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Old 05-01-2005, 06:11 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Broken dreams of the perfect e-book reader

It's not a secret that Sony's Librie e-book reader has probably the most gorgeous display available nowadays thanks to the unique E Ink electronic paper technology. The catch (why must there always be one?): Sony once again managed to spoil its own success by crippling the Librie with a proprietary e-book format that virtually noone beside Sony business partners support.

Few months ago, Matt McClintock of Manybooks, an e-book site offering over 10,000 e-books from Project Gutenberg and other free sources, decided to support the Librie by using MakeLFR, a small tool some Librie fans developed by reverse-engineering the Librie LFR e-book format. I think until today, Matt's site is still the only place where you can download free e-books for the Librie.

Despite some initial furore Matt's interim report doesn't look good. David from Teleread talked to Matt, and concluded that for the Librie to become a success, Sony must deliver an English-language version of the machine, especially without all the proprietary complications and fiendish DRM. According to the download stats at Manybooks, the Librie is far behind any other e-book format (PDF is still dominating with a huge winning margin, how sad is that?). Matt's explanation:
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Well, I'll keep messing with it every now and then, but I’m going to wait until a few of the barriers are removed - a) the language barrier, b) the poor conversion tools supplied by Sony, and c) possibly a better understanding of how the files are stored on the memory stick (I just don't work with Windows enough to be able to get the various alternative methods working correctly).

So, part of the problem is my own lack of Windows experience, compounded by my lack of Japanese language skill. The other part is an admitted frustration with the ridiculous DRM stuff that still gets in the way of the excellent makelrf tool from scythic (how else can you explain the fact that you can’t simply load an lrf file onto the memory stick and have the Librie read it?).
Only a few days ago Jason Kottke revived the public awareness of the Librie and responses have been generally good. So let's look at the bright side. As E Ink and competiting e-paper technologies are becoming more popular, chances are that someone else will fix what Sony has broken.
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Old 05-01-2005, 10:03 AM   #2
Bob Russell
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I think there's a simple reason for the popularity of .pdf format. It's common and widespread, so everyone has a free reader on their computer, and people have the expectation that no matter how technology changes, they will continue to have access to the book on multiple platforms.

I've kind of treated text and PalmDoc as my generic formats, but once you introduce DRM you loose that security of always being able to read the book you bought in whatever platform you choose. And I think PalmDoc itself is pretty much limited to PDA readers also.

BTW, doesn't it look like that lady has her cheek almost right up against the device for that picture? I don't think she could really read like that!
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Old 05-01-2005, 10:13 AM   #3
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If you accept the idea that DRM is a way, not to limit piracy, but to limit competition, Sony's decisions make sence (albeit warped).

Use DRM to lock out competition (like hobbiests who would convert Project Gutenberg books). Make people come to Sony to get their content (for a price, of course). Then to top it off, use it as yet another attempt to push the failed Memory Stick.
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