ePub Is Not Universal, So Stop The BS

There are currently three forms of ePub now:

1) ePub from Apple iBooks
2) ePub from Barnes & Noble
3) ePub from Sony/others (which includes public libraries)

ePub from Apple works only on Apple devices.

ePub from Barnes & Noble works only on the Nook and Nook apps.

ePub from Sony/others works on Sony Reader, Nook, and other devices that support what I call “classic” Adobe DRM (which was forked by Barnes & Noble for the Nook).

This is universal? This is a portable format that people can bring to any device they wish?


Some people say, “Well, it’s all because of that nasty DRM.”

That’s baloney too!

Apple uses a different rendering engine than Sony and Barnes & Noble and others.

So even there Apple can do things — and is doing things — others are not. Even ePub supporters are puzzled by why Apple ePub wants things “this” way and not “that” way in creating a compliant ePub file. And there are even ePubs being sold by Apple which fail ePubCheck!

All the rest are dependent on Adobe for the “classic” ePub rendering engine.

And where is that Adobe ePub engine update to allow the Sony Reader and others to use “universal” ePub that contains Barnes & Noble’s forked Adobe DRM?

Nowhere to be seen!

So stop this nonsense about ePub being universal.

That argument got ill when Barnes & Noble entered and after Apple showed up, that argument just died.

I don’t want to come off as a Kindle supporter — because I still hate the fact it’s won — but the general public doesn’t much give a damn about file formats. They will buy something that has the least amount of friction in it — something that Just Works.

The only thing with just about zero friction in it is the Kindle.

Without using a credit or debit card, I’ve been able to set up an Amazon Kindle Store account, get the Kindle for PC software, and download over a hundred Kindle book samples.

That cannot be done with any other eBookstore.

Barnes & Noble has touted its free classic eBooks with extras. When I tried to get one of them to look at, my face was slammed in the wall with a demand for a credit or debit card — for something that’s been touted as free!

I expect the same thing would happen with Kobo, but I’m not going to waste my time trying because I’ve tried it in the past with Sony and found a card requirement to be a roadblock there too.

Apple isn’t even in the free sample game unless you own their hardware. Even if they incorporate ePub viewing into iTunes, access to free at the iTunes Store requires a card.

So if you’re an everyday person hearing about these eBook things and you go to the Sony or Barnes & Noble online stores to try them out, you’re slapped in the face with the requirement of a financial liability commitment upfront for sampling.

That’s absolutely not the case with the Kindle.

And to talk about ePub being universal because it can go to “any” platform is nonsense for the reasons cited above.

On the other hand, Kindle books are cross-platform via the Kindle for PC, Kindle for iOS, and Kindle for Android apps. Your library is synced across devices. You don’t have to bother worrying about DRM at all.

And Amazon has sterling customer service. None of the others do.

ePub supporters can also claim that the hundred-million-plus iOS devices out there gives ePub the device population advantage via iBooks. This too is nonsense. It’s only a potential population.

1) iBooks is still an optional download
2) ePub from Sony, public libraries, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble cannot be read by iBooks.
3) Even if iBooks was included with those devices, those devices do not guarantee readers

When someone buys a Kindle (or a Sony Reader, Kobo Reader, or Nook), they are explicitly stating they are a reader. So the population of those devices generally match the population of readers who use devices (I say “generally” because some people might discard them later on — after they break, for example, and not replace them).

When someone buys an iOS or Android device, there is zero guarantee that person will use it for reading or has any interest in reading whatsoever.

So having over a hundred million iOS devices says nothing about whether or not the device reading population will expand. It’s nothing but potential.

And that potential is a harder nut to crack than you might think.

Go on, try to market books to people wasting hours in games. Unless you’re marketing a book about how to beat that game, good luck!

Go on, try to market to people who use their device for video entertainment. Hey, maybe you can bring them over by offering them eBooks of Glee novelizations! Now tell me how many of those people will stick around for other books after reading those.

So, no. ePub is not universal and ePub is not the winner or even potential winner here.

The Kindle was made for reading. Amazon was created to sell books and is just about known as the biggest bookstore on the planet.

Until something very, very big happens with ePub — and that would have to be the magnitude of a Black Swan event — Kindle is the standard for eBooks and millions more people are going to snatch up that new $139 WiFi Kindle and really, really expand the eBook market.

I’m not wasting my time with ePub any longer.

The focus is now Amazon. And that means agitating for improvements to their metadata and store and software.


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