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Summary:

I’ve been following David Rothman’s "self-made" eBook reader for the past few weeks and thought now would be a good time to share his efforts. He has a number of posts regarding a Windows CE touchscreen tablet, the DT375, he bought used for $155; using the […]

Dt375I’ve been following David Rothman’s "self-made" eBook reader for the past few weeks and thought now would be a good time to share his efforts. He has a number of posts regarding a Windows CE touchscreen tablet, the DT375, he bought used for $155; using the Win CE device with an 8.4-inch touchscreen and various eBook reader software, he’s made steady progress towards a very usable device.

Today, David provides a good summary on where prior Windows CE-based reading devices went wrong, and more importantly, he puts a call out Microsoft and the eReader folks on the need for industry standards. I completely agree with him on the standards concept: just like my digital audio purchases, I have eBook content in virtually every format for every platform simply because the content I want is spread among so many formats. DRM is part of the equation too and I begrudgingly accept that, but the format variances are holding back growth in the eBook industry.

  1. Kevin, I believe two things are holding back ebooks.

    1. Microsoft being willing to license their reader technology. People commonly use many proprietary formats: CD’s, DVD’s et al but those formats are freely licensable. It doesn’t much matter what the format is, how well designed it is (the DMCA will protect any DRM scheme no matter how poorly it is designed): what matters is the terms of the OEM license package.

    2. Content publishers being willing to make compelling amounts of their catalogs available in that licensable format.

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  2. DRM is just evil, and we really shouldn’t accept it in any format. Even the content owners who demand it have admitted that DRM has nothing to do with fighting piracy and everything to do with controlling what the buying public can do with content they paid for.

    Books could be encrypted but only to ensure that the files weren’t altered or fiddled with after they were created, but any DRM that limits portability or archiveability just prevents the end users from doing what they want to do with the content they paid for.

    Right now you can go out and buy a paper book and be reasonably sure you can read that until your eyes give out due to aging – DRM:ed ebooks however leave you at the mercy of the publishers and hardware manufacturers. I don’t blame people for not buying; I myself refuse to buy DRM:ed material, so to date the only place I’ve bought books is at Baen who do it right (ie, DRM-free!)

    We definitely need a standard format, though; let the ebook hardware/software manufacturers compete on features and quality, not by trying to lock us into their own proprietary format, again reducing choice.

    Illicit copying isn’t that bad, when all is said and done. It acts as advertising, and it is quite possible to make a profit in spite of widespread copying as proven currently by the movie studios, among others, who make money hand over fist on DVD’s. The copying should just be considered the price of doing business – and as I said, not entirely a negative either.

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  3. Call me crazy but I rather enjoy using my Axim X50v as an e-reader. The compact size, high resolution screen and side buttons work great for one handed reading. I read mostly freely available books or otherwise converted to tagged PDF so I can read with acrobat in reflow mode. (which seriously needs an update, what’s up adobe? I’m using the hack to force it to 640×480)

    It really irks me that the PDA market is falling to the smartphones – I don’t want a big phone, I just want a PDA in my bag when I need it. If only more people thought like me :)

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  4. Devwild: I don’t think you’re crazy. My favorite eBook readers to date have been my Dell Axim X51v and Toshiba e805. Both fit in the hand but offered VGA screens for very crisp fonts.

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