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Monday, October 30, 2006

Adobe Digital Editions Beta Launched - Digital Reading Market Hots Up

Following hot on the heels of the Microsoft-powered NY Times Reader, Adobe has released Adobe Digital Editions Beta - a Rich Internet Application (RIA) for digital publishing and reading. The product enables users to acquire, read, and manage content such as eBooks and other digital publications. This market is ramping up quickly in late 2006, as the Sony Reader is also in beta form currently.

Last week I spoke to Bill McCoy, General Manager of the ePublishing Business Unit at Adobe, to talk about the new product.

Adobe Digital Editions is designed to be a lightweight, standards supporting digital reader - and is focused on the consumer market. Bill said electronic reading "is reaching a tipping point" in the market right now.

As with the NY Times Reader, the Adobe product reflows content and makes readibility of e-content easier. The product is also cross-platform - working on PCs, mobiles, PDAs and dedicated ebook devices. Also the Digital Editions beta includes integration with Adobe Acrobat 8 and Reader 8, which can install and launch Digital Editions from within their user interface.

Adobe Digital Editions is built on the Flash platform - a key difference to the Times Reader, which is built on Microsoft's WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) technology. So Adobe's solution will work on Windows, Mac OS/X and Linux (although currently the beta is only available on Windows). Perhaps the biggest difference though is the range of content the Adobe product supports - PDF (obviously), XHTML, and Flask SWF for rich content. Bill stressed that these are open standards for content, unlike the Microsoft product which uses a proprietary content format.

There will also be opportunities for publishers to make money from their electronic publications, via contextual advertising in Adobe Digital Editions.

In terms of DRM, it does have it - a new one called Adobe Digital Editions Protection Service, based on Adobe LiveCycle Policy Server. It also works with Adobe Content Server eBook DRM. The DRM sounds a bit daunting, but those familiar with the ebook market (and indeed music too) will know that DRM is an almost inescapable part of the user experience.

There will be associated authoring tool support from Adobe, coming out in the first half of 2007. Other future plans include social networking (shared annotation and reading lists), browser-based operation (e.g. widgets that bring the Digital Editions reading experience to the browser), "push" delivery of content subscriptions and webcasts, mobile and device versions, and new ways to combine traditional text-based and interactive content.

Adobe Digital Editions beta is available for free download from the Adobe Labs Web site.

Here are some further screenshots of the product:


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