Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writers and Readers Should Demand Open E-Reading Devices and Software

The op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal on January 7 had a piece by Holman W. Jenkins,Jr., titled“Game Over for BlackBerry?” Jenkins speculated

“The market may soon become welcoming to manufacturers making a multitude of gadgets for a multiplicity of tastes and preferences without requiring users to forgo membership in the Apple or Android clouds or both.”

The point of his piece was that today’s market requires that we make choices in technology between various hardware items and software items, some of which work with each other and some of which don’t. He conjectured that the movement toward cloud computing could ultimately make hardware and software differences meaningless –in the future he hoped we would be able to choose whatever device we want to use to get our data wherever we are, using whatever software we want. He posited there could be “a coming breakdown in the walls between ecosystems.”

As an author, when I read this piece I immediately wondered whether the current differences between Kindle and Nook and other e-readers will disappear in the future. Will I be able to publish my writing in whatever electronic format I want, and will readers be able to access it on any e-reading device they want? If so, that is a publishing world I want to be a part of.

Books should be accessible to as many people as possible. Technology around the written word –from the Gutenberg Bible forward – has been designed to make books (and the thoughts contained in them) accessible to the masses. The next phase of e-publishing needs to be the development of an open format that all e-readers can use. Just like Word has become a default word processing format that all word processing programs must be able to handle (even if WordPerfect was better).

When will this brave new world of e-publishing reach us?

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