Could California Kill Kindle?
Stormy Peters thinks Amazon could get more consumer business by opening their format (Stormys Corner: Amazon, let me give you more money!). But I think there might be bigger stakes than that!
Over the weekend, I read that California has now approved the use of “electronic text books” in class, instead of the old-fashioned dead-tree kind. If you live in California (perhaps other areas as well), your first thought, like mine, may have been “Well, that will be the death of the giant-backpack-with-wheels-and-towing-handle industry!” California’s approved textbooks have been creeping up on the Oxford English Dictionary with each new cycle, and watching a 3rd-grader drag around a graduate-studies research library like a caboose has become a constant regret.
But, no more! The California legislature has allowed California schools to use electronic books instead of print. You can get that whole back-pack into an Amazon Kindle, or a Barnes & Noble Nook, or a Sony Reader.
Or, can you? You see, the legislature really only authorized the state Superintendent of Schools to find suitable e-books. And given the history of centrally ordered, custom manufactured, OED-busting gigabooks, the question will inevitably come up, “Which format shall we use?” And if you own a Kindle but the state chooses the Nook (or any other mismatched combination), well then, no, you won’t be able to get those books onto that device.
It seems like this e-textbooks idea has a very large chance to drive something approaching monopoly in the device market, unless the device vendors can be persuaded to use an open format. PDF is a possibility, but not so attractive as you might suppose, since it tends toward a specific page layout, yet these devices have different size screens: if you scale the page so it fits, you may not be able to read it. I’m sure that can be avoided, but at the least it means a constant QA effort to ensure that every page displays reasonably on every device. Which I’m not sure I see a textbook publisher doing. So we might end up with only one supported reader, anyway.
(This all sounds so familiar … oh, wait … the HTML Wars!).
Filed under: Gov 2.0, Toys | 7 Comments