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Old 08-12-2008, 01:29 PM   #1
6charlong
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Fictionwise explains ePub delays

BooksOnBoard is the only bookstore selling current best-sellers in ePub format. I wondered why. It seemed reasonable to expect all bookstores to offer at least the same, available titles, after all, ePub is an open format. I wondered whether the holdup was coming from the publishers? The bookstores? Was there a lawsuit? What? So I wrote Fictionwise (because they’re the most responsive bookseller I know about). I thought I’d share their response in case others on the forum had the same questions:

“We are currently making our plans for epub compliance over the coming months. Please be aware that epub does not specify how books are encrypted, so it is not true that epub is a standard end-customer format for encrypted titles. Each vendor is currently using their own proprietary encryption scheme for epub. In addition, only one major publisher supports epub at this time, it will be months before more follow suit. We are still in the very early stages of epub adoption.”
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Old 08-12-2008, 01:58 PM   #2
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... and they also say:

"Our preference internally is for the ePub format because of the
flexibility it offers for our customers. We are encouraging the
industry to provide more ePubs, but at the moment, the number of titles
is very small. Of our publishers, only Hachette and Abbey House Press
have yet produced product in any quantity. Both have been working
through usability issues now that the Sony firmware is finally
available, and both plan to offer many more titles in the autumn."

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Old 08-12-2008, 05:22 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 6charlong View Post
after all, ePub is an open format
As you quote Fictionwise saying, EPUB is open but DRM for EPUB is not. Which makes "sense" -- DRM is based on secrets concealed from the content-consumers, leaving "open DRM" an oxymoron. Right now those few EPUB books sold are more properly "Adobe Digital Editions EPUB" books -- until someone cracks Adobe's ADEPT DRM scheme those books are tied to DE just as strongly as any of the previous e-book formats were tied to their vendor's viewers. The real potential of EPUB won't become reality until publishers follow the music industry and leave behind their DRM security blanket.

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Old 08-12-2008, 06:27 PM   #4
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Yes we need ePub from end to end without DRM. Unfortunately some see it as a common format they can use to convert into their proprietary format and not something that those nasty consumers should use.
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Old 08-12-2008, 10:36 PM   #5
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There is nothing wrong with an open DRM scheme in fact I would hope if DRM must be used it would be an industry standard "open" scheme so that all reading software would support it and we wouldn't have this crazy proprietary headache for the end consumer. I'm reading open here to mean free to use by all content providers as opposed to proprietary which can only be used by the owner of the scheme or must be licensed from the owner.
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Old 08-13-2008, 12:35 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barcey View Post
Yes we need ePub from end to end without DRM. Unfortunately some see it as a common format they can use to convert into their proprietary format and not something that those nasty consumers should use.
That may actually be the best use for it in the intermediate term.

Many publishers are using Adobe InDesign to generate the files used by printers to make plates. (The ones not using InDesign are using Quark Express.) ePub is an InDesign output format. It shouldn't be a big deal for publishers to create ePub files as well as the files provided to the printer to make plates, and the ePub file contains all of the elements necessary to convert to other formats.

Before the nasty consumer can use an ePub file, they need a device with software that can display one. What's out there right now that does, aside from the sony PRS-505 with the firmware update, and a PC with Adobe Digital Editions installed?
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Old 08-13-2008, 05:31 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMcCunney View Post
Before the nasty consumer can use an ePub file, they need a device with software that can display one. What's out there right now that does, aside from the sony PRS-505 with the firmware update, and a PC with Adobe Digital Editions installed?
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FBReader on the Nokia tablets.
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Old 08-13-2008, 05:40 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llasram View Post
Which makes "sense" -- DRM is based on secrets concealed from the content-consumers, leaving "open DRM" an oxymoron.
I disagree. Security through obscurity ("based onsecrets") won't protect your data. Always assume that the enemy knows the system. "Open DRM" is possible if you rely on open, secure cryptographic algorithms.
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Old 08-13-2008, 05:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMcCunney View Post
Before the nasty consumer can use an ePub file, they need a device with software that can display one. What's out there right now that does, aside from the sony PRS-505 with the firmware update, and a PC with Adobe Digital Editions installed?
Thanks to JeffElkins for mentioning FBReader

There's a list of readers reviewed at: http://jedisaber.com/ebooks/Readers.asp
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Old 08-13-2008, 05:48 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TadW View Post
I disagree. Security through obscurity ("based onsecrets") won't protect your data. Always assume that the enemy knows the system. "Open DRM" is possible if you rely on open, secure cryptographic algorithms.
But who runs these "open" DRM servers? If you want to have the situation where any bookstore can sell you a DRM-protected book that can be used on any device, they all need to use a common DRM server. Who operates it? What happens if it goes down?

