image Bill McCoy, Adobe’s main e-book guy, is leaving the company “in the near future to pursue other opportunities ‘to be determined.’” He is one of many departing the Adobe, which is trimming back 680 jobs out of around 7,600 to help stay afloat in this dismal economy. I wish everyone the best of luck, especially Bill.

Among various projects, Bill and his team have been involved with Adobe Reader Mobile SDK, Adobe Content Server, Adobe Digital Editions and Adobe InDesign. Bill sits on the board of the International Digital Publishing Forum, the e-book industry’s main trade group, and has played a major role in the ePub standards movement.

To put it mildly, Bill and I haven’t always seen eye to eye, but the “best of luck” is far from mere politeness. One of TeleRead’s main missions, as I see it, is to encourage open standards—so that people can own e-books for real, without worrying about new formats and DRM. Not all our contributors are as fervent about it as I am. But that’s my priority, at least, in addition to the fight for a well-stocked national digital library system. How has Bill figured in this? By corporate standards, he has been a positive phenomenon despite our differences.

When Jon Noring and I set up OpenReader, Bill was smart enough to realize that the IDPF needed to get more serious about open standards before we or others preempted the group. The result? ePub. Dozens of e-book devices use ePub or will use it—for example, the Sony Readers—and major publishers are standardizing on it. You can thank Bill more than a little for that. Similarly, it was Bill who had the courage to call for social DRM, the use of which would make it far, far easier to own e-books for real than the usual DRM would.

About Bill’s future hopes, he looks “forward to the opportunity to push for open standards and interoperability from a completely neutral perspective. I can be reached at whmccoy ‘at’” Great priorities, Bill. Again, good luck!

Meanwhile I’ll be interested in knowing who ends up as Bill’s replacement on the IDPF board, and how that person feels about issues such as open standards and DRM. I suspect a special election will come up soon.

Bill writing on his continued involvement in the industry—and the need for vigilance: “…there is no doubt that I’ll continue to be involved in the future of digital books, especially where that future intersects with web standards and open source. I believe that Adobe will continue to play a critical role as an enabler of interoperable solutions, but I also believe that the community needs to stay vigilant to ensure that for-profit corporations don’t just talk the talk about being open, but also walk the walk. I’ve certainly tried my level best to do this from the inside, but look forward to the opportunity to push for open standards and interoperability from a completely neutral perspective.

Detail: Although Adobe is laying off people, Bill writes: “While my transition comes as Adobe is restructuring, it’s really more about Adobe creating a new, expanded organization focused on digital publishing media monetization. My team is the nucleus of this group, and the additional wood that Adobe is putting behind this arrow should be great news for our customers and business partners. We’ve got a lot of exciting stuff on our roadmap, and it’s been an exceptional honor to have worked with such an incredible group of people. But, it was a logical time for me to move on.”


  1. Let’s hope Adobe’s restructuring includes more tools to work with the rapidly growing field of etexts, particularly in the ePub format. Acrobat can do amazing things with PDF. We need similar tools to work with ePub documents.

  2. I wish I could say that Adobe had taken my advice (above), but the time gap is far too small. One of Adobe’s blogs just reported this:

    “As part of a restructuring announced yesterday, Adobe has made the decision to expand its investment in digital publishing, creating a new organization focused on delivering products to increase digital revenue opportunities for book, newspaper and magazine publishers.”


  3. So, does this mean we have 2 giant corporations battling it out for ebook monopoly? Adobe (and all epub flavors from major publishers that use Adobe’s DRM for their epub editions) and Amazon (with their own gigantic retailing, publishing, customer list, and Kindle-proprietary DRM).

    To me it now looks as though Step One in the program to launch ebooks was the epub standard — one open standard. This step is just about here.

    Step One Point Five is to get tools for creating epub books, and reading epub books, into the hands of authors and readers alike (this won’t happen until there’s an export/import function in and Microsoft Word for epub). This step is only partially implemented; it has a long way to go, but it’s only a question of software, so it could happen quickly.

    Step Two then will be, when the independent publishers start offering DRM-free epub editions, and the general reading public wakes up to just how limiting DRM is, and starts to pressure the big publishers into selling DRM-free editions. (Maybe beginning with ‘deluxe editions’ for higher cost, that come without DRM that is applied to the ‘mass market’ cheaper ebooks?)

    Still a ways to go, but maybe we are making progress.

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