imageFBReader software and the Cybook Gen3 and Sony PRS 505 E Ink readers are among the porting priorities of three student volunteers, chosen for the independent OpenInkpot project under the Google Summer of Code.

 OpenInkpot is creating a “free and open-source Linux distribution” for E Ink machines. Among other things, OpeInkpot is aiming for dual-boot capabilities in time, so you can either enjoy the new programs or fire up the readering software the manufacturer supplied.

Open Inkpot’s ports of the summer: An ePub angle and more

The three coders are:

  • Alexander Egorov—porting FBReader for OpenInkpot linux.  Significantly, FBReader can display  nonencrypted ePub, among other formats. Now if only the major publishers will back off from DRM in a major way to enable FBReader fans and others to enjoy best-sellers in ePub, perhaps with social DRM embedded.
  • Ondřej Herman—porting the OpenInkpot’s Linux to the Cybook Gen3.
  • Wenjie Zhang 张文杰—porting the operating system to the Sony PRS-505.

image The Hanlin eReader v3 E Ink device (shown here—more or less the same as the lBook, Apolo-Hanlin V3 and Walkbook) has been among OpenInkpot’s other targets.

The V3 can already run FBReader.  But it’s good to see other machines potentially capable, via the ports to OpenInkpot.

Also planned are OpenInkpot ports to the Sony PRS-500, the Jinke Hanlin V2 and 6, the iRex iLiad and—get this!—the ultimate closed machine, the Kindle. Just what will Jeff Bezos think of that? Will Amazon’s Terms of Use Police start lining up hackers before a firing squad?

image The bottom line for users

You don’t have to be a hacker to be cheering on OpenInkpot, which I hope will try hard to make its work accessible to civilians who are willing to experiment.

As an owner of  the Sony PRS-505, I can say Sony’s software is a bit of a disappointment. I can’t even bold DRMed text to compensate for the less-than-ideal contrast between text and background on the E Ink display. With FBReader, by contrast, that’s a snap. As for the Cybook, I love the bolding option, but the machine for now does not handle large collections of books as gracefully as the Sony does. With OpenInkpot-endabled software as an alternative for users, perhaps the vendors will be faster to address deficiencies like the ones I’ve mentioned.

And for vendors

Meanwhile, if vendors are sufficiently smart and flexible, they just might be open minded about OpenInkpot since some of its ideas can be picked up for use in company-supplied software.

The negative for vendors is that freeware could speed up the coming of the $99 E Ink Reader—which already may be closer than some people think anyway.

But then again, if savvy companies pick up the best wrinkles from the freeware and add their own wrinkes, they can still earn a profit—just so they understand that the days of the $300-$400 reader are numbered.

Other ways for vendors to profit

Vendors  can also collect premiums by simply by coming up with easier-to-use hardware and looking ahead to the time when cellphone-eReaders such as the Readius (video) will be common.

When can be done to integrate the cellphone and e-book features, as some have suggested?

The most radical and logical step of all

Also, how about the most radical and logical step of all in many cases—working closely with Open Inkpot to create the best-possible operating system for the E Ink reader industry, while playing the openness angle to the hilt?

Are any well-known vendors out there with the guts to do this?

If the usual suspects don’t act, then I wouldn’t be surprised if makers of commodity E Ink readers, especially on the Chinese mainland, arranged on their own for this to happen.

Related: Closed E Ink readers vs. OpenInkpot: Unshackled OSes, better e-readerwrae and maybe even WiFi?


  1. While porting OpenInkpot to other platforms is good, I think the results will mostly be of geek value. I would much rather see Google sponsor some major upgrades to FBReader (like adding CSS). This would be much more useful to a wider audience.

  2. Great points, Joseph, but why couldn’t Google sponsor both projects? They’d go together well! In fact, in the past, I’ve suggested that Google back upgrades of FBReader—with CSS capabilities of course included. For good measure, as I wrote earlier this week, the IDPF and even individual publishers might want to help out open source programs supporting the ePub standard. Even Adobe and other software companies would benefit. A standard won’t be a standard unless people use it, and it’s insane to think that everyone will want to read ePub with Adobe Digital Editions. Adobe, moreover, could pick up ideas from the open source folks. The big issue in e-books isn’t so much the slicing of the pie as growing the pie, period. Right now people are fighting over crumbs. Thanks. David

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