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Sony Books Media

Sony To Convert Online Bookstore To Open Format 107

Dr_Barnowl writes "The BBC reports that Sony is to convert its online bookstore to the EPUB format. While this format still allows DRM, it's supported on a much wider variety of readers. Is this a challenge to the Kindle? It's nice to see Sony opening up to the idea of open standards. Even if you still have reservations about buying a Sony device, you might be able to patronize their bookstore sometime soon."
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Sony To Convert Online Bookstore To Open Format

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  • Layer DRM on top? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @10:33AM (#29075875) Homepage

    This is open-washing.

    Is there a word for that? Like the eco companies green-wash, Sony, Microsoft etal have all been open-washing all their stuff lately and it just isn't open by the non corporate double speak definition.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @11:06AM (#29076017) Homepage

    That's grade A BS right there.

    DRM is by design and by law not user modifiable. If it were, it wouldn't work at all because users would modify it to give themselves free access. OpenSSL, by contrast, can be modified by anyone to their hearts content: you can make it use "4" as a random number every single time it needs one if you wanted to (not that I'm recommending this, of course).

    Your either inadvertent or intentional blurring of the meaning of the word "open" is exactly what MS did with its "Office Open XML" format, which is precisely what GP was pointing out.

  • by Rogue Haggis Landing ( 1230830 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @11:19AM (#29076093)
    It isn't "openwashing". There is a danger (to Sony) that the market for ebook hardware will be dominated by the big bookstores. Amazon and B&N, because books are their primary business, can provide a huge number of ebook titles, more than Sony's online store could ever hope to. These ebooks can only be read on their own devices (Amazon's ebooks on the Kindle, B&N's on the upcoming Plastic Logic device) and not on the Sony Reader, an Illiad device, or whatever. Well, they work on an iPhone, but that's a different market, not the e-Ink market. There is a danger to Sony that no matter how good or cheap their device is, people won't buy it because there's not a big catalog of books available for it.

    So they hit on the idea of focusing on the ePub format, trying to make it the standard for sales of ebooks. If enough sellers go along with it, if most every non-Amazon and B&N seller goes along with it, then eventually there will be enough content usable on the Reader that Sony can compete with Amazon and B&N on things like hardware and price. They're trying to eliminate the big bookstores' inherent advantage, that's it. If a few people see this news and say, "Open formats, gee whiz, now I'll buy a Sony Reader" the so much the better (for Sony), but that's not their intention.

    That said, the Sony Reader is also not really in need of "openwashing", because it's very good with open formats. This is strange to say about a Sony device, but it's true. The Reader already supports epub, which the Kindle doesn't. The Reader has always been better for open formats, even pdf (if you don't mind slow and cramped). You don't even need to use Sony's software. Just plug the thing in to a USB port and drag your ebooks over, like its an external flash drive. I've had a Reader (a PRS-505) since last fall and have read 60-70 full books on it. The only DRM that's gotten onto the machine was attached to a couple of pdf ebooks I checked out of the Chicago Public Library. The Reader has been quite happy with free and open files from Project Gutenberg, from Mobileread, what I've bought from a few small presses, and from what the excellent (free and open) Calibre software has pulled from the web for me.
  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:03PM (#29076701) Journal

    If you buy a safe at a yard sale, and it comes with the condition that you don't get the combination, but rather must gain the seller's assistance each time to insert or remove things, is the safe "open"? I think not.

  • by machineghost ( 622031 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @02:05PM (#29077147)

    Sony has not "gone open" in any significant sense at all; the only thing they deserve credit only for is making a good business decision. Think about it: when Apple started the iTunes store, they were creating the marketplace, so they went proprietary. Then Amazon came in to the MP3 market, and "went open" because they were the one locked out of the marketplace.

    Same thing is happening with eBooks: because Amazon created the marketplace, they went proprietary. Now Sony wants to break in, so suddenly they're all about open formats. But it has nothing to do with Sony in general. You can bet that the next time they think they can get another Walkman, they'll go to the mat with another Betamax/VHS, Blue-Ray/HDDVD, etc. fight to the death over their latest proprietary format.

    Sony 3's controlling proprietary formats, they always have, and they (almost certainly) always will. They just settle for open formats when they're late to the table.

  • by AmigaBen ( 629594 ) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @12:13AM (#29080819)

    When was the first Sony portable music player released, and when was the first one that supported anything other than Sony's proprietary formats released?

    Uhm, 1979 and 1979? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkman#Cassette-based_walkman [wikipedia.org]

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin