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Media Education

Open eBook Forum Courts Controversy Over Formats 184

Brad Rigby writes "TeleRead's David Rothman is calling for [1, 2] the replacement of the Open eBook Forum by "an honest trade association" and a related standards body to create an open standards ebook format at the consumer-level. This will benefit publishers, distributors and retailers, librarians, the open-source community, and most importantly book readers. Largely because of the proprietary format wars, ebooks have flopped commercially, with only an estimated ten million dollars in sales in 2003. In addition, OeBF is being held hostage by its Gold Sponsors, including Microsoft, Adobe, and Palm Digital, companies with proprietary, incompatible ebook format solutions. And to make matters worse, OeBF's president, Steve Potash, runs OverDrive, a company profiting from this "Tower of eBabel", which, according to David, is an obvious conflict of interest and the reason why OeBF is no longer living up to the promise of a standard consumer ebook format. Interesting detail: The OeBF is so focused on promoting its Gold Sponsors that it has yet to speak out against European VATs that will tax e-books but not p-books."
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Open eBook Forum Courts Controversy Over Formats

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  • bah... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zurk ( 37028 ) <> on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:23PM (#7788181) Journal
    i released a (crappy) doc reader (there have been better ones since) for the AportisDOC standard for e-books under the GPL a loong time ago.
    The DOc format is open, can be extended to be secure and is already out there ...theres no real need for yet another crappy e-book standard. we already have one.
  • One word... (Score:5, Informative)

    by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:31PM (#7788268)
    Plucker []. It does ebooks and formatting better than anything else out there, and also does HTML content, RSS feeds, local text files, and lots of other formats.

    The extensive Data Format [] is public, well-documented, and used in dozens of other projects. Lots of companies, commercial and non-profit, have adopted the Plucker format for their content delivery. Out of the other "free" options out there, Plucker reigns supreme (it is also the ONLY one out there that is publically documented, and "Free" to use).

  • Re:Gutenburg project (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:43PM (#7788381)
    It won't affect Gutenburg at all. They do not want to release in eBook format, or anything other than ASCII. Its not that they have not released in ebook format because of the lack of a standardized format, they have stayed with ascii for a very simple reason.... you can turn ascii into anything else, but once its in another format, then you may loose something transferring into another format. So even if they come up with a "Perfect" eBook format, its not going to affect Gutenburg at all
  • RCA eBook Reader (Score:5, Informative)

    by eGabriel ( 5707 ) on Monday December 22, 2003 @04:06PM (#7788550) Homepage
    I got an RCA eBook for my girlfriend. There is nothing wrong with it. The screen is nice to read, the battery lasts long enough, and it is comfortable to hold and turn pages.

    It's just a pain in the ass to use with Linux, and the selection of books when you plug in via the modem is pretty bad, and you get this "bookshelf" hosted by some company you aren't sure will be around, and if they fold you lose your books, have no way to back them up to your Linux system, and are pretty much SOL. There are a few projects for creating new eBooks, but it isn't trivial to get them copied to the unit.

    This really sucks; I'd love to replace certain types of paper books I have with one of these readers. I don't have any particular attachment to paper books for most purposes. And I'd love to be able to grab gutenberg's books and put them on her reader easily.
  • by Jim_Maryland ( 718224 ) on Monday December 22, 2003 @04:13PM (#7788601)
    I disagree with...

    I read a Stephen King interview where he said that people just aren't into books anymore.

    Get a kid a book on a topic that they are interested in and they'll read it. My son is into various card games (Yu Ghi Oh - hope I'm spelling correctly, Pokemon, etc...), Calvin & Hobbs, and anything to do with turtles (he has 3 of these for pets). Most of his friends read books and his school actually encourages reading through "book exchanges" around the holidays.

    I guess I can see where the amount of time spent reading books may have decreased due to competing interest of game consoles/PC's, sports, and TV/movies.
  • by Florian ( 2471 ) <> on Monday December 22, 2003 @04:46PM (#7788878) Homepage
    Instead of re-inventing the wheel, people should just pick the TEI [] (respectively TEI Lite) SGML/XML DTD of the Text Encoding Initiatve.

    For those who haven't heard of it yet: TEI is an open SGML/XML format created for electronic editions of literary texts. It is as comprehensive and well-designed for text philology as DocBook is for technical documentation. The only drawback is that it is, like DocBook, very comprehensive and accurate in its markup tags (fulfilling all needs of academic editions of historical texts), so that for average readers, the trimmed-down TEI Lite DTD should do the job.

    For e-literature collections created by professional philologists - such as the Victorian Women Writers Project [], TEI already is the standard text format. Thanks to the SGML/XML toolchain, TEI sourcecode can, like DocBook, of course be painlessly transformed into HTML, txt, RTF, PDF etc. (TEI is, btw., also being mentioned in Eric S. Raymond's quite useful DocBook Demystification HOWTO [].)


    (philologist by profession)

  • Red Herring (Score:4, Informative)

    by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <logicnazi AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 22, 2003 @04:57PM (#7788987) Homepage
    This issue of eBOOK compatibility seems to be a red hearing to me. I purchase ebooks for my palm devices (now a treo 600) fairly regularly and only once have I run into a book I wanted that was not availible in a compatible format (and the contents of that book...short stories..were availible in a compatible version).

    Not only do most books come in multiple formats so do most readers on mobile devices (no one is going to read an ebook on their PC...well some freak on slashdot might but except for computer related manuals it just isn't as practical or enjoyable as with something mobile). Furthermore many readers are distributed freely. I simply can't see how this is blocking sales.

    Also almost every ebook currently on the market doesn't use many complicated formatting options requiring any innovative format. This isn't do to lack of a standart but because most normal books don't contain many illustrations and palm pilot devices are the best for pictoral information.

    Still, I do support the attempt at a universal open format. However, as the stated goal of eBOOK formats is to *prevent* copying I won't be able to share ebooks with a friend anyway so it is at most a minor convience.
  • by gidds ( 56397 ) <slashdot AT gidds DOT me DOT uk> on Monday December 22, 2003 @05:47PM (#7789535) Homepage
    Fictionwise [] also sell a lot of stuff in open formats (not actually ASCII, but PDB for one can be directly converted to/from ASCII). Unfortunately, they also sell in restricted formats, and most of their big name material falls into the latter category. But there's still a lot of good stuff in open formats, so kudos to them for that.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.