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Sharp Plans to Enter Ereader Market

Electronics giant Sharp has announced (Japanese) it plans to get into the burgeoning ereader market, saying it plans to introduce a new ereader device later this year that can handle books based on a new version of its own XMDF file format. Sharp originally developed the XMDF format for use in its own devices (it’s now an IEC standard), although it has never been widely adopted outside Japan. The new version of XMDF —ever-eXtending Mobile Document Format—can handle both embedded audio and video.

Sharp offered no specifications or details about its ereader, saying only that it plans to debut the device in Japan by the end of the year, and that the company is already looking to move it into additional markets. Industry reports have Sharp in talks with Verizon Wireless in the U.S. to support the device, implying the ereader will offer some sort of mobile data capability. Sharp has also not said whether the device will support formats other than XMDF—like PDF or Epub, widely used in current ereaders.

Sharp has already build XMDF support into its Aquos televisions, mobile phones, handheld PCs, and electronic dictionaries, as well as offering XMDF reader applications for Windows-based PCs. Sharp seems to be looking to create a Kindle-like ereader ecosystem, where users can download a title on a particular application or device, and share that application (as well as bookmarks and notes) to other compatible reader devices and software. Sharp already runs an online store for XMDF titles that carries a selection of books from Japanese publishers.

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