ebook formats

I shouldn’t have to download four versions of a single book. Can Sony, Amazon, publishers, and other interested parties get together and unite behind a single open ebook standard please? It will benefit everyone, especially the ones making the ebook readers and publishing the ebooks.

Tor.com has this nifty promotion where every month or so they give away a free ebook. This month the book is The Buried Pyramid by Jane Lindskold.

The free ebooks can be downloaded in one of four formats: html, pdf, mobi, and epub. I have a Kindle so the version that makes the most sense for me to get is mobi. I also download all of the other versions because I don’t know if I’ll have a Kindle forever, and if the technology changes I would still like to have the book available (assuming I like it, I haven’t read it yet).

Let’s take a little side trip and look at the world-wide web, http, and html. They’re universal. They’re open. Can you imagine what the Internet would be like today if web pages for Internet Explorer had to be written in one language and accessed via their own protocol and web pages for Firefox had to be written in a completely different and incompatible language and protocol? When multiple browsers and thousands of companies united behind a single standard (http + html) everyone benefited. Yes there were fights about the direction of html, but in the end everyone came together and everyone benefited.

Does anyone remember Gopher? I do. It was a competitor to the world-wide-web in the early days. In the fall of 1994 it was estimated in RFC 1689 that there were 4800 Gopher nodes. This compared to an estimated 600 World-wide Web servers. Today there are only about 125 Gopher nodes left, mostly run by enthusiasts. Why did it have to die? So that everyone could benefit. It was clear that http and html were the wave of the future and gopher had to die to make room. It wasn’t a bad technology. Parts of it were quite clever. But it had to go.

So here is my plea: I shouldn’t have to download four versions of a single book. Can Sony, Amazon, publishers, and other interested parties get together and unite behind a single open ebook standard please? It will benefit everyone, especially the ones making the ebook readers and publishing the ebooks.

Oh, and quit with the DRM already. By treating everyone like a criminal you are inconveniencing the 99% of us that are honest.

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