Jeff Kirvin has a longish piece about Gemstar’s plans for e-books. Gemstar acquired two other e-book device manufacturers, Nuvomedia and Softbook.
Gemstar recently announced the release of two new models, but Kirvin is less than thrilled at Gemstar’s plans noting,
Gemstar will be releasing two new devices, the REB 1100 (replacing the Rocket eBook at $300) and the REB 1200 (replacing the Softbook at $700). Content for these devices will be exclusively through Gemstar’s own proprietary ebookstore, via the built-in 56k modem in both devices. Gemstar seems intent on cutting the web out of the ebook buying process altogether. Gemstar spokesman Tom Morrow said, “The important thing is that we are tethered to everyone who has a device.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be “tethered” to anything. To my way of thinking, the freedom of buying books on the web and reading them on my PocketPC is one of the great things about ebooks. Gemstar wants to lock me down to a just their bookstore, and if they don’t have the ebook I want, I’m just out of luck? No thanks. Gemstar has also decided to end the support of the RocketLibrarian program and the practice of allowing users to create their own content from HTML or text. The only content of any kind for the REB devices will come from Gemstar’s library. Rupert Murdoch recently doubled his investment in Gemstar, bringing him up to 43 percent ownership. Murdoch talked about publishers being able to “completely bypass the printer, the paper manufacturer and the post office in the delivery of regular magazines and even of newspapers. That’s looking many years out, but it’s not looking too many years down the line for magazines.”
Certainly a stupid direction to take the company in if this is accurate, but is it indeed true? According to a FAQ while Kirvin is right about Gemstar ditching the ability to easily transfer text and HTML to the e-book readers, they will support the open eBook format and allow anyone to offer books in that formatt for the devices:
Will the Gemstar eBook support the open eBook format?
Yes. The current OeB specification is based on our technical implementation. We are also working closely with Microsoft in establishing the Open eBook standards and the OeB process.
It would be better if they also supported plain old text or HTML, but if the information at the Gemstar site is correct, you’re really not tied to a single vendor or source for e-books with these devices.
Update: I e-mailed Kirvin about the discrepancy and he said that he received an e-mail from Gemstar to the effect that they would be honoring pre-existing agreements with Barnes and Noble and Powells, but that all new content would come solely from Gemstar. If this is in fact true, it would be pretty much suicide for the devices in my opinion.