Earlier this week I wrote about the expanded use of e-readers. This growth is good news for publishers, authors, consumers, and the environment. Publishers will have more control over their digital content. Early digital books were often distributed in Adobe’s ebook format, which had many problems that limited the acceptance of ebooks. The user experience of reading on a desktop or laptop was one issue, but the biggest problem faced by publishers was Adobe’s lack of security and digital rights managements. It's not that Adobe didn't try to secure ebooks - but unfortunately their efforts weren't good enough. Adobe’s e-reader format involves a modified PDF format with a “light” form of security. The security stopped technical neophytes from pirating books, but many publishers found that distributing books in the Adobe ebook format is the equivalent of posting your books on-line for free. This is because Adobe’s ebook security is quickly and easily bypassed or cracked by a user with even modest technical capabilities, and many books distributed in the ebook format end up posted on free streaming sites within days and sometimes only hours of being offered for sale on-line. Some cracked ebooks then get sold by pirates on sites like eBay, so the pirates profit and the publisher and author don't receive anything for their efforts. The new ereaders appear to provide more control over who can view a book, and they operate within a more controlled environment providing an additional level of security that Adobe never achieved with their ereader format. While Adobe has made some attempts to create proprietary readers for newspapers to help distribute the AIR player which competes with Microsoft’s Silverlight – but I view this as misguided, as reading is moving to devices and off the desktop and laptop. The winner in the eBook arena appears to be eInk, who is making the displays used by many of the readers. Some of the new ereaders, like the Nook from Barnes & Noble, will allow users to share books –similar to what occurs with paper versions of books. If someone wants their own copy for extended use, they will purchase it. Increased sales and reduced piracy is good for authors as well, and consumers are able to obtain books instantly. The reduced cost of printing and distributing books likely won’t trickle-down to consumers right away, as companies recover their investment in these new technologies, but eventually this cost savings may find its way to consumers. Who is at risk from ereaders? Printing companies, paper manufactures, and traditional print layout and production artists. I’ll write more on this in a future post.
Author: Jennifer Smith