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Tower of eBabel as a sales-killer: Dear Author gives format advice—and along the way shows babel’s perils
December 14, 2008 | 9:34 am

By David Rothman

image Dear Author is starting a series on "how to convert ebooks into formats that work on dedicated and multi function devices." Kindle- and Sony-related posts almost surely will be coming. But today's tips focus on the eReader format as a destination. Then you can use the eReader program or Stanza to enjoy the books on your iPhone. eReader also runs on other device, including most PDAs. eBabel's perils DA's series will be a bunch of handy how-tos rather than a collection of rants. But here's the real question, which DA's Jane raises without even trying. Why---in this recession, with...

Tower of eBabel in EU’s legal sights? Reportedly wants interoperable DRM for music, films and vidgames. E-books, too?
January 4, 2008 | 11:15 am

By David Rothman

eu The EU reportedly wants interoperable DRM for music, films and vidgames. E-books, too?  While there's no legislation here, just, er, a friendly nudge, here's one more reason for the IDPF to get hopping---and for Amazon to look ahead and stop playing DRM/format games with the Kindle and Mobipocket if it values an international market. So far, the Kindle is officially U.S. only. The earlier the world standardizes, the more e-books will be soldl. And if it turns out that neither gods nor regulators can make DRM interoperable without its being easily crackable, then let's find out and consider...

A $155 used Web tablet vs. e-books’ Tower of eBabel: Shades of the old Cybook
May 22, 2007 | 4:30 pm

By David Rothman

DT375Laurent Picard and Michaël Dahan at Bookeen gave the world the Cybook—the late and lamented e-book reader with a booklike leather cover and a 10-inch screen. They valiantly tried to come up with a hardware-software combo to help users survive the Tower of eBabel among major e-book formats. In the end Laurent and Michaël failed. But it was a good fight and not their fault that they lost, even if they made some mistakes along the way. Retracing L&M's footsteps Yesterday, tinkering with my used $155 tablet, the DT 375 (photo), also Windows CE-based, I was retracing the Bookeen duo's footsteps...

Computerworld: Tower of eBabel a major factor in e-books’ failure to score big
April 4, 2007 | 4:33 pm

By a TeleBlog Contributor

Sony ReaderHere, in David Haskin's CW commentary headlined Don't Believe the Hype: The 21 Biggest Technology Flops. Quote: "Specifically, the number of potential formats for e-books remains huge---the Wikipedia entry for e-books lists more than 20 formats. It's not pleasant to contemplate buying an e-reader and then finding out that a book or periodical you want is available only in an incompatible format." Related: Sony Reader: Good Condition, Some Flaws: The electronic book is easy to use and, more important, read, but its online store could offer more titles and a better experience, from BusinessWeek. (Both items via MobileRead.)...

IDPF container format is progress but far from the end of the Tower of eBabel
October 30, 2006 | 7:56 am

By David Rothman

IDPFThe newly released container format from the IDPF is progress but far from a full solution. Read my Publisher's Weekly article from August for details. Still unresolved are such issues as incompatible DRM schemes and the possibility of excessive use of vendor-controlled standards such as Flash without adequate alternatives. As for OpenReader, we'll happily pick up the basic IDPF container format since it's just a twist on one associated with the OpenDocument format and we're interested in minimizing compatibility problems. Thanks, guys. (Via Roland.)...

The Tower of eBabel: Are librarians finally waking up to that—and the e-book price debate?
October 22, 2006 | 10:09 am

By David Rothman

Tower of BabelLibrarians have complained of the Tower of eBabel, but I don't see them really doing anything about it in a major way---and some publishers show sheer ignorance, as a TeleBlog post noted earlier. Now an LISNews post gives me a little hope. Meanwhile the format issue has sparked a discussion on the e-book price issue (scroll down in LISNews). Format standardization won't instantly turn $20 e-books into $5 books, but it won't hurt, given the benefits for publishers, retailers and readers. Even the big houses have felt the pain of eBabel's costs. ...

‘The ‘E’ Doesn’t Stand for ‘Easy to Use”: Tower of eBabel mention on Chronicle of Higher Ed site
August 30, 2006 | 1:48 am

By David Rothman

Tower of BabelThe Chronicle of Higher Education's Web site is pointing to my Publishers Weekly article on the Tower of eBabel. Great. Academics might also be interested in a standards-related article that OpenReader founder Jon Noring recently co-authored with Prof. Terje Hillesund for a peer-reviewed journal. In addition, an OpenReader-related piece has appeared in Innovate, a journal devoted to distance education....

My Publishers Weekly essay on the Tower of eBabel
August 28, 2006 | 11:19 am

By David Rothman

Publishers WeeklyPublishers Weekly is the trade publication for the book industry in the States. This morning you can go to PW's site and see my essay, Razing The Tower Of e-Babel: The reason e-books haven't caught on is simple: they're too complicated. My pet example comes from the Fairfax County Public Library, which, along with many other institutions and people, is an eBabel victim. I tell how my borrowed Pepper Pad could not "handle the Fairfax County Public Library's digital editions of Mike Wallace's Between You and Me, Malcolm Gladwell's Blink or Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. The Pepper Pad, it turns...

