MOBI wins

I’ve said this before. Actually, I said it when sales of Kindle took off. And there’s a reason it wins: Whispersync. MOBI is an ancient and limited/limiting format. EPUB is an evolving and flexible (if not quite limitless yet) format. MOBI was all but dead when Amazon used it for the Kindle, but readers don’t care. They want their ebooks and they want them to be more convenient than paper.

Here’s the problem: Technology gets in the way of reading ebooks. MOBI wins simply because it happens to be the format Amazon used to make it painless for people to get books. (And if you think Barnes & Noble’s nook is going to become the EPUB equivalent of Kindle, you’re kidding yourself.)


I released my third book yesterday: Magdalene. In it are beautiful illustrations my fabulous artist Adam Figueira did for me.

Unfortunately, for EPUB readers built on the Adobe Digital Editions developer kit, those illustrations won’t scale. But they do in Overdrive, Kobo, and iBooks. Imagine that. So I had to manipulate the images down to the smallest size that was still barely readable, because most people read EPUB on ADE-based readers. (I use Bluefire in iPad.)

MOBI, on the other hand, that ancient and limited/limiting format, scales the images and while they’re still small on the Kindle, you can read them and they do zoom a tad. You can argue that it’s a reading software problem, and not a format problem (why blame EPUB? you wail), but it’s really irrelevant.

In this equation, the person who bought the book is the only person who matters.

No format does what it really needs to do to replicate the convenience of the print reading experience. All you have to do to read a print book is know how to read.

This format bullshit isn’t like having mismatching books on a book shelf. This is like having print books you can only read if you have a GE 75-watt bulb in your 60-watt lamp that has to plug into a European outlet. In the United States.


  1. knittingknots - Reply

    I broke down and bought a Kindle, cause I sort of suspect that Amazon will win the format wars. Nothing’s happening that suggests otherwise to me yet.

    Kind of reminds me of the early PC days, when vendors were often using proprietary operating system software on their computers. We know how that turned out. And the Betamax/VHS wars, too.

    Whispersync and market share. Convenience and domination of the market.

  2. Vic - Reply

    I mentioned in a thread on Linkedin (TOC for Publishing) about this.

    ADE development stopped in 2008. New Sony Reader works well with the same images that work well on iPad, Nook or Kobo.

    Anything to do with ADE is a failure.


    Mobi wins is a very big statement to make.

    You can say Mobipocket is walking on a tight thin wire.

    Amazon is more favored because…

    1. It does publicity of figures without having actual figures
    2. It is still walking on the OeB 1.0 standard
    3. Audio – doesn’t work, Video – doesn’t work, will it work, don’t know…

    If it is about readers, formats and kindle then… Guttenberg Project Files wins over every format available around… It is the most basic ebook format available…

    Its too early to say that Mobi wins… ePUB3 is knocking on the door… the can of worms has to still open up.

    As I said on the linkedin thread… if the concept XHTML5 + CSS3 + ePUB3 = enhanced & interactive ebooks, takes flight, then Amazon will have to pull their socks up. It promises better reading experience, better interactivity and yes Amazon will have to create converters to convert them to ebooks to be read on their device.

    PDF is going to stay a Print Prep format, with GlassBooks it died out as a “ebook” we know now. It had its golden days as an ebook. Still not over and out. The print still has to be PDF… but there will be some new thing soon… not so soon… the wait is for the ebooks to reach its peak.

    Just my opinion…


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