Google has announced that the more than one million public domain books accessible via Google Books are now available in EPUB format, an XML-based ebook format that’s being widely embraced as a standard in the electronic book industry. Sony has recently thrown its weight behind EPUB, and growing support for the standard makes books in EPUB format more accessible to a range of electronic devices, from nettops and traditional computers to smartphones and dedicated readers.
“By adding support for EPUB downloads, we’re hoping to make these books more accessible by helping people around the world to find and read them in more places,” wrote Google product manager Brandon Badger, in the Google Books blog. “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.”
Google’s support for EPUB gives the open format more credibility in the industry, and also leaves Amazon even further out in the cold—although its Kindle electronic reader is the market-leading ereader device, the Kindle does not support EPUB. Industry watchers speculate Amazon may have no choice but to integrate support for EPUB into the Kindle and perhaps convert the Kindle from a closed ecosystem rather like Apple’s original business model for iTunes music, to an open platform in which it supports—and sells—books that can be read on a variety of devices.