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Amazon Won’t be Adopting Epub

Do you recall that rumor from 3 months back about Amazon switching to Epub? Well, the new Kindle format that we discovered yesterday is a pretty good sign that Epub just isn’t going to happen.

In case you don’t know, yesterday I posted about a new format that Amazon just released. It’s called Kindle print replica (KPR), and it has a lot of details in common with a PDF. KPR is a fixed layout ebook format like PDF and it even uses a similar tool bar.

Here’s the thing. Amazon didn’t adopt PDF. They could have used PDFs if they wanted to, but instead they went with their own proprietary format. They went with something that was like PDF butĀ  that they could control completely.

This new format should tell you a lot about Amazon. They value control over usability. It should also tell you that Amazon’s future plans probably won’t include any open formats.

If Amazon ever do adopt Epub, I’d bet that they will call it something else. I also suspect that Amazon Epub format will not be wrapped in a Zip file (like the Epub standard requires). Breaking with the open standard is how they control their platform.

P.S. There is a long-running debate in digital publishing that Amazon may have just settled. Now that they have their own PDF format, does that mean PDFs are ebooks?

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Robert August 29, 2011 um 3:34 pm

I dont know… if you ask me… a story, no matter the format that it is delivered on, that is distributed for the purpose of entertainment or information, is an eBook. Does really matter if it is a PDF, ePub, Mobi, Doc, RTF… ?

As for control, I do agree that Amazon wants to control the digital media they sell but I do enjoy the ability to read them on a Kindle, PC, Mac, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and even webOS. While it is locked into my Amazon account, I can read it on any device I have registered… and at this point it is 27 and counting. (My family does a lot of reading)

Sure, I cant buy an eBook at Amazon and read it on a Sony or, say, the Kobo… but for me Amazon work quite well… not to mention that the Amazon customer service is beyond reproach. At one point I was given a $5 credit for a $1.99 eBook so I can repurchase it and enjoy another one on them šŸ™‚

yuzutea August 30, 2011 um 1:19 am

Wait. Isn’t this just PDF but in an amazon container? I don’t see why this doesn’t count as Amazon using PDF? I think Amazon may adopt epub in the way you describe it, they’ll wrap it up in their own proprietary container, but publishers will be able to submit their books in epub and they will act, in terms of format and capabilities, like epub books; this is probably how Amazon will allow people to borrow epub library books.

Sweetpea August 30, 2011 um 1:44 am

I agree with Robert, a story defines the book. Not the container. And personally I really like PDF, as long as the drawbacks have been thought about (such as trying to load an A4 sized PDF in a 6″ reader…)

But about the Epub, I think you’re right. They will never read pure epubs. Epubs wrapped up in any other container, probably yes.

Piotr Kowalczyk August 30, 2011 um 12:47 pm

I think they will adopt ePub, whatever they will call it. The price of devices is dropping and counting only on them is short-sighted. Selling digital content is the future.
The thing is that Amazon is loosing on the content because of the closed format.
Amazon is selling Kindles to the rest of the world. The rest of the world is using ePub. If Kindle owners don’t find content in Kindle Store they’ll find it somewhere else and get used to download third party stuff.
Not adopting an ePub is a missed opportunity:

fjtorres August 30, 2011 um 1:58 pm

The "rest of the world" may be buying epub, but the fraction of the consumers in "the rest of the world" that are actually buying ebook readers is less than 2% of the total consumers in the individual countries.
The other 98% have yet to be heard from.
A wise person at Mobileread put it succintly: "I buy ebooks, not epubs."

If and when ebooks become mainstream in those countries, so it isn’t just hobbyists, zealots, and early adopters buying epubs, *then* Amazon might have some thinking to do. Until then, don’t expect them to do their sworn enemies any favors. They are betting that the masses want good a product at good prices more than they want a "standard". Tech History suggests they might be right.

It is way too early in the ebook evolution to say that any single format is *going* to amount to anything, long term. At roughly this same point in the evolution of the Personal Computer the annointed "standard" was CPM running on Z80 processors and displaying on VT-52 and VT-100 terminals. And everybody in the CPM camp cursed Apple, Atari, and Commodore for running proprietary software on 6502 processors instead of paying Digital Research and joining the comfort of the herd.
A year later the IBM PC came out and two years later all the CPM vendors were road kill.
The proprietary gang survived another decade before their own management miscues and piracy wiped out all but Apple, and that only through a cash infusion and public vote of support from an antitrust-spooked Microsoft.

Pundits, bureaucrats, and academics like the warm comfort of running with the herd but in the real world of technology products, it is the lone wolves and hunters who benefit. Herds just make it easy for them to find prey.

As Amazon’s new format proves, going it alone means they can address emerging markets faster than standards can; whatever might lie inside those digital replica files, whether PDF, bitmap, or html5 is irrelevant to the consumer that wants a time-limited textbook rental. They have a need, Amazon thinks they can meet it and make money with a new format, so they spun one out. They owe nothing to nobody and pay nothing to nobody so they can underprice the adobe-taxed competition.

They hunt, the epub herd whines.

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