Proprietary formats suck.

/Proprietary formats suck.

This is an article arguing for the benefits of proprietary ebook formats, to which I have just one single answer: HTML.

I’ve talked about this before, but the tl;dr is that HTML–the stuff webpages are built with–was almost entirely stagnant for about a decade when Internet Explorer had an effective monopoly over the browser market. There was no point developing innovative new features in HTML because Microsoft wouldn’t implement them, and if Microsoft wouldn’t implement them, no one would use them, and if no one would use them, why even fucking bother? And Microsoft itself had no incentive to progress HTML as a standard because it already had the market so locked down it didn’t matter that the tech behind it was crap, given there was nowhere else for people to go.

It wasn’t until Firefox and Chrome became major players  that everyone had to start competing on feature-sets again, and the HTML standard rocketed forth; it’s had more updates in the last few years that in the whole decade prior. This is the reason why shit on the web looks a millionty times prettier and more dynamic than it did in the early 2000s.

Ebook formats are now where HTML was in those Dark Days of Internet Explorer. EPUB is trying hard but Amazon’s proprietary mobi format fucking isn’t, but because it’s so dominant. And this holds back innovation in the entire market. As I said in my previous post:

Unlike HTML and EPUB, however, mobi is controlled by one single company (Mobipocket, owned by Amazon since ’05). The reality is that, the IDPF can add all the awesome features it wants to EPUB, and vendors can even implement them in their readers, but because Amazon owns so much of the ebook market, publishers will drift towards formatting ebooks in the most “cross-platform” compatible way, which means the features included in mobi becomes the de facto baseline standard. Why bother, after all, spending the extra time adding extra, EPUB-only features versions of your books that will only be read by a tiny fraction of the market?

In other words, Amazon has effectively engineered a market where competition can’t occur based on format innovations. Being the ereader with the “best” implementation of EPUB means fuck all when no-one is leveraging that, either on the publishing or the consuming side.

(See also: Word.)

Basically, not only do format monopolies suck, but we’ve been down the sucking road before. We forget that history at our peril.

2018-05-22T09:00:54+00:0015th August, 2015|Tags: ebooks, tech|