Services & Software

Sony opens e-book reader to outside publishers

Take that, Kindle. Sony's Reader Digital Book to read .epub formatted books from wide variety of publishers supporting the industry standard.

Sony announced on Thursday that its Reader Digital Book will be able to read electronic books published using the .epub format that many of the largest book publishers are using.

Until now, Sony's e-book reader could only read books available from the Sony e-book store, PDF documents, and DRM-free text. Starting next month, the new PRS-505 Sony Reader model will be able to access secure DRM- and non-DRM-protected content in the .epub format, formerly called the Open eBook format. (Here's a review of the device.)

The Sony Reader Digital Book is the first e-book reading device to support the .epub format, which is the XML-based standard format proposed by the International Digital Publishing Forum. It allows publishers to convert books to different formats, protect the copy using DRM (digital rights management) and has the ability to resize PDF e-books and other text to better fit the reader's screen size.

Publishers including Harper Collins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin are offering texts in the .epub format. (Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS. CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)

"This upgrade opens the door to a whole host of paid and free content from third-party eBook stores, Web sites, and even public libraries," Steve Haber, senior vice president of consumer product marketing for Sony Electronics, said in a statement.

The announcement is the latest move in a standards war over e-book formats pitting Sony against Amazon. Amazon's Kindle e-book reader and e-books it sells support the proprietary .azw format. Amazon also acquired Mobipocket, which offers a format for texts read on PDAs and BlackBerrys and its Kindle can read DRM-free .mobi files.

Amazon has a much larger selection of e-book titles than Sony's store has. Meanwhile, Sony's reader is priced less ($360 versus $300) than the Kindle.

Sony also offers a BBeB (BroadBand eBook) proprietary DRM-encrypted format for the Sony Reader and PRS-505 Readers will continue to support BBeB formatted e-books.