October 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Barnes & Noble puts its considerable weight behind the EPUB e-book standard

Adobe Systems and Barnes & Noble have joined forces to further e-book standardization based on the EPUB standard and on PDF files. EPUB backers want to let readers buy files from numerous sources—while trying to stop Amazon from cornering the market.

Adobe Systems Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. have joined forces to further e-book standardization based on the open EPUB standard and on PDF files. They also are collaborating on a content protection standard based on Adobe and Barnes & Noble technology.

The collaboration enables users of Barnes & Noble’s nook e-reader hardware as well as users of Barnes & Noble e-reader software for iPhones, PCs, BlackBerrys and other smartphones, to access digital content from thousands of content providers across the web that is copy-protected with Adobe technology. In addition, e-book users with devices that use the Adobe Reader Mobile software development kit will soon be able to purchase and read content from BN.com.

“By standardizing on EPUB and collaborating with Adobe on a content protection standard based on Adobe technology, Barnes & Noble is delivering the richest range of content available, across a broader array of devices than anybody else,” says William J. Lynch, president of BarnesandNoble.com Inc. “This collaboration with Adobe further delivers on our commitment to provide the digital content our customers want, anytime, anywhere and on whatever device they choose.”

Some booksellers are starting to rally around the EPUB standard, created and maintained by the International Digital Publishing Forum. EPUB standard e-book files can be read on any device and/or software that is compatible with EPUB, thus enabling readers to buy e-books or obtain free e-books from a wide variety of online sources.

Booksellers using or gravitating toward the EPUB standard are doing so to try and avoid in e-books what happened in digital music: one seller, iTunes, taking the lion’s share of the market. ITunes and the iPod use a proprietary digital file format and thus their files cannot be played on other devices. With its Kindle e-reader hardware and Kindle e-books store, Amazon.com Inc. has so far been doing to e-books what iTunes and the iPod have done to digital music. That’s why EPUB backers are acting now, many observers believe.

The International Digital Publishing Forum is a trade and standards association for the digital publishing industry that created and maintains the EPUB e-book standard; “.epub” is the file extension of an XML format for digital books and publications. EPUB enables publishers to produce and send a single digital file that can be read on any device capable of rendering content that conforms to the standard; it offers consumers interoperability between software and hardware for unencrypted reflowable digital books and other publications.

The joint effort between Barnes & Noble and Adobe also includes enabling the Barnes & Noble nook e-reader to access and display Adobe PDF files.

“Adobe’s end-to-end eBook platform enables consumers to access an array of PDF and EPUB content on PCs, mobile and dedicated reading devices. Publishers benefit from the reduced cost and improved efficiencies that Adobe’s comprehensive e-book solution offers, while meeting the needs for e-book customers and protecting copyrights,” says Paul Weiskopf, senior vice president of corporate development at Adobe. “Thousands of online booksellers, publishers and libraries have adopted Adobe’s content protection technology, and we’re excited to be working with Barnes & Noble to expand eBook distribution.”

Amazon.com is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. BarnesandNoble.com is No. 41.

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