The Roundtable is a live, interactive webcast gathering some of the most outspoken industry professionals to debate the hottest publishing issues of the week, as being discussed in traditional media, the blogiverse and on Twitter. From celebrity book deals to eBook rights and pricing to [insert YOUR pet topic here] — if it’s related to books, it’s on the agenda.
Topic: Browser Wars 2.0
This episode of The Roundtable was webcast live at 1pm EDT on Thursday, June 3, 2010.
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Dir. of Programming & Business Development, Digital Book World
Every eReader I’ve seen to date would rather reformat your carefully crafted ePub document than trust you to have designed your book on purpose.
I truly believe that one of the reasons that the Web took off like it did was because there were no authorities on high dictating elitist rules of design. If you were bent on making a hideous page, there was no browser that was going to stand in your way, or choose more “appropriate” fonts or colors to save you from embarrassment.
And although there may have been a number of ugly pages at the beginning, this lack of censorship also lay the groundwork for a most beautiful explosion of democracy. Anyone could create a web site. And everyone did.
Both want their devices — the iPad and the Kindle — to be the one consumers use to read e-books, and each wants to be the biggest virtual store were such content is sold.
For Michael Serbinis, chief executive of Kobo, a company that allows users to buy e-books and read them on most devices, that battle is a distraction to the real changes coming.
“Today you can buy a book at Barnes and Noble and you can buy a book at Walmart and you don’t have to keep them in separate rooms in your house,” he said. “You buy a book from Apple and Amazon and you have got to keep it tied up with your Apple universe or your Kindle universe.”
There are already several open e-book formats out there—ePub and MobiPocket are just a couple. The major e-book devices even support them; with a little bit of effort, you can get an ePub version of a book onto your Kindle or iPad in no time. The problem is the “effort” part—e-book sellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple heavily market their own stores and make it even easier for customers to simply buy the proprietary formats.
The downside, of course, is that customers are then locked into specific formats and devices. As noted in a recent Reuters piece, a Kindle book may be readable on a Kindle app on the iPad, but it’s still limited to the Kindle “universe”—other devices that lack Kindle apps won’t be able to handle those formats, and vice versa.
1. AOL’s success wasn’t just about an easier online experience. AOL also wooed content providers to its closed network, in part because so many consumers signed up for the service. Once AOL reached a critical mass of subscribers, content providers and application developers were sure to follow — and they did, but doing things AOL’s way. It was AOL’s way or the Information Superhighway. Many partners chose the former. Apple’s situation is quite similar, when looking at iTunes, which is the content and applications hub for iPhone OS devices.
2. Microsoft didn’t just win the browser wars, it won developers. Microsoft feared that Netscape would establish the browser as an alternative platform to Windows. But the real threat was the Web. Microsoft delayed the Web threat, but couldn’t prevent it. Apple may be the creator of WebKit and may talk HTML5, but ultimately an open Web threatens its mobile platform much the way it did (and does) Windows. Apple is pushing an application stack that it solely controls. Such a model can’t coexist with an open Web, particularly one where, say, Google can bypass the iTunes App Store by releasing browser-based HTML5 apps.
Indeed, the session before the agency model panel focused on success stories from “The Global Digital Community” featuring presentations from LibreDigital’s Tyler Ruse, Daihei Shiohama from e-book developer Voyager Japan and Michael Tamblyn of e-book retailer Kobo. Ruse outlined the well known successes of romance publishers Harlequin and its Mills & Boon imprint and the effective use of embeddable book widgets that allowed readers to preview M&B titles.
Shiohama outlined a Japanese e-book market with 300,000 titles that had $600 million in sales in 2009. Eighty percent of the Japanese e-book market, Shiohama said, was via mobile phones and aimed at young women in their twenties. And Shiohama said he believes that digital manga, Japanese comics of all kinds, “offer a larger potential as e-books than text books. Text is limited but its possible to make manga available globally.” Tamblyn had a long list of international e-book accomplishments (one day Kobo sold books in 174 different countries) and a wish list for the category going forward: simpler territorial rights, simultaneous global release of print and e-books, more ePub in more places and global metadata with multi-territorial pricing and rights data.
Twitter (as RTd by @digibookworld):
RT @susanmpls: Today’s #DBW webinar is about the various ebook formats & the impact on book design. Fascinating topic.
RT @babetteross: #dbw slide showing the large array of logos/devices currently competing for ebook attention. Its confusing pre detail dive
RT @lizcastro: #dbw roundtable paraphrase “we don’t embed fonts or do complicated formatting because ereaders overwrite” @BookDesignGirl
RT @babetteross: #dbw ePub is not one size fits all. It doesn’t work for manga or reading right to left @jtallent
RT @girlsofair: ePub as a standard has a lot of potential – on the design side, too – i.e. http://epubzengarden.com #dbw
RT @babetteross: #dbw costs of conversion are high, pubs converting backlist slowly. huh, thought e=nearly free <- read that w/ scarasm.
RT @susanmpls: High conversion costs to epub all point to xml workflow. Can save costs if can create epub at composition phase #dbw
RT @babetteross: #dbw need standards for components in book, like bisac is a standard for shelving, proper identifiers affect SEO @ljndawson
RT @babetteross: The most important thing is for publishers to talk to one another and work out standards. @ljndawson #DBW <—-YES FTW