Is the e-book going to stall without standards?

Let’s see, a hard cover is a hard cover no matter which bookstore you buy it from, and a trade paperback is the same. But an e•book? At the technology end, there are formats as diverse as Kindles and .epubs and PDFs and PDPs. On the distribution side, separate distribution agreements are required for Nook, Apple and B&N, and of course Amazon is an enclave unto itself. On the device end, e•readers have already ceded to tablets and the innovation of non•glitter screens are losing out to the old laptop•style back•lit screen variety

How does one find an e•book that is readable on any device and purchasable universally? Not yet, is the answer, because this industry is so young, and its leaders are struggling for supremacy, just like VHS and Betamax duked it out once upon a time until one fell and left a lot of us holding redundant equipment. But what if the dust settles on perhaps two, or three e•book platforms, like it did in the software industry with Microsoft, Apple and Linux? Then, which one would you buy? Or would you just shrug and go back to buying a trusty old tree•book and let the electronic varieties kill each other off a bit more until only one is left standing (and hopefully not too bruised to also succumb shortly thereafter)?

Standards eventually evolve when an industry matures, and I was heartened when that proprietary behemoth Microsoft signalled a truce and ditched its .lit format and embraced what could be the industry standard, .epub. Will that other proprietary monolithic hold•out of the book industry, Amazon, also send the same signal, turf its kindle standard, embrace .epub and bring e•books into prime time? Time will tell. In the meantime, we wait and watch and buy platform•agnostic tablets, hedging our bets. And we desperately hope that a savvy middle•man, one who can marry the fragmented ends of supply and demand of this emerging channel, does not emerge to siphon away the bulk of the shrinking revenues, holding us all to ransom, just like history has played out in the past in other once•emergent industries.

This saga continues to evolve…by the hour…stay tuned.

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