At this early stage in the history of electronic books, there’s Amazon, there’s Apple, and then there’s everyone else. Amazon and Apple want to keep it that way, which is why you can’t just download any old e-book to your Kindle or iPad. This exclusivity drives business to iTunes and to Amazon’s Web site, and has little to do with the e-reader technology itself. That’s according to a new report by the European and International Booksellers Federation. The Federation is concerned that consumers locked into Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad won’t be able to buy new e-books from smaller, privately owned digital booksellers. The Federation hopes that publishers and makers of e-readers can resolve this problem by embracing the EPUB 3 e-book standard—something neither Amazon nor Apple use. The next step would be to create a more flexible digital rights management system. Current DRM restrictions are why your e-books remain for the most part locked into your e-reader. Which means that as great as e-books are, there’s one common, age-old information transmittance system at which they’re lousy: you still cannot easily lend your e-books to a friend. —Larry Greenemeier [The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs. Visit ScientificAmerican.com for the latest in science, health and technology news.
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