Tower of eBabel mentioned in Washington Times
August 17, 2006 | 3:01 am

By David Rothman

Tower of Babel"Before e-books can truly hold up in the mass market...the industry has to agree on standards regarding digital rights management, known as DRM, for consumers to get full use and accessibility from their e-books." - Washington Times. The TeleRead take: Well, it's progress for the Times to mention the eBabel Tower, even if it's not by name and even if DRM is just part of the issue. The Times would also do well to consider the possibilities that the right standards could open up. Conversely, the wrong core format or a badly chosen DRM approach could wreak havoc on progress....

Tower of eBabel mentioned in Telegraph in U.K.
July 8, 2006 | 4:35 am

By David Rothman

Malle Vallik"Part of the problem is chaotic packaging: Adobe, Microsoft, Mobipocket, Palm - multi-format (open) or 'secure' (encrypted, non-copiable) versions. Another problem is the skittishness of publishers, nervous that digitised texts are easy to pirate." - The Telegraph. Among other people, the story quotes Harlequin's Malle Vallik, shown above, on her typical reader--a nongeek "who loves the instant gratification of downloading the book she wants to read and the ability to carry many titles with her… The exciting news is that romance is the fastest-growing category in the e-book market."...

Standards rot and the Tower of eBabel
July 7, 2006 | 1:07 am

By David Rothman

Tower of BabelYou've heard of rotten apples and link rot and a few other kinds. Now here's another neologism, standards rot. I'm not the very first to use the term. But oh how it will fit the world of e-books if publishers, libraries and other major stakeholders fail to do sufficient rot-proofing. The following is my first stab at a definition of "standards rot": A deterioration of standards in software or other areas--to the point where open standards become proprietary again. Common causes are (1) undue influence by individual corporations on standards bodies, (2) lack of diligence by companies designing new products,...

Washington and Franklin vs. the Tower of eBabel: A few reflections on the Fourth of July
July 4, 2006 | 12:56 am

By David Rothman

Ben Franklin, printerJuly 4 is the U.S. Independence Day. I live in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few miles from Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, leader of the American Revolution. This is an e-book blog. So I'll resist a powerful urge to depict America rather accurately as Tory Central right now--out of character since we've generally been the good guys. I won't even reflect on the Stamp Tax-style aspects of U.S. copyright law, something very much within the TeleBlog's turf. Whether you agree with me or not about the above (and feel very free to dissent in the comment area), I hope...

Tower of eBabel: Horrors at Fairfax County library
June 26, 2006 | 6:34 am

By David Rothman

Tower of BabelEarlier I praised the Fairfax County Public Library, my favorite system, for experimenting with e-books. I stand by that! Still, I can't help but notice the FCPL's eBabel problem, the fault of the ill-managed e-book industry, not the library: 1. So far I can't get either a Cybook or a just-borrowed Pepper Pad to work with the library's Mobipocket option. My old PocketPC and Sony Clie at least will--after I go through convoluted steps. With a common e-book standard, libraries and patrons wouldn't suffer such problems as often. If the eBabel complexities are annoying me, imagine what they mean to patrons...

Tower of eBabel issue persists—with or without the IDPF announcement
June 21, 2006 | 5:26 am

By David Rothman

Tower of BabelA recent IDPF announcement on e-book formats is helpful--but not nearly as important as the organization's boosters would have you believe. The group's container for e-book files is apparently just a quick derivative of one for documents in the OpenDocument Format, and the real work needs to be done with the core format. Beyond that, DRM compatibility is a tricky issue regardless of what optimists may say to the contrary, and if past patterns prevail, the IDPF may either back off or take years to decide this matter. Check out a previous announcement where the IDPF crowd promised a consumer-level...

iLiad goes on sale for the invited–in the shadow of the Tower of eBabel
June 17, 2006 | 1:52 am

By David Rothman

iLiad"English will not change significantly over my lifetime, but file formats certainly will--will any ebooks be able to be read 20 years from now? How about 50?...I'd gladly use it, but only if open, DRM-free books become widely available." - Prospective iLiad buyer reacting to news of the iLiad going on sale for the invited. The TeleRead take: The irony is that the iLiad is actually more open than will be the SonyReader, which will apparently read encrypted files only in Sony's own BBeB format. As for open, DRMless books, the classics are already available by the thousands via Project...

The Tower of eBabel and the technology of yore
June 12, 2006 | 1:58 am

By David Rothman

Rocket eBookHere's one of the biggest reasons why the e-book world shouldn't trust proprietary formats and proprietary DRM schemes--history. The gadget to your left is the old Rocket eBook. For reading most best-sellers in an e-book format, it's useless. Yes--I know: the Long Tail and all that. But I don't want format limitations and related complexities to restrict my choice of e-books. The issue isn't just creating standards but promoting their long-term use in the real world of books, authors and publishers--hence, the need for OpenReader. Without OpenReader, we could well see a repeat of the outrages so aptly described by Peter...

Is romance the dashing hero who can liberate e-books from the Tower of eBabel?
March 9, 2006 | 3:05 am

By Rochelle Hartman

HarlequinnMy friend Mimi Davis, a reader's dream because of her dedication as a reader's advisor, pointed me to an article in Checking Out Romance (pdf), the Romance Writers of America newsletter for librarians. In it, Mimi and her colleague Beth Wong give suggestions for pitching romance titles to non-romance readers. It's great stuff for readers advisory librarians! I was also surprised to find an article titled "Who Reads E-books?" in the same volume, written by Malle Vallik, Editorial Director of New Business Development for Harlequin Enterprises. David blogged e-Harlequin in December, but it's good to see them...

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