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Sony Reader Opens to EPUB Format for Digital Books
Adobe offers Digital Editions as display for portable documents
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2008-07-28 16:36 (KST)   
A new version of the Sony Reader for digital books will support the EPUB format and the Digital Editions software from Adobe. The PRS-505 will be available with new software in the United States during August. Current owners can update through a download. The EPUB format is based on XML and is available as an open specification from the International Digital Publishing Forum.

Sony Reader
©2008 Wikipedia

The Digital Editions approach from Adobe converts a portable document (PDF) to Flash so the display can be quicker. The download is also smaller assuming that Flash is already available.

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Neil De Young, director of Digital Media at Hachette Book Group, said, "When we became the first major publisher to embrace EPUB as our sole production file we made a commitment to our partners to ramp up our title output to meet growing consumer demand. We've done that and are thrilled that Sony is embracing device interoperability. This is terrific news for the eBook industry and consumers alike."

There is wide support for the EPUB format from US publishers. Ed McCoyd, director of digital policy for the Association of American Publishers, sent a widely distributed letter in May, in which he said, "We are writing to express our support for the use of EPUB as an e-book file type for reflowable texts from which any e-book delivery format can be rendered. Many publishers already want to begin a transition process toward this use of the EPUB file format and hope that such a transition can be completed by October 2008."

In the United Kingdom, the Waterstone's chain of bookshops has announced that they will be stocking the Sony Reader from September.

As reported in the Bookseller, a U.K. trade journal, category manager Toby Bourne said, "Waterstone's is very impressed with the Reader from Sony and we think our customers will be too. It offers a new way of reading that is easy, and convenient, and we're working with publishers to develop the best range of ebooks we can -- classics and brand new bestsellers -- to read on it."

In a report for the Associated Press, Peter Svensson has suggested that one reason for Sony to open up the supported formats could be to increase the range of titles, currently 45,000 on Sony's store compared to more than 140,000 for Amazon.com' Kindle.

The idea of a digital book has been around almost as long as the paperless office and is often resisted by those who associate print with civilization. Claims that most promotion can be dismissed as "hype" have been usually backed up by the slow progress of previous attempts to promote the e-book.

Susanne Bj첩rner has quoted Guy Kewney as admitting, during a panel discussion at the 2006 Frankfurt Book Fair, that "every year since 2000 had been trumpeted as the Year of the Ebook." However, he did make a point by asking how many people in the audience had a mobile phone with them. As almost everyone raised a hand, he asked, "And how many of you thought 10 years ago that would be the case?"

Kewney has contributed to reports by AFAICS Research that feature the screen displays as a technology area where reader devices have benefited from recent developments. A form of electronic paper is able to store a static image with a quality that is easy enough to read while minimizing the requirement for batteries.

A summary of an earlier report included an explanation of the role of XML in publishing workflows:

Already, it is possible to understand much of the new generation of operating software which will underpin e-books - and the list covered in this report is comprehensive - but the focus is moving towards standards: not of operating systems so much, as of format.

And the killer development is going to be XML.

Old formatting technologies, HTML and PDF may linger -- but we strongly believe that XML based formatting is preferable, not only does it permit sophisticated design, layout and typography, and allow the inclusion of interactive multimedia content. But most importantly XML allows content to be displayed, and where necessary automatically reformatted, on a very wide range of different reading devices.
Adobe are still working on the MARS project to rewrite PDF as XML friendly but the plug-in for Acrobat 9 was not part of the original release. XML workflows may become better established with EPUB as a route to the Sony Reader and other devices.

The Wikipedia describes Adobe Digital Editions as supporting XHTML through the .epub extension. There is a link to Feedbooks where many public domain titles are already available in EPUB format as well as others.

Adobe supports the creation of EPUB files from InDesign and there is current work on open source alternatives. As O'Reilly TOC reported in June, "Publishers with content in DocBook XML format can now easily create EPUB files using the open source DocBook XSL package (which already supports output to HTML and to XSL-FO -- a format that can be turned into PDF -- along with several other formats). Here at O'Reilly we've long used DocBook as the format for Safari Books Online, and more recently been using it more for standard book production (rather than converting to XML from a format like FrameMaker)."

Version 1.74 is still regarded as experimental and there is still no easy way to create EPUB files from an Open Document in Open Office. Discussion on the DocBook Wiki suggests that not all DocBook features are currently supported and the installation for Open Office may not be easy enough for most people to follow. However, the Sony Reader will probably be widely available and the Adobe Digital Editions software will make it possible to read EPUB publications on other devices. So there are strong reasons to look out for further developments in XML workflow.
Related opinions will be on the blog for drupa.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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