Dear Sony: Please listen to Jane about your eBabel problem—if you want to woo romance readers

The Sony Reader"...We [romance readers] do not want to spend our time trying to convert previously purchased books into some weird format which we may not like. We don't want our books to be tied to one device when technology changes in a nanosecond. I am not convinced that enough paper lovers will convert to ebook reading to make the Sony Reader a success." - Jane at, who is more than a little POed that the Reader won't do eReader and HTML books, among others. The TeleRead take: Guess what format Jane's heavily invested in? eReader. Same for Mark F at BoingBoing---an important target of a Sony-slick PR campaign that is happening without even a disclosure of the machine's release date. Months after the originally touted spring date, the machine isn't even past beta-testing.

By the way, I love Jane’s headline: The Sony Reader: NOT the Ebook version of the IPOD. If Sony’s sensible, it will give up on its BBeB format ASAP. Everyone knows BBeB is a durable format NOT. The more people buy BBeB books at the start, the more customers Sony will alienate later on. Jeeze, Sir Howard, doesn’t anyone remember Gemstar? Please let this machine succeed by avoiding Gemstar II.

Related: How Sony could go the OpenReader route. Reminder: I’m among OpenReader’s ringleaders.

7 Comments on Dear Sony: Please listen to Jane about your eBabel problem—if you want to woo romance readers

  1. But eReader is no different from BBeB. They are both closed, proprietary formats requiring a closed, proprietary reader. The durability of your eBooks are dependant on the success of a single company.

    Now, if eReader’s eBooks were offered at a disposable price (they aren’t – instead they are overpriced at hardcover prices), that would be different – you’d expect to have to re-purchase books every time you wanted to read them.

    Jane’s comments are right on the mark. But she needs to read her own words.

    Only open formats will succeed in the eBook market. Any closed formats are doomed to fail – especially when they are overpriced, like at

  2. eReader at least isn’t so device-linked. Still, yes, I agree with you, Ron; on the glories of open formats. – David

  3. Heh. Apple’s Fairplay DRM is only slightly less onerous than BBeB, if only because it can be defeated so easily (burn to CD and re-rip it).

  4. I’m not entirely clear on why Sony’s choice to produce a crippled device matters? (Unless, of course, you’re all Sony shareholders…)

    We do have the option of purchasing other devices—or no devices at all. For example, the Iliad seems to be a superior product. If Sony was the only one who had eInk technology, I’d be complaining as well. However, just like the PSP isn’t the only handheld (eg. the GP2x is a competing handheld running entirely open-sourced software, with some very neat features to boot), the Reader isn’t the only eInk-powered ebook reader hitting the market today. The Iliad looks to have better connectivity, (hopefully) a more open operating system and infrastructure, and a larger screen to boot.

    I’m not trying to play troll or generate flames here—I am genuinely curious why Sony is getting so much airtime. Even bad press is good press… perhaps you recognize the “Pentium” brand, best known for its inability to correctly carry out some obscure mathematical operations? If Sony wants to bring a device to market that is inadequate, we can all vote with our feet, and simply *not buy it*.

    (I suspect I’m missing something, however.)

  5. “Even bad press is good press… perhaps you recognize the ‘Pentium’brand, best known for its inability to correctly carry out some obscure mathematical operations?’

    Thanks for your nontrollish comment, Matt.

    Still, I disagree. Being able to read eReader, when you already own hundreds of dollars of content in that format, is not the equivalent of an “obscure mathematic operation.”

    Moreover, this is just one example of the Tower of the eBabel. Microsoft would love for as many books as possible to be readable only in its format.

    Simply put, the Tower of eBabel isn’t good for actual (human) readers. And not even for vendors in the long run. It interferes with e-books being a serious medium. I wonder how many of these format will be around a decade hence.


  6. I actually buy most of my ebooks in ms lit format if I can but I do find ereader to be a “better” DRM as it is not tied to a device. I am not going to stop buying ebooks simply because I don’t like DRM. At this point, the only non DRM alternative is to buy the paper copy, scan it and then OCR it. For as many books as I read a month, that’s just not a feasible alternative. So to feed my reading habit, I have to make do.

  7. Geez your all whiny. I read about 4 books a week. Anything and everything that catches my attention. I dish out 150-300$ a month on books in paperback and hardcover. I bought the Sony ereader and damn those prices are cheap! I bought Timeline for like 5 bucks. Even new release books like Cross from james patterson are only 15 bucks. The battery lasts forever the reading is easy on the eyes and I can jam to my music whilst I read. So what if its in that format. I still reads PDF and TXT format. If it tanks ill just convert books into those formats. Man you guys complain about something that you dont even own. Friggin whiners.

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