Jeff_Bezos_iconic_laugh_thumb1.jpgFor free, TeleRead will generously offer New Year’s resolutions Amazon and other e-book-related companies. No need for DIY. We know exactly what you need to do in 2016.

Amazon: Jeff Bezos and friends should resolve to go ePub instead of forking their own formats. Too, they should beef up Amazon’s e-reading software on devices and in apps. Let experienced e-book users enjoy more of the capabilities they find in Moon+ Reader Pro and other products written for grown-up. Look, Amazon can hide the advanced features behind just one option of the main menu. Also offer text to speech again on E Ink Kindles, and learn more heavily on publishers to drop encryption-based DRM. If nothing else, Amazon should promote social DRM (not the same as the usual encryption-based DRM) for publishers who absolutely insist on something. Of course, the best DRM is none.

B&N: All of the above. Also, improve customer service and loosen downloading restrictions. And try harder in the future to stop giving customers ugly DRM-related surprises in regard to library use and otherwise (yes, the library issue is fixed, but I still don’t know if Nook GlowLight Plus can read ePub books from other stores). The best way is to ditch DRM for retail use. Beyond that, drop the Nook E Ink machines or improve them with decent text to speech and other features, so they’re not just pathetic me-too competitors of the Kindles. Water-proofing of the Nook GlowLight Plus? A start, but no more. Kobo, besides, was already into the water-proofing act.

Kobo: Get more serious about strict adherence to ePub standards, and stop the DRM outrages. And of course, more features, please. And text to speech for E Ink Kobos.

Google: Give us all-bold-text capabilities in Play Books, as well as more features in other respects—same as what we’re suggesting for Amazon, B&N and others. Nice to find TTS in your Play Books already, however. Is it on the way for the app’s iOS incarnation?

Apple: iBooks for Android, Windows and other platforms, OK? The whole world doesn’t own Apple-everything. Get over it, and you might actually move more hardware. This walled-garden act is getting pretty old.

The people behind Moon+ Reader Pro: An iOS version, please. Meanwhile thank you for advancing the state of the art of the e-book app world even if you’re not perfect. Jeff Bezos needs to go to the Wikipedia listings for Android e-readers and see how far you are ahead of your competition in the feature department. Just please, Jeff. Don’t buy Moon and bury it the way you did Stanza. That was evil in its purest form.

The Big Five: Give up on e-book gouges to try to prop up the declining p-book industry. Yes, long term, the decline still exists. Look, I’m not anti-Big Five. I want all publishers to prosper. You’re really hurting yourselves. Instead of price gouging you should be working much more closely with schools and libraries; try to expand the universe of readers by way of a national digital library endowment and otherwise. Lower e-book prices for libraries. They’re natural marketers for you, just by doing their job to promote literacy. Come on—Americans are spending just $32 or so a year on recreational reading of books compared to thousands on other forms of entertainment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You’ve screwed up massively. Next time someone says the Pentagon is worse than the private sector, I’ll object. Book publishing, at least the New York mega-conglomerate kind, is actually more dysfunctional. Again, $34 bleepin’ dollars a year? Is that the mark of a successful industry?

In a related vein, the New York Times should vow to stop publishing Luddite essays (example) and swallowing anti-e-book bilge associated with Big Five executives who raised prices, then said E was on the decline.

The International Digital Publishing Forum: The main e-book trade group, should get behind social DRM and forget about ever promoting an encryption-based “protection” system.

Adobe: This social DRM rec includes you. I won’t get my hopes up, but you really, really need to stop inflicting your horrid encryption-based approach on book-lovers. Your proprietary approach is a threat to books as a permanent medium. Other than for special purposes such as library or rental-service use, I see no reason for encryption-based DRM to exist for e-books. Thanks to DRM and rights-crazed lawyers, people can’t even legally pass on e-books to their children. Corporate behavior at its worst, enabled by all-too-accommodating politicians in Washington.

Sony: Same recs as in the resolution for Adobe.

Fran Toolan and friends at Firebrand Technologies: Keep up your good work with social DRM!

