jump to navigation

Microsoft Re-enters E-Book Market (sort of) February 7, 2010

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in DRM, Publishing.
trackback

I saw a cavalcade of new e-book devices and platforms demonstrated during a session called “Hardware and Platforms and Software, Oh My!” at last week’s AAP Professional and Scholarly Publishing conference in Washington, DC.  (By the way, can someone please tell me where the “Oh My!” cliché originated?)  Among these was the Blio eReader software platform, which was demonstrated by an executive from the major book distributor Baker and Taylor.  It’s a product of K-NFB Technologies, a joint venture of Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the  Blind.

The Blio eReader is a software platform that intends to be interoperable across multiple devices and operating systems including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, and iPhone.  Currently only Windows is supported.  Baker & Taylor is supplying the e-books to the Blio’s online store.  Despite the name and the affiliation, this software does not appear to have any application for visually impaired people.

The DRM for the Blio platform is Microsoft’s PlayReady.  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer demoed the Blio briefly during his CES keynote last month.  In other words, this is the closest thing there is to a new Microsoft e-book platform.  Microsoft abandoned its previous Microsoft Reader platform several years ago, a fact noted by the product’s former chief Dick Brass in a New York Times op-ed piece from last week that laments Microsoft’s lack of innovation.

Apart from the fact that the Blio accepts the open standard ePub format (as well as PDF and XPS, Microsoft’s XML-based PDF competitor), this is yet another proprietary e-book platform.  It’s not even the only purportedly device-agnostic one either: Zinio presented something similar at the Mark Logic Publishing Summit in New York last November.  In fact, the feature set of the Blio Reader resembles so-called digital edition platforms like Zinio more than it does e-readers like the Kindle, Nook, or Sony Reader.

I’m sorry; I don’t get it.  What is the point here?  Does Baker & Taylor want to get into digital publishing niches that its arch-rival Ingram doesn’t already dominate?  Does K-NFB want to reach a wider market than the roughly 15 million visually impaired people in the United States (perhaps in order to subsidize NFB’s important work for the visually impaired)?  Does Microsoft want to dip a toe into the e-book water without the expense and exposure of a Zune-like foray?  Or is someone’s market timing just off?

Or, does the world need yet another incompatible e-book reading platform?  The answer to that one is definitely no.

This e-book platform proliferation situation is analogous to the overcaffeinated digital music platform scene of the early 2000s before the market consolidated around Apple’s iTunes/FairPlay and Microsoft’s Windows Media Player/DRM.

Note to e-reader platform vendors: look up RealNetworks’ Helix, Liquid Audio, and Sony’s ATRAC/Open Magic Gate, just to name three.

Note to publishers: if you want to hold onto DRM and grow e-book sales, you need to put a stop to this mess and insist on interoperability.  Otherwise you will fail to do one, the other, or both.

P.S. another new device demonstrated at the AAP PSP conference was the spiffy Skiff Reader, backed by the consumer publishing giant Hearst and LG Electronics.  No word on its DRM; stay tuned.

Comments»

1. Cliff Burns - February 7, 2010

Bill:

I am hardly a convert to these e-Readers, whatever their format or bells and whistles. But…I have to say that they have been a positive boon for my writing. I offer over 300,000 words of prose (including two novels) for free reading and downloading and the e-Reader folks have been coming by my site in DROVES. I use the PDF format and there have been a few quibbles but for the most part, people seem to be able to access and read my prose with their e-Readers with considerable ease.

Dunno if I’ll ever own one (The Apple iPad intrigues because of its size) but I’m certainly seeing the benefits of these devices and no longer confine myself to regarding books as “dead tree editions”, as my friend Peter Watts calls them.

Thanks for this…

2. Mike - February 10, 2010

The “oh my!” thing is a play off of the “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” scene in The Wizard of Oz.

Bill Rosenblatt - February 10, 2010

Thanks.

3. Blio is the bastard spawn of Bill Gates – It needs to die | The Digital Reader - September 10, 2010

[…] and it has changed my opinion. Earlier this week Mike Cane asked me about Blio DRM on Twitter (Here is the site he linked to). I had thought that Blio used Adept DRM on its ebooks. On the off chance […]

4. Karen - September 10, 2010

lions and tigers and bears, o my! lions and tigers and bears, o my!…(Wizard of Oz)

5. Social Networking, iGeneration, and E-books « The Xplanation - October 19, 2012

[…] Microsoft Re-enters E-Book Market (sort of) — The new Blio e-reader uses Microsoft technology and, currently, is only deployable on Microsoft platforms (although that is supposed to change in the coming months). The author of this article says that, despite the hype, “this is yet another proprietary e-book platform. It’s not even the only purportedly device-agnostic one either: Zinio presented something similar at the Mark Logic Publishing Summit in New York last November. In fact, the feature set of the Blio Reader resembles so-called digital edition platforms like Zinio more than it does e-readers like the Kindle, Nook, or Sony Reader.” […]

6. Weekly Research Index | February 12, 2010 « The Xplanation - October 19, 2012

[…] Microsoft Re-enters E-Book Market (sort of) « Copyright and Technology — The author asks what is the big deal about Blio? From the article: “Apart from the fact that the Blio accepts the open standard ePub format (as well as PDF and XPS, Microsoft’s XML-based PDF competitor), this is yet another proprietary e-book platform. It’s not even the only purportedly device-agnostic one either: Zinio presented something similar at the Mark Logic Publishing Summit in New York last November. In fact, the feature set of the Blio Reader resembles so-called digital edition platforms like Zinio more than it does e-readers like the Kindle, Nook, or Sony Reader.” […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 634 other followers

%d bloggers like this: