The ePub format continues to gain traction as an e-book standard. Last week, Google Books announced that it now has more than a million public domain titles available as free ePub downloads. The format, developed two years ago by the International Digital Publishing Forum, makes e-books accessible across a wide array of devices and platforms.
“More people are turning to new reading devices to access digital books,” product manager Brandon Badger wrote on the Google Books blog, “and many such phones, netbooks, and e-ink readers have smaller screens that don’t readily render image-based PDF versions of the books we’ve scanned. ePub is a lightweight text-based digital book format that allows the text to automatically conform (or “reflow”) to these smaller screens. And because ePub is a free, open standard supported by a growing ecosystem of digital reading devices, works you download from Google Books as ePubs won't be tied to or locked into a particular device.” For readers who prefer an exact image of the printed page, Google will continue to make works from its Book Search database available in PDF format.
Sony, a Google partner since March, stepped up its support for the ePub format recently when it announced the overhaul of its e-book store. By the end of 2009, Sony will deal exclusively in the open standard—albeit with the addition of copy protection software from Adobe. Barnes & Noble, which launched an e-book endeavor of its own this summer, has embarked on a similar partnership to integrate Google’s vast public domain catalogue into its own electronic offerings. And even the world’s oldest digital library, Project Gutenberg, has taken ePub onboard: It adopted the format as an experimental feature in March.