While the European Parliament will be renewed in May, the European Commission, which will also be fully reconstructed by the end of the year, embarks on a surprising activism: she finally grabs the file interoperability digital books, with the aim of forcing retailers using proprietary formats to end these systems.
Amazon and Apple, the two market leaders, are directly targeted. Currently, a digital book bought on Amazon.fr can only be read on the Kindle, the e-tailer reading lamp, or one of its applications. Reading lamp which does not accept the open format ePub. It is the same with the iBook Store, Apple’s digital library, which does not allow the reading on the terminals of the Apple brand.
Assuming this isn’t an April Fool’s item, what will happen?
After Amazon and Apple fail with their
bribes lobbying, I think:
1) The Kindle will be discontinued in EU nations.
2) Amazon will — rightly — argue that they have apps for all major devices, namely iOS and Android, and are therefore, in their own mind, compliant.
3) Apple will have to decide if it will continue to sell iBooks in EU nations. Note that’s iBooks, their interactive electronic books created with iBooks Author. Most electronic books Apple sells are ePub and not a proprietary format.
4) If Apple decides to continue to sell iBooks, they’ll have to create an iBooks app for Android.
That’s the pat scenario.
This is the Nightmare Scenario:
1) Amazon switches to ePub and winds up dominating the entire world of eBooks. That’s the Revenge Effect the European Commission hasn’t considered.
2) Apple discontinues iBooks. Which probably haven’t been as successful as they’d hoped anyway — but the Revenge Effect of that is to limit the creativity of future writers and interactive book creators. It could also hand interactive ebooks over to Amazon, which offers Kindle A/V books.
Frankly, everyone is late in addressing this issue. It should have been done when the Kindle was introduced and didn’t use ePub. But I did my years of screaming about that until I had to concede that Amazon had won in eBooks. If anything, Amazon could probably argue they are the universal format now just by having the most sales.
Also, the European Commission are frankly delusional if they think this is as simple as issuing an edict. There are many bits of electronic books that still lack standardization and simply thinking those things can suddenly — or simply — be solved is just madness. I wonder how many meetings of the IDPF they even bothered to attend?
Finally, it’s not just an issue of eBook format, it’s an issue of DRM — copy-protection — perhaps first of all. Without addressing DRM — which itself isn’t universal — a “standard” eBook format is meaningless.
— thanks to @crowdedfalafel who tweeted me the original article