- Our online reader has just been updated so users can read ebooks on their smartphones within a web browser, without installing an app.
- Previously the online reader was only suitable for reading on laptop or desktop computers.
- The image-based platform provides unique anti-piracy protection, but without the annoyances of traditional DRM systems.
- Latest version includes improved “Read Aloud” function.
In August 2004 Adobe announced that it would be phasing out Digital Editions, its proprietary ebook reading software. This sent shock waves through the nascent ebook industry. It was in the middle of the Great Ebook Darkness, the time when pretty much everyone had given up and decided there isn’t any money in ebooks. So Adobe’s decision was understandable, if horrifying.
Those of us who held on to the dream faced the prospect of there being nothing that our customers could use to read mainstream ebooks.
We considered in some depth the idea of building our our own encryption and reading platform, but the economics were appalling. We were already burning shareholders’ cash like it was Guy Faulkes day, and ebook sales were growing too slowly, from a low base. There was no way we could take on the cost of building and maintaining a platform that needed to work consistently well on Apple, Windows and other computers.
One day Sean McHale, our founding CTO, looked off into the middle distance and said, “If Adobe shutters Digital Editions, we could still deliver ebooks online, page-by-page, in a web browser.”
“Huh?” I responded.
He explained that we can create a superb reading experience by delivering book pages to users’ computers just like web pages.
It would be outlandishly secure because the text of each ebook would never be transmitted across the internet, or arrive on users’ devices. Just a series of somewhat low-res images. Trying to assemble a pirated ebook from that would be more irritating than standing at a scanner and manually scanning the pages of a book.
This made great sense. It would defend us against technical dependence on third parties.
But additionally, it meant that users would no longer need to install special decryption software (like Digital Editions) before being able to read their newly-bought ebook. They could just start reading as soon as they acquired an ebook.
So, after some months , we released the first version of “eb20 Reader” (don’t ask).
In fact we were the first e-bookseller in the world to provide this option alongside traditional downloading, and it’s been very popular with our readers ever since. The reader is now in it’s 7th major release and includes all the features you’d expect from a digital reading experience.
In the end, Adobe decided to continue supporting Digital Editions, which it does to this day. The Ebook Apocalypse faded from view. And necessity really was the mother of invention.
62% of our desktop customers prefer reading online to downloading
In response to requests from customers, my colleague, Matthew “Dunny” Dunlop recently got his sleeves up and implemented the latest major release of the reader.
This release includes an improved “read aloud” (text-to-speech) function, a bunch of usability enhancements and the ability to read on a mobile device.