E-readers: To be open or not to be open -- that is the question

LibreDigital previews AllAccess platform for reading e-books on any device

As e-readers grow in popularity, a debate is growing about how well proprietary formats such as Amazon.com uses with the Kindle will do against more open approaches that allow users to download e-books to just about any device.

LibreDigital Inc. is previewing its AllAccess content delivery platform to allow publishers, authors and book resellers to offer book readers the option of downloading and reading e-books they purchase on virtually any device, such as a desktop computer, Apple iPhone, Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader.

AllAccess will be available sometime in the first half of 2010, a spokesman for LibreDigital told Computerworld today. The company already provides a Web-based warehouse and distribution system for six of the top 10 book publishers, and more than 175 newspapers and periodicals.

Customers will pay for the books, textbooks and periodicals that they receive via AllAccess at prices set by publishers and resellers. LibreDigital will take a percentage of that cost, an amount still not determined, the spokesman said.

AllAccess is also supporting a wide variety of open e-book publishing standards, including ePub. In addition, LibreDigital is offering the ability to enhance and optimize book art and text for all the devices it will run upon, the LibreDigital spokesman said.

Anyone with Web access can get a preview of an actual book with the AllAccess tool through the Texas Book Festival Web site.

The book, a novel by David Wroblewski entitled "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle," can be viewed over a PC's Web browser, or from a Kindle, iPhone or Sony Reader device. The actual Texas Book Festival, one of the largest in the nation, takes place at the Texas State Capital on Saturday and Sunday.

Heidi Marquez Smith, executive director of the festival, said the AllAccess technology indicates how e-books are transforming reading. "We believe e-books ... can increase the audience of book readers and support many literacy efforts," she said in a statement.

The bookseller Barnes & Noble supports delivery of books from its e-book store to a variety of devices, but has also developed its own e-reader, the Nook, which runs on the Google-backed Android operating system and will allow wireless downloads via AT&T's wireless network. The Nook is set to debut later in November.

When it announced the Nook, Barnes & Noble also committed to the open ePub reading format, which Gartner Inc. analyst Allen Weiner has said will give consumers a wider of choices than with the Kindle.

The Nook will also allow those who buy e-books to lend them for two weeks at a time to other e-book readers on a variety of devices.

LibreDigital plans to let the publishers, resellers and authors determine what their individual lending policies should be, the spokesman said.

LibreDigital is already working on digital distribution with HarperCollins Publishers, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and a variety of textbook and newspaper publishers.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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