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Old 12-13-2009, 10:36 PM   #1
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Has open source helped or hindered the e-book industry?

http://www.teleread.org/2009/12/13/h...ry/#more-34109

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DRM has not been the real damaging factor in the e-book industry; the open-source movement itself has been the real cause of hindered innovation and slow development.
Yeah, that's the ticket. It's not the publishers, its those damn Open Source people!

And he points to the MUSIC INDUSTRY as the exemplar of how things went smoothly, because, according to him, everyone settled on MP3 quickly.
Except of course, the music industry, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into it. And Apple, who became the number one retailer in digital music, despite a) selling DRM'ed music for years b) never, even today, selling MP3s at all (they encode in AAC).
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:07 PM   #2
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Steve Jordan: Has Open Source Helped Or Hindered The Ebook Industry?

Steve Jordan posted an interesting piece on Teleread, asking if open source has helped or hindered the ebook industry:

http://www.teleread.org/2009/12/13/h...book-industry/

His primary argument is that the large number of open-source formats and reading and conversion software built around them left early-adopters of ebooks confused and led them to eventually abandon ebooks:

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In the e-book industry, lack of commitment by the major players, i.e. the publishing industry, has resulted in open source believers attempting to take the reins in their own hands. This has similarly resulted in more e-book formats, e-book reading software and DRM-type security systems than can be reliably counted, and as those programmers have changed their focuses and moved on to new projects over the years, many of these formats have gone orphaned, leaving many customers with unsupported e-books and e-book reading applications.
It would be interesting to hear everyone's opinion, which is why I'm posting it here. I know Steve has been part of the ebook industry even before there was one, but as a software developer, I don't think I agree with him on this one. I think Steve's point about the proliferation of formats and convertors causing confusion is valid, but blaming open-source for hindering the progress of ebooks is like blaming open-source for hindering the progress of operating systems because of the large number of Linux distributions, not all of which work well with each other.

I would argue that open source has helped the ebook industry far more than it has hindered it (if at all). The Kindle, the Nook, the Iliad and most other eInk readers run on open source software. Most of us have used Calibre, and ebook websites that have played a big role in ebook adoption (ManyBooks, FeedBooks and even MobileRead) are all fueled by free and open-source software. Further, it's not just open-source programmers who have created ebook formats - there are a lot of dead proprietary ebook formats too (BBeB/LRF is a recent example) and enterprising open-source hackers have only made it possible to convert between these formats so readers can fully enjoy the ebooks they rightfully own. I think the ebook industry is where it is today only because there was little demand for reading on LCD screens - the Kindle spurred demand, and we are at the natural point in the adoption curve today. Even if there had been fewer formats five years ago, not much would have changed without open-source based innovation (and Amazon's marketing blitz around the Kindle).

Last edited by anurag; 12-13-2009 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:49 PM   #3
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I'm confused the only "open source" e-book format I know of (prior to EPUB) is FB2. What are all these mythical e-book formats that are supposed to be confusing the poor befuddled end users? Sounds suspicously like all those Microsoft funded studies that concluded using open source software would cause the end of the world.

Last edited by kovidgoyal; 12-13-2009 at 11:51 PM.
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Old 12-14-2009, 03:39 AM   #4
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I really need to make myself finish reading Steve Jordan's book about e-books and review it.

It tends to remind me of this post in some respects. Lots of opinions, very few specific examples.
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Old 12-14-2009, 05:30 AM   #5
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I think open source has helped the ebook market from the perspective of freely available reading software, and more importantly the availability of operating system that is suitable to run on low spec hardware without the added cost of software licensing.

Where the article was in my interpretation having a bit of a go at was more to do with open formats. There are a lot of open formats, and each were essentially created by different people/groups to scratch their own itch. I think open formats are great, they allow anyone to be compatible with any file type with ease (think how difficult it is to be compatible with .DOC format, you are tied with proprietary software at a huge cost). Mobipocket is a closed format, and for books to be published in that format it is my understanding that license fees must be paid adding to the cost of ebooks for the consumer. Open formats remove that added cost.

I look back at the early days of the internet with open formats. TCP/IP, SMTP, HTTP, FTP, SSH, Telnet...the list goes on. Imagine how slow the uptake and expensive the internet would have been if all those formats were closed and licensed.
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Old 12-14-2009, 07:47 AM   #6
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That article presents the author's opinions and distorted view of reality as facts. A lot of things are stated matter-of-factly when they are actually Jordan's incorrect assumptions and conclusions.

