Sunday, December 31, 2006

Blog wars, flame wars, journalism, objectivity… personal laundry aired in public...




















Recently, our company, DigitalPulp Publishing was mentioned in the context of a personal dispute between Teleread Author, David Rothman and OpenReader co-founder, Jon Noring. David R. was bringing up his doubts about the ability of Mr. Noring to remain independent in the light of his new affiliation with DigitalPulp Publishing.

Ironic, that DigitalPulp Publishing was founded with the most independent of spirits… DPPstore, our eBook retailing site is exclusively for eBooks by independent authors and publishers. We are format agnostic, and hugely in favor of the development of a non-proprietary standard that will allow readers to buy eBooks with confidence knowing that their eBook will be readable regardless of their choice of reading platforms (software and hardware). David R. makes us sound like the evil empire… (I’m putting on my Darth-Vader gear now...Luke, I am your standard). I found myself reading this article, which expressed Rothman’s doubts of the personal integrity of Jon Noring, his ability to remain independent in light of working for and with DigitalPulp Publishing, thinking about the difference between speculative journalism, investigative journalism, and Op Ed pieces.

So many blogs are based on Op Ed… just one person blasting out their perceptions of the universe, in microscopic detail or vast sweeping statements. David R. has established Teleread with a backbone of journalistic tradition. He has focused on hardware, software, standards and other eBook issues. He has invited contributors with expertise in all of the realms of eBooks to participate in the dialogue whether or not he was in agreement with their point of view. That is why I, like many interested in eBooks, read Teleread.

I was disappointed with the tone and tenor of Rothman’s latest piece… (But admittedly, I was flattered by the notion that DPP was so powerful that anyone who joined our ranks would be swayed from all of their previously held values and beliefs). Seriously though, there is no need to air personal feelings as if they had any basis in objective facts. Also, David R. managed to muddle up the following issues:

  1. Corporate interests could be in conflict with standards development.
  2. Jon Noring’s affiliation with DPP could bring about a conflict with his continuing responsibility to and participation in the standards’ movement.
  3. OSoft has not integrated the capacity to read the OpenReader Format under a timeline that pleases David.

On the first point, I agree completely with David. Corporate interests could be in conflict with standards development, IF:

  • The corporation is invested in a competing standard
  • Or, the corporation is supporting a given standard and have a vested interest in seeing it emerge (regardless of the quality of development)

DPP meets neither of these conditions. We are format agnostic in our store – we will sell eBooks in whatever format the publishers create and whatever format the consumers will buy. We are also not invested in any particular standard. We do believe that it is essential for the industry to have standards. David’s point in his article about how standards affect the consumer, “As an ordinary e-book user I badly want be able to own digital books for real and not be at the mercy of any particular company,” is a sentiment we share at DPP. We have not built a business that is dependent on the success of a particular format or an untested standard. Our business is to deliver content in the form that the consumers demand.

On the issue of Jon Noring’s honor – David Rothman has leaped overboard on this one…. Not only is Jon entirely capable of separating his vocation from his passionate avocation of standards development, it is shocking that someone so closely affiliated with him would publicly raise these kinds of doubts. In addition, as I stated previously, DigitalPulp Publishing is in favor of the emergence of a nonproprietary standard for eBook publications – leaving no moral conflict for Jon Noring to battle. In fact, standards are an essential component in realizing the full potential of the eBook market. Consumers must be able to buy an eBook reader, and know that when they download eBooks, they will be readable on their device. It’s common sense. I have seen many of the people in the eBook business engage in the folly of trying to bully consumers into a proprietary format through hardware ties or marketing schemes (such as getting a well known sales channel to exclusively sell eBooks utilizing your pet format). I believe that since there are an infinite number of solutions to the eBook puzzle, making a monopoly impossible to attain, focusing on proprietary formats only handicaps the growth of the industry. A unifying standard (which must be a non-proprietary one) will open up exponential expansion of eBook technology.

On the issue of OSoft’s timely implementation – David Rothman obviously has no idea what the process of software development entails. Timelines in software development are usually made of silly putty! The fact that OSoft has a working Beta at this date is impressive and a testament to their dedication and work ethic. OSoft’s dotReader is an open source project with SVN repositories viewable on OSoft’s Website through the Source Code Link. The development of dotReader is going to include facilitating the reading of all possible formats, including OpenReader’s own. Currently, the basic XML format (dotReader format) is just the quick and easy way to showcase the unique features of XML based formats (such as OpenReader) within the dotReader. They are NOT setting up a standard to compete with OpenReader; they have simply included a much less sophisticated XML format to get eBooks to XML quickly. We are all awaiting those creation tools that OpenReader is working on make it easier for all of us to create valid, nuanced XML-based eBooks.

The long and short – Jon Noring is a dedicated member of the standards community (a thankless job if you ask me) who is now also employed in his field of choice. OSoft’s dotReader is a well conceived and brilliantly implemented way to read eBooks (regardless of format). And DigitalPulp Publishing is a group of dedicated entrepreneurs who are grateful to count Jon Noring among our ranks, and who also fully support Mr. Noring’s continuing efforts in the standards community.

5 comments:

Jane said...

I have been reading ebooks on PDA's for years, but I have recently switched to my cell phone. I use an app called Libris that I got from Hillbilly Interactive. I like it so much I do all my reading on it. My phone is a Nokia 6133, but it is supposed to work on any phone with Java (it also worked on my previous phone, a ROKR). It supports palmdoc, eReader (without drm), and its own format. I've been converting books that I've already purchased with the tool they supply. Does the DPP Store sell books in any of these formats?

Catherine of DPP Store said...

Great question!
To answer - DPPstore sells eBooks in all formats that publishers make available to us.

So, mostly they are in PDF, LIT, PRC, and HTML so far, since DPP works with independent publishers.

However,
Our newest Sponsor, eBooksabouteverything.com, with 70,000 titles,sells eBooks in all available formats as well, and they do have a good stock of Palmdocs titles.

Hope this helps in your quest for a good read. Thanks for participating at DPPstore's blog!

-Catherine

Ariza said...

Well written article.

alpinto said...

hello

Madison said...

I've been converting books that I've already purchased with the tool they supply.
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Leisure Ebooks