Fri 22 November 2019
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Amazon and the Standardisation Debate
The Bookseller is reporting that Amazon has begun discussions with publishers about the use of the .epub format on its Amazon digital store and the Amazon Kindle.

"Amazon has told US publishers that it will begin accepting digital files in the ePub format in the near future and will also allow users of its Kindle device to read ePub files." The Bookseller

The Bookseller has released an unconfirmed report that Amazon has been discussing with publishers about the use of the .epub format for digital texts in the Kindle store and the Kindle. This comes after I wrote a report on how Amazon was acting as a barrier against the standardisation of an electronic book format. The Bookseller suggested that the reason for this change was the deal it made with OverDrive to allow library lending - a concession to OverDrive who make most of the files available in the ePub format. I would suggest that the major reason for this decision is because of the nature of the digital market.

Standardisation is a major issue in digital media and there are examples from both past and present to highlight how blocking standardisation can pose a major issue for sellers. Consider the battle between Betamax and VHS or music formats such as the MP3 and WMA. In each of these instances, companies made major losses as a result of supporting a losing format and Amazon does not want to be in this situation. It will not abandon its current format because it has invested so much in it but making the format available in its digital store is a strong and bold move.

It is beneficial both to publishers and independent authors. Where before authors and publishers would be forced to create cross-format versions of the same text as a higher cost, the large market share that the Amazon Kindle holds over the e-reader market means that publishing in a single format is no longer such an issue. By publishing in the ePub format, publishers and authors will have a market audience that includes the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, iPad and the Sony Reader. This is an equivalent to a market audience of 65.3% (which does not include the market share of iPad as e-readers - market share is currently estimated at around 32%)

It still makes sense to publish in different formats but the ePub format is now becoming a standardised format. It is only a matter of time before smaller digital formats bow out. Amazon still stands as a competitor to a standardised format with its MOBI format but as more and more people publish in the standard format and subject Amazon's proprietary format to relegation, it will make access to digital reading all the more simple for readers, authors and publishers. A wise move from Amazon and we can only hope that it's an accurate report.
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