Open v Closed

Interesting post from Tim O’Reilly comparing the early days of kindle to the pre-Mosaic era of the world wide web. Essentially arguing for the adoption of open e-book standards over Amazon’s closed kindle approach, he suggests that an open approach is far more likely to drive innovation (in devices, business models etc) and uptake than a proprietary one, and suggests epub as a possible solution:

We’ve thrown our support behind epub and other open e-book standards, providing our books as “e-book bundles” that give the reader the choice of pdf, epub, and mobi…

… we can already see the momentum on the open e-book platform. Stanza, the epub-based e-book reader for the iPhone and other Web-capable phones, may well be playing Mosaic to bookworm’s Viola

Whilst parallels to the early days of the web may or may not totally play out, O’Reilly offers at least one data point to suggest that an open approach might work:

But at O’Reilly, we already have a proof point of the power of the new Stanza/epub platform. We released one of our books, David Pogue’s iPhone: The Missing Manual as an application bundle with Stanza through the iPhone store. In the six weeks since it was released, it has outsold its print counterpart even though that paper-based version has been the best-selling computer book in the market, and is outselling its closest competitor by a ratio of 3:1

I’ve noted that the Pogue title is a very specific example that cannot possibly be generalised, but the wider point, I think, is pretty well made:

Open allows experimentation. Open encourages competition. Open wins. Amazon needs to get with the program. Or, like AOL and MSN, Amazon will wind up another online pioneer who ends up a belated guest at the party it planned to host.


1 comment so far

  1. satts on

    I had discovered your post when wordpress threw up related post.

    Interesting thought process in your post

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