Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sony Plans to Adopt Common Format for E-Books; New York Times, 8/13/09

Brad Stone via New York Times; Sony Plans to Adopt Common Format for E-Books:

"On Thursday, Sony Electronics, which sells e-book devices under the Reader brand, plans to announce that by the end of the year it will sell digital books only in the ePub format, an open standard created by a group including publishers like Random House and HarperCollins.

Sony will also scrap its proprietary anticopying software in favor of technology from the software maker Adobe that restricts how often e-books can be shared or copied.

After the change, books bought from Sony’s online store will be readable not just on its own device but on the growing constellation of other readers that support ePub...

“People need to remember, when they buy books that come with digital rights management, they don’t have the freedoms they normally would have with a book,” said Holmes Wilson, campaigns manger of the Free Software Foundation, which obtained the signatures of nearly 4,000 authors and tech pundits on a petition saying Amazon’s anticopying software was a “clear threat to the free exchange of ideas.”

Companies like Sony and Adobe do not want to abandon anticopying measures, fearing that piracy of books would run rampant. Rather, they want to push the e-book industry toward common standards to avoid a replay of Apple’s domination of the digital music business.

Early this decade, Apple sold music from its iTunes store that was protected by its own FairPlay software and could be played only on the iPod.

The result was what is known as “lock-in.” Apple built up extraordinary market power and leverage to dictate terms to the major music labels on matters like the price of digital songs. Then, as now, second-tier players banded together to promote the increased flexibility and choice that open standards gave to consumers."

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