Democratizing e-books

Earlier this month we got wind of a new e-reader coming from iRex. When the post was written, we knew they were partnering with an established e-book seller, but we didn't know which one. At that time I said "Kindle of course has Amazon, Sony has its own e-book store and Plastic Logic is partnering with Barnes & Noble, so who is left?"

Apparently the Kindle/Amazon arrangement has me thinking inside the box, because yesterday iRex issued a press release (via CNET) saying that it was partnering with Barnes & Noble.

It embarrasses me to admit that I never considered that a given e-book store would partner with more than one e-reader manufacturer, but it makes perfect sense. Why not offer the reader a variety of devices to read content on, rather than locking them in to a specific piece of hardware? This is a step in the right direction – away from Amazon's mono-company Kindle platform.

Now we just need to expand things in the other direction. Let's get more e-readers that will gracefully access content from more than one e-book store. Sony made some strides in that direction a few weeks ago when they announced that by the end of the year they'd be publishing books in ePub format and ditching their proprietary DRM for Adobe's system. This means that e-readers beyond Sony's own will be able to access the Sony e-book store. As of today, Adobe lists 17 devices capable of reading their DRM'd ePub format.

More of this, please. Let's tear the walls down. If the e-book format is going to flourish, people need to know that they can buy a single piece of hardware and buy books from whatever source they choose. A reader's choice of which e-book store to buy from should be determined by selection, price, ease of use... and and all the factors that lead us to choose any other kind of store. It should not be determined by what kind of e-reader we bought.

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