If each bookstore has its own server, you get the situation we have with Amazon v. MobiPocket stores. A common DRM standard, but different DRM servers mean that Amazon books can't be read on anyone except Amazon's devices.
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Old 08-13-2008, 05:50 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TadW View Post
I disagree. Security through obscurity ("based onsecrets") won't protect your data. Always assume that the enemy knows the system. "Open DRM" is possible if you rely on open, secure cryptographic algorithms.
At some point you are going to have give people the key so they can unlock and use their locked content, so I think DRM is a total fail. I do agree your point is valid for cryptosystems in general - secrecy is stupid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 6charlong View Post
Please be aware that epub does not specify how books are encrypted, so it is not true that epub is a standard end-customer format for encrypted titles. Each vendor is currently using their own proprietary encryption scheme for epub.
And not to sound pessimistic, but if this is true I deem epub a non-starter.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:41 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffElkins View Post
FBReader on the Nokia tablets.
Mmm. There's no compliance test suite for EPUB yet, but I'd be quite surprised if FBReader could pass one. Last time I checked it had little CSS support to speak of and no SVG support, both of which are required by the specs of an EPUB reader system.

I haven't seen it in action, but my understanding is that the OS X / iPhone reader Stanza does a pretty decent job.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:53 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acidzebra View Post
And not to sound pessimistic, but if this is true I deem epub a non-starter.
It is true, but -- as we seem to agree -- you can't have an open DRM scheme anyway. The EPUB OCF specifies a structure for encryption (encryption per-file in the ZIP archive, parameters specified in META-INF/encryption.xml in terms of the XML Encryption rec) but leaves the encryption methods to vendor-specified DRM schemes.

I think this is a minor problem -- EPUB is still the first open specification publishers are actually supporting, even if only on their backend with tools which operate in terms of the IDPF OEBPS specs other than OCF. We won't see all the benefits of that until publishers drop DRM, but it's still better than any other e-book format on the market.
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:05 AM   #14
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Quote:
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We won't see all the benefits of that until publishers drop DRM, but it's still better than any other e-book format on the market.
While you are obviously more well-versed in the whole backend/format side of things, when you say "better" do you mean better because publishers appear to accept it, or better because it is 'technically' better?

When I was looking into what makes BBeB, I stumbled over a blog post by Bill McCoy, the General Manager of ePublishing Business with Adobe Systems Incorporated.

It had this interesting tidbit:
Quote:
My viewpoint is that BBeB is simply one of the best of a number of what I would call "compiled from XML" derivative formats. The vast majority of eBook content that is not PDF starts life as OEBPS XHTML-based XML. But no eBook reading systems directly consume this XML. ETI uses a minimal ZIP-based container file wrapper. Microsoft Reader's .LIT format encodes the OEB content into a DRM-protected container file. Mobipocket and Sony BBeB can be created via a "compile to bytecode" process on the OEB XML source. BBeB has some additional capabilities that overlap into the sphere of final-form paginated PDF, and the Japanese Librie supported a print driver creation utility as well as (naturally) strong support for the Japanese writing system. But given the nature of the 6-inch Sony Reader screen, and the presence of PDF on the device, I expect the BBeB-based eBooks for sale in the U.S. to be reflowable, and the results of the OEB translation pipeline.
He goes on to predict "in the long run I believe the momentum behind interoperable XML-based formats is unstoppable." but still, I thought his views on BBeB were interesting.

Last edited by acidzebra; 08-13-2008 at 10:10 AM.
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Old 08-13-2008, 01:07 PM   #15
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BBeB's major shortcomings are a lack of support for tables and inline links.
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