Taking the “fright” out of e-books -- with open standards
Tacoma, Washington (October 26, 2005) – Buying e-books can be Halloween-scary.
They come in many electronic formats—everything from Microsoft Reader to
obscure ones cooked up by hobbyists. You can buy 'em online, only to discover
you've paid for the wrong format. Have you ever tried to return an e-book?
But what if you could download an e-book and know the format was right for your
PDA, cell phone, tablet or desktop computer system? Suppose an orange logo on
the box reassured you: “OpenReader compatible”? And what if you saw
a similar logo at an online retailer, so you could confidently buy the book?
“That's our vision for OpenReader—to help e-publications be as compatible
and easy to buy and use as music CDs,” says Mark Carey, president of OSoft.com.
“We’re modifying our existing ThoutReader™ technology to adopt
XML, an international e-document standard that no one owns and everyone can use.”
The new format will come from the OpenReader Consortium (openreader.org), headed
by e-book standards expert Jon Noring. Among the consortium's cofounders are XML
expert Michael Day in Australia and Rick Barry, former information services chief
for the World Bank, an archives-and-records specialist.
Meanwhile OSoft will turn its XML-based ThoutReader™ into OpenReader by
“Anyone can build OpenReader-compatible software,” says Noring, a
veteran of years of standards efforts within the e-book industry. “But OSoft
is the first to act. Microsoft and Adobe promote their proprietary formats, and
Google and Yahoo are more focused on scanning images of books than promoting a
standard format that can be customized and will look great on the screen.”
Victor McCrary, who initiated e-book standards efforts while at the National Institute
of Standards and Technology, has endorsed OpenReader. So have leading e-bookstores
like eBooks.com and Fictionwise.com.
“Whether it's Google or a small online store, we're eager to help everyone
adopt open standards,” says co-founder David Rothman, OpenReader's strategy
and external relations director. “We'll raze the tower of eBabel so e-books
can be reliably read 500 years from now. Reading software may change over time
but the basic electronic format can remain the same.”