Adobe tries again with e-books

Digital Editions software is meant to be a simpler and more flexible e-book reader and manager.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read
Adobe Systems thinks it's time to revisit electronic books.

The publishing software company on Tuesday is scheduled to release a beta of an e-book viewer and manager called Digital Editions at its Max 2006 customer conference in Las Vegas.

The software is meant to be a stripped-down and more flexible e-book reader, compared with its current PDF-based reader, Adobe Reader, the San Jose, Calif.-based company said.

Digital Editions is a 2.5MB free download that works as an add-in to Adobe's Flash Player 9. The software can read PDF pages as well as XHTML-formatted content, which makes it suitable for both longer texts, such as books, and shorter texts, such as magazine articles. Digital publishers can combine text with Flash videos and animations.

Electronic books were touted in the late 1990s as a replacement for paper books, but they have never become widely used. Companies continue to create specialized digital text-reading devices, such as the recently released Sony Reader.

Adobe sees the potential for more mainstream adoption, mainly via laptop PCs or mobile personal digital assistants rather than via specialized readers. More people are consuming digital content online, such as videos, and more publishers are adopting digital formats, said Bill McCoy, general manager of Adobe ePublishing Solutions

"We see there are bright spots in e-book adoption. And consumers, especially the younger generation of digital consumers, expect to get content digitally," he said.

Digital Editions will be able to read PDF files but will not include all the features of the Adobe Reader.

The new format will be able to reformat text according to screen size, instead of keeping to the same pagination no matter what the device. For example, the software will reformat a page across three columns, as opposed to two, when the user expands the viewer size.

The first release of Digital Editions will be a beta test version for Microsoft Windows, Adobe said. It is expected to be released in a final version early next year.

A Macintosh version is due later this year. A Linux version is also planned, but it will not be ready until after the Adobe Player 9 for Linux is released in the first quarter next year.

Adobe expects to create versions of the software for mobile devices as well.

In conjunction with the reader software, Adobe is planning a hosted digital rights management service, called Adobe Digital Editions Protection Service.

The service, expected in a beta form later this year, will allow publishers to impose some access rights on content and give consumers the ability to read that content on various devices, McCoy explained.

Also next year, Adobe will add support for the Digital Editions format in its Creative Suite of publishing tools.