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Politics of technologies in digital books

Ori Idan, Rotem Segal 

 

The digital books market is prospering in some countries but there are many countries that did not adopt such technologies yet, and found in first stages of understanding this market progress directions and the wish to adopt relevant technologies. Many publishing houses find themselves in a stage where they try to figure out to which way the winds are blowing from the aspect of the future of technologies for digital books in order to get crucial decisions such as which technology to adopt and what will be the most affective way for the move from print to digital.

How to sell the books and which digital stores exist in the market are the main questions asked by publishers, but when it comes to the move from print to digital there are other questions that should be asked such as:”how to read the books and which reading options exist in the market”.

Understanding the reading applications technologies is the key for understanding the digital books market. The digital reading apps which will rule the market and unite reading communities around them, these are the applications that will dictate the format of conversion. A deeper understanding using open or proprietary technology enables understanding the future of digital books.

 

Open and proprietary technologies- many years fight

The subject of open technologies against proprietary technologies is well familiar in the computers field and connected to digital books. When talking about open and proprietary technologies the meaning is to a political world of technology companies and their democratic or separatist point of view towards the way they see themselves contributing to the world of technology.

According to Ori Idan, Helicon Books CEO and open technologies expert: ”Open technology is ruled by a number of companies and decisions about it are accepted in a democratic way. In this matter the technology does not belong to a certain company and will stay available to the use of people with no dependence in any company's decisions or existence.” In contrary to this, proprietary technology has been developed by a certain company and thus belongs to her. The company can decide on the terms of use of the technology, change them any time, and also change the technology. In a case where the company is closed the technology might disappear with it.

AN example for that is software 3B2 belongs to Arbotext company. This is a desktop publishing software which was in use during the 80th and does not exist any more. The software saved files in a proprietary format and today all of its customers can't read their files.

A typical example in the digital books world for two competitive technologies is Amazon's Kindle using proprietary technology against EPUB open standard. EPUP standard is an open standard for digital books, either for reading applications and the ebook format. EPUB standard developed by a group of companies sitting in the IDPF, does not belong to a certain company and that is why it is considered as an open standard. The standard is open for free use – each company can convert books to epub or develop a reading application supports EPUB.

In contrary to epub readers there is Amazon's Kindle. Amazon is responsible for the development and marketing of Kindle , thus she decide in an arbitrary way it's terms of use, the format (KF8 and Mobi are proprietary formats used by Kindle only), Amazon decide the terms of sales for the writers and can delete a book from the device whenever she decide.

Publishers who wish to move to digital have to choose to which format convert the book. Choosing Amazon's format limits sales possibilities for the writer and publishers to Amazons' conditions and devices. Creating the book in EPUB format enables its reading in a variety of reading applications and enables the writer and the publisher the freedom to decide about the ebook price and terms of payment. The end reader enjoys the option to choose which app he wishes to use, and a verity of book shops to download the book from.

 

Proprietary softwares using open standards

Open standard can be used by any software company whether it's open or proprietary. An example for this is Apple company , which develop proprietary softwares , many of them using open standards, iBooks for example is a proprietary software , and nevertheless this is one of the best softwares for EPUB reading.

Many reading applications for EPUB are proprietary (the source code is not available), nevertheless they use EPUB open standard. In a case where the company will change the terms of use or will fall the users can continue reading their ebooks in other applications supporting EPUB.

 

In summary , the digital books world always develops and from time to time there are new reading applications in this market. Publisher who wishes to enter this field should choose an open standard as a format and thus won't be dependent in a specific application or company for reading and saling his books.