Sony to adopt open source format for ebooks

NEW YORK - Sony Electronics is to change the format of the ebooks it sells so that they will work on devices other than its own Sony Reader.

At the moment it sells books via the Sony eBookstore in a format not used by other publishers, but according to the New York Times, it is to drop its proprietary format by the end of the year and adopt the ePub open standard used by major publishers, including Random House and HarperCollins.

The move should help it compete against Amazon, which sells ebooks that can only be read on its own electronic reading device, the Kindle, as well as on iPhones.

Although the market for electronic books remains small, Amazon has taken a lead in the US.

Amazon's Kindle is not yet available in the UK, although the retailer is reportedly close to signing a deal with a mobile operator to launch the device here.

Sony has been pushing the Sony Reader, which sells for around £199, in a deal with Waterstone's, which is attempting to develop its website into a viable rival to and is selling ebooks.

According to the ePub Books blog, there are currently 17 Adobe ePub ebook compatible hardware devices available.

Making titles available to download on more devices should not only see Sony selling more books but using open source technology is sure to generate good publicity online -- where the first adopters are to be found.

Sony does not often make concessions to cross-compatibility. Its adherence to proprietary formats most famously backfired with its Betamax video cassette recorder, which was roundly defeated by the more widely supported VHS player in spite of being widely seen as superior technology.