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Penguin Targets Sony Reader
eBook gadget launched in the U.K.
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2008-09-06 04:07 (KST)   
U.K. publisher Penguin Books have announced that by the end of the year thousands of titles will be available in the ePub format, suitable for the Sony Reader or Adobe Digital Editions on Windows or Mac.

As reported by Booktrade.info, Penguin's digital publisher, Jeremy Ettinghausen, said, "It's thrilling to see so much enthusiastic activity around ebooks, seven years after their first incarnation. Our job as publishers is to make authors' work as widely available as possible -- ebooks give readers greater choice as to how, where and when they buy and read books, which can only be a good thing."

The Sony Reader is now available through Waterstone's, a U.K. group of bookshops. Promotion has been restrained so far with nothing to compare with other consumer devices. The approach may be to wait on the availability of more content so the announcements from Penguin and other publishers are significant.

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Sony Reader with paperback.
©2008 William Pollard
The Sony Reader supports several formats in addition to ePub and PDF through Adobe Digital Editions. Some publicity refers to Word files but the files are Rich Text Format (RTF) so a copy of Microsoft Word is required for transfer from computer to Reader. Saving as RTF from Open Office works just as well. The ePub format is based on XML and workflow is possible starting from the Open Document Format. However, at the moment RTF seems an easier option.

Given the cost of a Sony Reader and the current policy from most publishers of charging the same for an eBook as for print, the apparent value of the Portable Reader System will depend on content already available online or stored on a local computer. The point of the screen is the ease of reading over time coupled with the portability of the device.

It could be worth spending time on research beyond the first offers from the publishers. This is not to suggest that only free resources should be considered. But the budget for buying books is not unlimited.

Anthony Trollope.
©2008 Napoleon Sarony / Wikipedia Commons
Penguin offers a sample "taster" in ePub format from The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. However, on Google Books there is the entire text, apparently scanned with permission of the publisher Penguin Books. Reading the entire text a page at a time may not be practical in this case. Project Gutenberg has a text version that could be copied to a Sony Reader. Decisions will depend on costs and the work involved in forms of transfer.

Jemima Kiss in her Guardian blog has objected to "ye olde USB cable" and much prefers the Amazon Kindle with wireless access to news sources for rapid updates. However, the Kindle is not available outside the United States. Using a cable every so often is not impossible. The Reader screen is intended for texts that take a while to read.

Another promotion is from Random House, on the Second Life island known as "Elysian Isle." There is a danger of confusion as to what sort of content is possible on the Sony Reader. The screen is several shades of grey, nothing in color. It is static after each refresh of a new page. Nothing like animation. So the people who like Second Life may find it quite strange. On a recent visit to Elysian Isle I was the only one there. The text is hidden away in notes but is instructive once you find it.

E-paper is a new display technology that instead of generating light to create an image uses natural reflected light, just like reading ink on paper.

The e-paper display technology used by most of today's e-readers is referred to as 'Electrophoretic' and has been developed by a company called E-Ink.

The term 'electrophoretic' is used because the technology relies upon the use of small electric fields to move microscopic electrically charged particles of ink suspended in a fluid. The suspension fluid and ink particles are stored in minute plastic capsules, smaller than the width of a human hair. Millions of these tiny capsules are then bonded together into a sheet one capsule thick to form the display.
A Web site arranged around text menus could be easier for this sort of information.

Visiting Elysian Isle.
©2008 William Pollard

There are encouraging signs from known statistics on eBook sales. The International Digital Publishing Forum publishes a graph for sales in the US. Until 2006, quarterly sales were below $4 million, but the second quarter of 2008 is shown above $10 million.

Statistics for Japan and Korea are not so recent. In 2007 the Anime News Network reported that the Digital Content Association of Japan projected that mobile phone sales of e-books would increase to 11.7 billion yen (US$99 million) in 2007, compared to a projected 9.4 billion yen (US$79 million) for Internet sales. The association projected that mobile phone sales of e-books would increase to 11.7 billion yen (US$99 million) in 2007, compared to a projected 9.4 billion yen (US$79 million) for Internet sales.

In 2006 Asia Media reported Choi Young-chan, chairman of E-Book Korea, as predicting that the number of titles would grow from 200,000 to 400,000 in 2007. It was estimated that e-book titles accounted for about 5 percent of the publishing industry.

There is no expectation that the printed book will disappear in the U.K. any time soon, but if e-books come close to 5 percent of turnover this will be enough for promotion to continue.

There continues to be a U.K. demand for hardback books even though paperbacks have been widely available since 1935. As recorded on the Penguin Web site,

Penguin paperbacks were the brainchild of Allen Lane, then a director of The Bodley Head. After a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, he found himself on a platform at Exeter station searching its bookstall for something to read on his journey back to London, but discovered only popular magazines and reprints of Victorian novels.

Appalled by the selection on offer, Lane decided that good quality contemporary fiction should be made available at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops, but also in railway stations, tobacconists and chain stores.
On a recent visit to Exeter station there was a wide range of magazines on offer but not so many books. Fans of Victorian novels may be persuaded to download them from the Web and use some sort of gadget on long train journeys.
More details avaialble on Exeter in the "wifi Exeter" blog.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

  Linked Story - Sony Reader Opens to EPUB Format for Digital Books...

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