Lately I’ve been reading a snowballing number of posts in the ebook community about adopting EPUB as the international (and pleasepleaseplease DRM-free) standard. This is great and I’m SOOO on board with that. What’s got me disturbed is that the subtext (and sometimes it’s not even that subtle) is that in order to adopt EPUB, publishers ought to ditch every other format, I assume, to force the issue of EPUB format adoption for everyone.
Are you serious?
As a consumer and producer of ebooks, let me tell you, this is simple crackpot evangelism. EPUB is the future; I do not disagree and I would love to see it come into its own and beat the competition.
The competition exists for a reason and that’s because there are competing machines out there. Why in the world wouldn’t a producer find and exploit every digital outlet he could while they exist?
Now, I understand it’s perfectly reasonable for a producer of analog music to give up making vinyl records and 8-track tapes when there are few enough record players and 8-track players that it makes no sense to spend the time to do so. But if there is fairly equal money in each format, it would be foolish for the producer to give up producing even one of those formats.
In short, there is no way we would give up any one of the (now) 10 digital formats we publish in unless and until all devices can and will read one format and that the majority of the users of those devices are choosing one format:
EPUB (any device using Stanza or Adobe Digital Editions)
HTML (a lot of devices, plus any browser)
LIT (Microsoft Reader)
LRF (Sony PRS)
MOBI/PRC (any device using Mobipocket)
PDF (any device that reads PDF), and coming soon,
iApp for the iTunes store (iPhone/iTouch)
The fact of the matter is that once you’ve formatted for one of the above, you’ve formatted for over half the rest with minor tweaks. Yeah, it takes time to make each pretty for its own device, but it’s worth it as long as people feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth.
And every single one of those formats has a serious issue or 3 that consumers don’t like. However, each consumer still has the choice of the format with the least number of annoyances for him. Giving me 1 format (or, in the case of a book I really really really wanted to buy) 4 formats that are pure hell on me isn’t going to get me to adopt those formats; it’s only going to jolt me out of my impulse buy and now that I’m not BUYING paper books anymore, I’ll get it at the library.
So, Hachette Book Group. Thanks for saving me some money, ’cause I wasn’t strong enough to withstand the temptation if it had been in a format I could use.