

Word is that Apple has been 'having talks' with leading book publishers.

If true, this means Apple is looking to bring books and magazines into iTunes in addition to music and tv shows. A move that will not bode well for Sony's new reader nor for libraries.

Apple is not about to back down from their stance that all DRM protected content for the iPod must come from iTunes. Apple's insane success with the iPod + iTunes combo has not been lost on Microsoft since their just announced Zune is taking this idea of one option only devices to heart. As reported, the Zune will only work with Microsoft's Zune store and will not work with it's "Play for sure" partner sites like Napster and Yahoo! Music.

So in a gadget world that is becoming more gated by proprietary formats and micro content, how does the library fit in?

Alice said...

Here's what I wonder: if we can standardize physical CDs and DVDs and a host of other formats for content, why are the digital equivalents so darn difficult? I was about to say "no one would put up with having 2 devices that do the same thing in their house" until I remembered my friend's family who had both Beta and VHS players. Or the fact that we have Apple, PC and Linux boxes at my house. I guess sometimes there is space for choice, even when from the inside, it seems like there should only be one choice.

As far as libraries go, wasn't microcontent one of the Sermons of the Scan?

David Rothman said...

Hi, David and Alice. David's spot-on about the evils of Sony's proprietary approach. Check out OpenReader, whose goal is full interoperability--in both the core e-book format and DRM. Our standard already has an implementer, the forthcoming DotReader.

There's no mystery why the IPDF, supposedly pushing for e-book standards, can't do them for real. The actual name for the group might as well be the Proprietary Formatters Association. While the IPDF is working on standards, I'm concerned about gotchas such as proprietary DRM with Microsoft-style chokeholds. Our preference would be to take e-book standards to a neutral venue such as an OASIS technical committee. I'd love for OCLC to team up with OpenReader on this. OCLPC folks should feel free to reach us. Our main founder, by the way, Jon Noring, has been active in formal e-book standards-setting for years and continues his efforts to educate the IDPF. But meanwhile there's no reason why OpenReader and OCLC can't get the ball rolling at OASIS on their own.

David Rothman, co-founder, OpenReader | 703-370-6540

Anonymous said...

The Davids are right. And the thing is going to die for another reason: price point. It's looking like this gizmo is gonna sell for between $300-$400. You can get a low-end laptop for around that price these days, or a pretty durn fine PDA... which can read all kinds of eBook formats. I read plain texts from the Gutenberg Project on my Palm and purchased eBooks on it already. Yes, this has some newfangled semi "eInk" tech... but it's not "always on" for-real eInk yet. When I can roll up the screen and swat flies with it... then it's eInk (see how paper works in Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age.")

Why, the question is asked, is it so have a standard format for the content? Because there's not as much money in it for the developers of the hardware, of course. This is the same problem pharma has. Why spend a brazillian dollars on R&D only to come up with a treatment or cure that can be replicated by your competitors as a generic for 1/1000th of what you paid for the research? Why should Sony pay to come up with a "format player" that's wicked cool (it's not, but let's suppose), and then say, "Hey, everybody! Come make money off our labor!"

They should, but they won't. As David Leslie points out, they've been down this goofy road before. Closed formats don't do very well. And while Apple is doing very well with the iPod, I think that, long-term -- let's remember that the iPod is less than 5 years old -- if they don't get more open with their content format, they'll end up with the same wonderfully tiny marketshare of the downloadable music biz that they have of the PC market.

Alice said...

Do I detect the hint of non-Apple adoration?!?

David R., I will pass your offer on to the right people at OCLC.

So when is OCLC Support going to get one of these things in house, so we can play with it properly?

Oh wait, I forgot. Our 1 million+ eBook titles won't work on their reader. Blast, foiled again!