Amazon v. Sony, et.al., in War of the eBook Giants

Last Updated Aug 18, 2009 5:13 PM EDT

The recent decision by Sony to drop its proprietary publishing platform in favor of the open ePub platform for digital books represents a turning point in the rapid development of the eBook publishing industry. It further isolates Amazon among the biggest players, with more moves in what has become a crowded field expected soon.

"It's a big deal," confirmed Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, digital the self-publishing company. "Sony has supported ePub in Europe for some time, (but) here in the U.S., they've been selling in their own encrypted BBeB format. So now you have two of the big three eBook retailers (Sony and Barnes & Noble) putting their weight behind ePub."

Other important players in this space include Google and soon (according to unconfirmed reports) Apple. As Coker points out, this move "expands the opportunity for Sony to sell eBooks not just for reading on the Sony Reader, but for any device or app supporting ePub. Smart move by Sony."

For the past few quarters, we've been reporting explosive growth for eBooks, while the traditional book publishing industry continues to stagnate. Even with triple-digit growth, however, the overwhelming percentage of books sold are still the nice, old-familiar type.

But that is changing fast, as we've documented numerous times here at Bnet Media, and the true significance of Sony's ePub -- from an industry perspective -- is that it brings us one step closer to an industry-wide, open standard. As Brad Stone reported in The New York Times last week, if rumors of Apple's impending entry into this field prove true (and I have reason to believe they will; otherwise I would not repeat a rumor), the pressure on Amazon to stick with its proprietary platform will become all the greater.

So sit back and get ready to watch a true "War of the New Media Giants" -- Amazon v. Sony, and Google, and Apple and more -- coming to any eReader screen near you soon.
  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.

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