It's just plain wrong on so many levels.
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:48 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solicitous View Post
Where the article was in my interpretation having a bit of a go at was more to do with open formats.
But open formats have nothing to do with open source.
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:48 AM   #8
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When it comes to protecting DRM in ebook world, Steve will blame anything but DRM. Absence of facts sure won't stop him. Just have to see threads from half a year ago.
Which I find very very surprising since on his website he sells non DRM books.
Go figure.
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Old 12-14-2009, 11:09 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by kovidgoyal View Post
I'm confused the only "open source" e-book format I know of (prior to EPUB) is FB2. What are all these mythical e-book formats that are supposed to be confusing the poor befuddled end users?
No kidding. Not to mention open source being responsible for multiple DRM systems?

I don't know if it was Steve's idea to write this article, or Teleread's, but it seems obvious he doesn't know much about it.
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Old 12-14-2009, 12:05 PM   #10
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I would argue that the fact that LaTeX is OS has helped at least the academic community immensely in being able to easily typeset textbooks. (There are lots of free course materials available online that were created that way.)
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Old 12-14-2009, 12:10 PM   #11
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This was not a well thought out article, his arguments where weak and inaccurate. First the author does not really have an understanding of what Open Source is, he seems to use it in many different context. Second the article did not really make sense as of the author put little thought or fact finding in the article.

Open Source is a movement to create the best software for the community while keeping it free of shackles and other corporate tactics. The idea is anybody can use it and enhance it to meet there needs and not be at the mercy of the corporate who owns the license. There is no one body who is behind open source it's just a philosophy where anybody can participate

Blaming Open Source for the proliferation of eBook formats seems illogical, since the vast majority of the book formats are proprietary, these formats where written by business to keep their customers locked to their products in order to dominate the market.
It also stated that these open source programs had the ability to read DRM sources when that is not true DRM, the limitation is in the licensing not source code related.

Last edited by =X=; 12-14-2009 at 12:11 PM. Reason: Fixed grammer
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Old 12-14-2009, 12:43 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Shaggy View Post
No kidding. Not to mention open source being responsible for multiple DRM systems?

I don't know if it was Steve's idea to write this article, or Teleread's, but it seems obvious he doesn't know much about it.
For a little while there was a disclaimer at the top added by David Rothman that Jordan's views do not necessarily represent those of TeleRead.

Then Paul Biba wrote in a comment, "As Co-Editor of this blog, David’s disclaimer on this post does not imply that I agree with David’s view as to 'TeleRead’s opinion'," and subsequently the disclaimer seems to have disappeared.

Personally, I don't think TeleRead has an "opinion"; it's just the opinions of the individual bloggers who write the articles. But I'm just a writer, what do I know?
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Old 12-14-2009, 02:49 PM   #13
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You disappoint me Steve.

While i agree that multiple formats are no good, do I need to remember that the now standard is open source ?

And yes, DRM are a problem, though not the main one right now. The main one being the publishers unwillingness to put ALL theirs books in e-book form. It's gotten better with ePub, but i've seen more badly formatted e-book than proper ones.
And they should be tankfuls for the de-drm scripts, without then, i wouldn't buy e-books.
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Old 12-14-2009, 02:55 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by kovidgoyal View Post
I'm confused the only "open source" e-book format I know of (prior to EPUB) is FB2. What are all these mythical e-book formats that are supposed to be confusing the poor befuddled end users? Sounds suspicously like all those Microsoft funded studies that concluded using open source software would cause the end of the world.
Before I started making/converting books on my own, my primary source books was MemoWare. Run over to search page at MemoWare.com and take a look at the list of formats a book might be available in. When I finally broke down and started doing conversions, I had files in TealDoc, Weasel, PalmDoc, RichReader, MobiPocket, Peanut Press/PalmReader/eReader (I think it was called PalmReader at the time, but some sites still called it Peanut), plain text (in various encodings) and multiple versions each of iSilo and TomeRaider. Since the palm did not (by default) allow you to choose a document and launch the associated app, it could be a real pain if I wanted to look up some reference info but did not remember in which app/format the book was saved.

I am not sure which, if any, of these formats were 'open', but it certainly was a confusing assortment. I would certainly not have suggested ebooks to a bookworm who happened to be a technophobe, unless I limited them to a specific program and a source with a single format (which I did, thank you to PG! which was plain text only at the time).

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Old 12-14-2009, 03:22 PM   #15
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As far as I know, none of those formats are open source. Certainly the various PDB formats and MobiPocket had to be reverse engineered in calibre.

Open source, or more correctly, open standards, tend to cause consolidation, not the reverse. And before someone starts screaming about all the various linux distros, we're talking about data exchange specifications here, not software.
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