Standard Format Keeps E-Readers on the Same Page

Good news for e-readers! Sony has decided it will embrace a standard ebook format, meaning that if you buy a Kindle or another electronic reader, but then choose to move your collection to another device, your books will transfer easily, like a mp3 of a song. This is, as many observers have noted, a crucial step toward mainstreaming electronic books.


PC World reports:

Developing an open format for e-books is becoming increasingly important ever since Amazon reshaped the e-reader market with the launch of its Kindle devices. Sony followed by revitalizing its Reader devices, and Plastic Logic plans on releasing an impressive looking reader by 2010. But today most e-books you buy are locked onto a specific device, making it impossible to switch from say a Kindle to a Sony Reader or vice versa.

The next question is, if all e-readers work with open format, how do you fight piracy? Sony says that although it plans to scrap its own digitial rights management, or DRM, it will use Adobe's "copy protection software."

The threat of book piracy is a real one. Amazon has already gotten into trouble for deleting illegally uploaded copies of 1984 (which raised all the predictable jokes about Amazon acting Orwellian about Orwell's work) and others are worrying whether piraters will create a "Napster" for books that allows users to download any volume ever transformed into an electronic file for free. Despite today's news, it's clear that the life of e-readers is very much in what English teacher would call the exposition -- questions are rising, but the real conflict with book technology awaits.


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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