There have been a few interesting developments of late regarding ebooks. Firstly, there was the announcement by Faber that they would be publishing an ebook that would work on the same principle as Radiohead’s In Rainbows. The book, entitled What Price Freedom?, will be available for download six weeks prior to the publication of the paper edition and will give readers….
…..the freedom to set their own price, or even download it for free.
Whilst this offer differs slightly from that offered by Radiohead (the download was compressed so there was still a reason to then go on to purchase the ‘hard copy’), it is an interesting development and certainly worth keeping an eye on come the release date. Although one wonders whether this model will ultimately succeed as there is no actual incentive to own the hard copy, other than for presentation value.
Sony and Google Make Ebook Agreement
Exciting though that news was, today came some even more exciting news. Google and Sony have announced an agreement that will see all of Google‘s scanned public-domain books available to read on the Sony Reader. This means that Sony Reader owners will now have access to a further 500,000 books – free of charge¹. The following is taken from Yahoo! News:
NEW YORK – Google Inc. is making half a million books, unprotected by copyright, available for free on Sony Corp.‘s electronic book-reading device, the companies were set to announce Thursday.
It’s the first time Google has made its vast trove of scanned public-domain books available to an e-book device, and vaults the Sony Reader past Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle as the device with the largest available library, at about 600,000 books.
The scanned books were all published before 1923, and include works like Charles Dickens‘ “A Tale of Two Cities” as well as nonfiction classics like Herodotus‘ “The Histories.”
The books are already available as free downloads in the Portable Document Format (PDF), which works well on computer screens but not on e-book readers. Google will provide the books to the Sony Reader in the EPUB (electronic publication) format, which lets the lines flow differently to fit a smaller screen.
Google spokeswoman Jennie Johnson said the company wants to make the books available as widely as possible.
“Really our vision is: any book, anywhere, any time and on any device,” she said. “We want to partner with anybody who shares our vision of making them more accessible.”
This is really quite an exciting development and really ensures the Reader is a viable alternative to Amazon’s Kindle, particularly as the Kindle relies on books produced in Amazon’s proprietary format (AZW). Although EPUB formatted ebooks can be converted using special software to enable them to be read on a Kindle, it is a big advantage point for the Sony. It is especially advantageous given that the Kindle is currently unavailable in Europe and unlikely to be available for sometime due to its reliance on Whispernet, which is not currently compatible across the region. At this rate, Europe is going to be a tough nut for Amazon to crack, particularly given the widespread adoption of EPUB as the format of choice for ebooks.
These really are exciting times for the ebook. As predicted, the format is really moving at quite a pace in 2009 and there is no telling where the format will be come December. Maybe, just maybe, widespread adoption of ebooks is just around the corner.
1. You can download the software to enable access to Google’s public domain books here.