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Adobe Digital Editions

There’s been a fair amount of buzz about the release of Adobe Digital Editions, their lightweight eBook reader and document manager; see other blog posts here, here and here. I’ve played around with it for a few days now and I don’t see what the big deal is. Sure, it’s a nice little application that lets you organize and read your e-docs, but what’s new and exciting here? I’ve been able to read PDFs on my laptop and PDAs for years now.

I still say that as long as there is no killer reader device, eBooks will remain a very, very tiny piece of the overall book market. The world doesn’t need another reader app for their computer; the only way this sector is going to catch fire is if an iPod-like device comes along and has all sorts of exciting features. What’s an “exciting feature?” How about full color, priced at less than $200 and the ability to pick up news feeds via WiFi? I’d buy that.


Bill McCoy

I agree that we need killer dedicated reading devices, but adoption of digital reading is clearly growing on general-purpose devices. Some of Wrox's competitors are making double-digit percentages of their sales from downloadable eBooks, and these are generally being consumed on PCs and PDAs, not dedicated devices. Search and copy-paste are just too of the value-adds of the digital format over paper, as well as of course portability and the ability to acquire content on-demand, 24/7.

What's new about Adobe Digital Editions? First, as you say it's "little", and it's also easily installed in the process of acquiring the content, rather than potentially interrupting an e-commerce transaction with a traditional desktop application install.

Secondly, Digital Editions supports reflowable XHTML-based eBook content (IDPF OEBPS) as well as paginated PDF. Structured, reflow-centric XHTML-based content will have greater usability on small-screen mobile devices, and better enable downstream repurposing and text-to-speech. By supporting standards-based PDF and XHTML content Adobe is working to end the eBook format wars and create an open standard. After all, iPod was built based on pre-existing adoption on PCs of an (effectively) open standard audio format, MP3, and digital cameras on JPEG. The path forward to great reading devices will be smoothed by having an equivalent comprehensive format for eBooks.

PDF is great for paginated content and we think by adding first-class support for reflow-centric content, and over time delivering the authoring tool support to make it easy to publish in both formats, Adobe can help catalyze adoption of digital publishing, as we did desktop publishing and digital imaging.

Joe Wikert

Hi Bill. Thanks for weighing in. I'm intrigued to hear more about the WROX competitors with "double-digit percentages" of sales from downloadable ebooks. Can you clarify? Are you saying these competitors are getting 10% or more of their overall sales from ebooks? If so, that would indeed be news. My own experience is more in line with what I've read from Amazon's results and other reports, namely where results are in the very modest single-digit range. To be fair, some individual titles definitely have 10% or more of their sales via ebooks. That's generally a function of (a) weak distribution of the printed book (b) a very old publication or (c) both (a) and (b).

I think we both agree there's not going to be any sort of breakthrough on this until a great new device arrives. I'm looking forward to that day, but for now it's clear that this segment will remain not much more than a rounding error for the core business.

Joseph A di Paolantonio

Joe, how about a PalmTX? It has full color and the ability to get feeds over its built-in WiFi. If you aren't near a WiFi hotspot, connect up to your Internet enabled phone with it built-in Bluetooth.

It does retail for $99 more than your $200 price though.

Motricity/ is a great multi-platform application for reading eBooks.

A list of companies represented on the OEBPS working group include Adobe, Motricity,, and many others. It will be interesting to see how the standard affects the use of eBooks.

I'll have to give Adobe Digital Editions a try as their Acrobat reader and eBook reader for the Palm has been almost unusable in the past.

Joe Wikert

Hi Joseph. I used to be a Palm customer but abandoned them a few years ago for a Windows device (iPAQ). A couple of years ago I made the switch to a Blackberry and never looked back. I haven't seen the Palm device you're referring to, but I'm not sure the screen would be large enough for regular book reading. I do like the Sony's form factor, but it has too many other issues (e.g., price, monochrome, proprietary model and lack of a wireless option).

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