Librarians: Get more clueful about E, including the need for a national digital library endowment. A pro-endowment article for Library Journal that I coauthored with a very clueful librarian, Jim Duncan, executive director of the Colorado Library Consortium, didn’t exactly win over the crowds. By contrast, a Duncan-Rothman article in Education Week drew 103 Likes from the education minded. Here’s yet another example of the disconnects that can arise between libraries and schools despite Pew research showing that the public wants greater cooperation between the two kinds of institutions. The proposed endowment, directly and indirectly, could encourage this, among the many other benefits.


  1. Actually mobi is a much older format than epub, by several years. While it isn’t true that epub is a fork of mobi that’s closer to the truth than the other way around.

    Mobipocket’s mobi format came along in 2000. They weren’t bought by Amazon till 2005. Epub didn’t come along till 2007.

    The defacto ebook standard is mobi, at least in terms of longevity and number of books sold. Epub is the new kid on the block.

    It’s easy to call epub open and mobi a closed format but since they all have DRM anyway, that claim is moot. They’re both closed before they’re delivered.


  2. @Barry: Sorry, but ePub has its origins in the Open eBook standard format, which dates back to the late 1990s and is based on XML and technology developed by SoftBook Press. I was personally at a government-industry conference related to e-book standards about 15 years ago. The biggest industry standards group was originally called the Open eBook Forum, with that format in mind—it’s now the International Digital Publishing Forum. See Mobipocket wasn’t even founded until the year 2000, and now of course Amazon has created its own internal Tower of eBabel by way of Kindle Format Eight.

    Also please remember that I’m talking about an industry standard, as opposed to a proprietary standard. I really don’t care how many books are in Mobi or brethren—the point is that Amazon controls them. I love Kindle hardware for the most part and wish Amazon well, but really, really don’t think one company should exercise so much power over an entire industry.

    Believe me, Amazon could nicely survive the transition to ePub and win goodwill points along the way. The competition from B&N, in terms of prices and choices and the richness of the accompanying social platforms, is absolutely pathetic.

    Get rid of proprietary DRM and truly standardize e-book formats, and then e-books will be a lot more of a permanent medium. I despise the idea of books being associated with a particular company. One glory of books with genuine ePub and social DRM (or, better, no DRM) is that many different devices and apps can read them. If Amazon sheds its closed-garden approach (yes, DRM-crazed publishers could be a challenge—although I think it is surmountable due to Amazon’s influence), you won’t have to strip DRM and violate the DMCA to enjoy Amazon-sold books via Moon+ Reader Pro or whatever other app you want.

  3. “Sorry, epub has it’s origins…”
    Irrelevant. Epub was first standardized in 2007 as you well know, and the first poster pointed out correctly.

    “I was at a gov’t conference 15 years ago….Mobi wasn’t founded until 2000”.
    Those two years would be the same year. Not sure what you are saying.

    So you confirm that mobi came out in 2000, and send us to a wiki link that confirms that epub was released in 2007. So much for your condescending “Sorry, Barry”.

  4. @Jmurphy: As Wikipedia puts it: “EPUB became an official standard of the IDPF in September 2007, superseding the older Open eBook standard.” ePub was “Extended from Open eBook, XHTML, CSS, DTBook.” So how far back does Open eBook itself go? Well, the initial release was in 1999. I’m not saying a formally proclaimed ePub existed before 2007, but we’re really talking about a predecessor that appeared before Mobi (even if at first some viewed it as an exchange format rather than a consumer-level one). As for the conference, I said “about 15 years ago.” A year or so off or whatever? Big deal.

    At any rate, with KF8 around now, it looks as if Mobi just ain’t gonna matter as much to Amazon as some would have expected. Good riddance. The future is ePub, and if baffles me why any consumers would feel warm toward a proprietary format that Amazon over the years has wrapped in proprietary DRM. I can see keeping Mobi around to ease the transition to KF8. But as long as Amazon is doing that, why not just embrace ePub rather than moving on to another Tower of eBabel format?

    ADDENDUM: Here is a news report from the government-industry conference I attended in 1999: People were trying to avoid a Beta-VHS situation. Amazon later would unscrupulously set the standards movement back by years. Of course, some major IDPF members didn’t exactly help matters by promoting their proprietary encryption-based DRM for retail e-books (the standards covered only the core format—not any possible encryption used). Wider use of either no DRM or social DRM would be a real boost for ePub and the standards movement.

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