Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Friday, February 24, 2006

eBook Babble

Making the transition to eBooks nowadays isn’t all that simple. It may be the wave of the future – but they are sure going about it in a strange way. It’s not at all like one can go down to the electronics store today and buy an eBook reader, then march over to the local bookstore or your home computer and just download the latest book of whatever. Unfortunately for everyone, it is a lot more complicated than that. And, as you probably guessed, it’s a money-making-deal that has gummed up the works.

The eBook industry is right now engaged in a tooth-and-nail battle to capture the big prize. And that prize is – THE format that finally catches on and captures the lion share of the market so that every other format disappears (ie - competitively loses – then dies). Such a battle happened between VHS and BETA during the early video wars. But instead of two contenders, in the eBook race, there are many.

For instance, the two biggest contenders are: Microsoft Reader and Adobe Readers. These free eBook reader downloads enable reading on any computer, laptop or handheld. Then there is the PDA market where Microsoft and Adobe are available to some but not all. Palm has its very own eBook reader format and does not take the others.

The earliest big player was RCA who marketed the Rocketbook. It had its own format, as well. I thought it was the hands down winner in the eBook reader hardware market for many reasons, but it went under and was bought out by various companies, among them Fictonwise.

The trouble with all of this is that what format will a writer or a publishing company publish to? I publish all my books in Microsoft Reader, Adobe and Palm. But many companies just pick one or the other and many choose other formats. This scatters the availability of books all over the place and makes it difficult to find everything a reader wishes to read on whatever platform they hold. If you are interested in a detailed view of the exploding eBook market, Business Week featured an excellent article, with some speculation about who the winner may eventually be and why. (HINT - Think SONY...)