SCOOP! eReader format licensed to Lexcycle, eReader coming to new platforms, and more!
December 3, 2008 | 1:30 pm
This morning I received an email from Steve Pendergrast telling me he had a scoop for me. And what a scoop it turned out to be!
Today at noon eastern, Fictionwise will issue a press release stating that Fictionwise has officially licensed the eReader format—both unencrypted and encrypted—to Lexcycle for use in Stanza, and will be opening and running a Stanza store. This feature was incorporated into the new version of Stanza that was released on Friday.
Fictionwise is interested in getting its format out there to be used by as many people and as many readers as possible—they realize that the books are where their money is to be made. Or, as the old saying goes, “give away the razor, sell the blades.”
I also took the opportunity to ask Steve about some other matters that had puzzled me, and elicited a few other newsworthy items over the course of the conversation.
Format Licensing to Publishers
Back when eReader went by the names of Peanut Press and Palm Digital Media, there was a license fee for any commercial e-book vendor to release its titles in the eReader (well, it was called Peanut Reader or Palm Reader back then, but you get the idea) e-book format—that is, if the titles were available as eReader files, eReader got a cut. This meant that publishers like Baen could not release titles in that format without being charged for it.
However, As of two months ago, Steve said, the licensing terms had been completely changed and the format was now freely available for use by anyone. He was contacting publishers and letting them know about the change.
I mentioned to Steve that I had heard from Arnold Bailey at Baen that they were waiting until those terms were reflected in the version of the EULA on the website. Steve replied that the version of the EULA bundled with the software had been changed, but it was possible something had been missed on the website.
Steve went on to mention that Fictionwise has a team assigned to going through and revising the eReader website to modernize it, as there is still a great deal of legacy material on the site and some of it is hard to find.
However, that was not the biggest news to come out of our call.
New Platforms for eReader
Since Fictionwise took over eReader, expanding the format to additional platforms has been one of their major goals. The OS X and iPhone eReader applications were a big example of that, but Fictionwise is far from finished.
Although Steve was hesitant to name a specific timeframe, as any number of things can happen that might change developer priorities and delay completion, he did mention two new platforms that will get eReader applications of their own.
The Blackberry smartphone should get an eReader application sometime in the first quarter of 2009.
The Linux platform, which has been waiting for an eReader application since 1998, should get one sometime in the first half of 2009.
But that’s not all that will happen in 2009.
ePub for eReader
The current form of eReader markup is a sort of pseudo-HTML that uses backslashes instead of brackets. With minor updates, it dates all the way back to 1998. Although it still looks good in the reader, it is very much a legacy platform.
But that may soon change. Steve mentioned that Fictionwise plans to update the eReader applications to handle ePub books wrapped in eReader DRM, with a completion goal of sometime in 2009. He was hesitant to name a timeframe any more specific than that, because nine separate platforms’ clients will have to be updated to handle the new format, and a snag in any one of them could delay the release for all.
eReader Editions of Mobipocket-Only Books On the Way
Another bit of news for iPod owners frustrated by the lack of a Mobipocket client: be patient just a little longer! Just within the last couple of weeks, eReader has “fired” the transcription services it had been using to transform publishers’ files into eReader books. They have set up their own transcription division to create eReader-format books, with conversion software that can convert from other formats such as ePub or MS Reader.
It appears that many if not all of the Mobipocket-only format books on Fictionwise are that way not because of publisher restrictions, but because of delays in the eReader-format version coming back from the transcription service. The new transcription service has just added 500 new titles in eReader, and Steve said that most if not all of the Mobi-only titles will get eReader versions.
Unfortunately for those who have already bought the Mobipocket versions, the publishers still consider each different format of a book to be a different edition, and require separate payment for each. Steve has been talking to publishers, trying to convince them that customers buy the title, not the format, but it is slow going. Still, we can perhaps hope that eventually the restriction will be raised and we will be able to redownload Mobi-format books in eReader instead.
Kitty Norville and the Missing eReader Files
Speaking of which, one series that I have purchased, the Kitty Norville books, was available on Fictionwise in mostly Mobipocket format (only one of the four titles had an eReader version) but all four books were in eReader format on the eReader site. When I called this to Steve’s attention, he remarked that if they have an eReader version on one site, it should be on both. Since the Kitty books were not, he would look into the causes.
He asked if there were any other titles with eReader versions on one site but not the other. I could not think of any off the top of my head, but perhaps if other TeleReaders know of any they might mention them to him.
It was an exciting conversation, and I am looking forward to all the neat new things in the offing from Fictionwise and eReader.
Update: Ars Technica covers the Stanza story.