ePub format wins critical victory—will it help Sony compete?

Sony Readers will offer only ePub-formatted books through its eBook online store and devices, dumping its BBeB proprietary format, according to The New York Times. This is an important step toward compatibility between e-reader devices, one that will challenge Amazon’s dominance in e-books to date, because Kindle will soon be markedly separate from Sony, Plastic Logic and other devices that support ePub. HarperCollins and Random House have signed on to the Sony ePub initiative. HarperCollins already offers ePub books.

ePub isn’t the ultimate solution to the question of an e-book standard, but it does solve the basic problem of making books readable across multiple devices. As Gartner analyst Allen Wiener told the Times: “If you see some Adobe executive up on stage with Steve Jobs when they announce the tablet, at that point Amazon has a lot to worry about.” Adobe Systems developed ePub as an “open” alternative to other e-book formats, however it is also pushing its PDF format as a solution for presenting formatted documents—Amazon promotes PDF formatted books for the Kindle DX. There’s no absence of a relationship between the two companies. ePub can still be made into a proprietary format by developers who add, for example, a proprietary DRM (in contrast to its built-in DRM) or display extensions to the basic text display capabilities of ePub.

Amazon can solve this problem by updating its existing Kindles and adding ePub support to new units, something I believe is already on the calendar. Jeff Bezos only has to make an announcement that Kindle supports ePub, which he has foreshadowed, to prevent a user migration. Amazon can retain its lead by adding ePub versions to its store, allowing buyers to download ePub versions.

So, while it is to Sony’s credit that it is leading the way toward document portability, the initiative still lies with Amazon.

Blurb’s templates for a professional looking book

Myriad self-publishing sites and services are competing for authors’ and publishers’ business. Blurb.com, a San Francisco company, has introduced an intriguing PDF-to-book service that lets customers use the design and layout application they prefer to create a PDF that may be used to produce the printed book. Moreover, the company offers templates for use in Adobe InDesign, one of the most advanced document design applications available (the one I prefer) and easily followed guidelines for setting up pages, books and cover designs in other applications.

This kind of templated design service is essential to making books that look good, which is one of the keys to selling books, which customers do judge by their covers, the quality of the paper and design.. Blurb can produce books of up to 440 pages using standard paper and 160 pages using premium paper stocks. Pricing is listed here.