GBS: Dot-Connecting

Three stories from the last few days are importantly related. When Google added EPUB support to their public-domain book downloads, it was a good move for open access. EPUB is an international, open standard supported by many brands of e-book readers. Sony—which is about to file an amicus brief supporting the settlement—uses EPUB on its Reader. Meanwhile, Amazon—which is about to file objections—uses its own, proprietary file format on the Kindle.

All three companies will have legitimate legal points to make, of course, but one mustn’t neglect the commercial power politics behind their choice of positions.

It seems to me that Amazon’s objections are really probably less about the format and more about the threat to their position as the pre-eminent ‘go to’ spot for books. Right now, people who are looking for information about books online go to Amazon first. (Experiment: pick a book, any book. Google the title + author. Odds of the first result being an Amazon link for that book are very, very high.) A legal GBS would almost inevitably usurp that role and become the central focal point for information about books on the web, which would have a big impact on Amazon’s core revenue. That’s the bigger power politics game going on here, I think.