I sent Judie Lipsett of Gear Diary to do my filthy bidding at CES, to specifically visit the ECTACO booth and get the word on developments for their jetBook eBook reader.
This is from her encrypted Top Secret email:
1) There will be an upgrade to the software within two months to support ePub, HTML, and MobiPocket.
2) DRMed MobiPocket is uncertain at this time.
3) ePub support will not permit DRMed public library loans.
4) But if they do DRMed MobiPocket, public library loans for that will work.
5) No WiFi for this year. That's planned for 2010.
6) No reduction of current price ($299.00, which is already down from $399.00 and then $349.00).
7) They intend to stay in the eBook game despite Amazon and the Sony Reader due to buyer response. Also, they believe the pocketability factor gives them a niche.
One thing I'm unclear about. Judie says ECTACO stated they're using FBReader. That's odd. The betting was that ECTACO was using Coolreader. I wonder if this is actually an announcement of them switching from Coolreader to FBReader when the firmware upgrade is released?
I'll be emailing ECTACO the link for this post, so I hope they'll be reading this.
ECTACO, don't go with DRMed MobiPocket! Go with DRMed ePub instead!
MobiPocket is a legacy format. The majority of print publishers have adopted ePub. Most of these ePub books will no doubt have DRM wrapped around them -- from Adobe.
It's leaked out that MobiPocket demands DRM exclusivity for licensing their format. This is clearly Restraint of Trade. MobiPocket and eReader have both worked on the same hardware -- on Palm PDAs and Pocket PCs. MobiPocket's exclusivity demands are nothing more than monopolistic bullying. It's a bet they can't win because the tide of the future is against them.
MobiPocket format eBooks are often more expensive than any others too. Why do you want to lock your customers into a format that is costly?
ePub is what public libraries will be buying. ePub is what most publishers and eBookstores will be selling. This will be a very competitive market and thus there will be pricing bargains for eBook buyers. jetBook owners can benefit greatly from that.
Think about this too: If you offer DRMed MobiPocket, you will always have to offer it. You'll have customers who will have built libraries of DRMed MobiPocket eBooks and they'll want future models of the jetBook to support that investment. You'll be painting yourself into a corner with that. It's better not to create a set of customers you'll someday have to alienate!
ePub is the format that will get the Big Push. It will be what people will look for when buying eBooks.
Look at what Sony has done in England! Instead of setting up another UK-only eBook Store, they partnered with bookseller Waterstone's. And Waterstone's is selling ePub eBooks -- not Sony's own BroadBand eBook (BBeB) format.
Please, please consider dropping plans for MobiPocket. Go instead with ePub, even if it means getting a DRM license from Adobe.
Full ePub support will signal the jetBook is embracing the future. It will indicate to people a jetBook purchase is a safe investment. It will also make the jetBook an instant alternative to the Sony Reader.
OK, that ends my pleading.
Now some photos from CES courtesy of Kevin from Gear Diary.
Most photos are click = big.
Promotional poster. Eh. Not entirely compelling.
Store demo display. I haven't seen one of these anywhere yet.
High-contrast non-backlit LCD screen. None of the refresh of eInk. And can be mistaken for eInk in direct lighting.
The range of four color: black, tan, white, red. The case is textured plastic so it lacks sex appeal but provides a good grip.
The top, where mini-USB port and SD Card slot reside.
Cover for mini-USB and card slot open. The jetBook only accepts SD cards as large as 2GB. I hope an OS update can increase that.
The right side: combo numeric and letter buttons. T9 is used to enter Search terms.
The left side: that silver ribbed thing is a slider to change pages. It can really be ignored and the jetBook can be held without accidentally using it.
In the center of the bottom is a wee power button, which is pushed in. Varying press duration for either total Off or simply Sleep/Standby. At the right is an standard-sized earphone jack. At the front surface left are page turn buttons. The cluster at front surface right provide access to Library, Find, Rotation (90-degrees), and Back; with 4-directional and OK center button.
The entire jetBook design would be very familiar to any Sony Reader 505 owner.
Thanks again to Judie and Kevin for the intelligence gathering!