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Google Books embraces EPUB standard

August 26, 2009 |  3:22 pm

Google Books Google today announced that it would adopt the EPUB digital book format for its distribution of digital books, giving the standard a significant boost in the ongoing tussle for a dominant digital book format.

EPUB, developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum and backed by companies such as Adobe Systems, Random House, Harlequin and OverDrive, is a technology standard that strives to be what MP3 is to digital music files and MPEG is to video.

In recent months, EPUB has emerged as one of the dominant formats for digital books. Sony two weeks ago also said it would begin selling digital books in the format.

Google's endorsement furthers the format's standing in the market but by no means guarantees its place as the de facto standard. Among EPUB's rival formats is the Kindle, Amazon's proprietary format used by its digital reader to display digital books purchased at its online bookstore.

In a blog post announcing Google's decision, the company's product manager, Brandon Badger, emphasized the open nature of EPUB:

We're excited to now offer downloads in EPUB format, a free and open industry standard for electronic books. It's supported by a wide variety of applications, so once you download a book, you'll be able to read it on any device or through any reading application that supports the format.

The standard is being applied to more than 1 million public domain books that Google has digitized. Aside from the Sony Reader, devices that can display EPUB books include the iPhone (using the Stanza application), Hanlin eReader, Cool-ER and the upcoming Plastic Logic device.

-- Alex Pham

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