Format War Clouds E-Book Horizon

Thinking about making the leap to digital books? First, you’ll need to add a jumble of new lingo to your dictionary: .epub, pdb, BeBB, and Adobe Content Server 4, just to name a few.

The burgeoning marketplace for e-books is riddled with inconsistent and incompatible formats. That means there’s often little guarantee that an e-book you buy from one online store, like the new Barnes & Noble store, will work on popular reading devices like Amazon.com’s (AMZN) Kindle or Sony’s (SNE) Reader.

In fact, most popular reading devices and e-book stores use proprietary formats. Amazon only sells Kindle-format books (called “.azw”), which can only be viewed on its Kindle e-reader and with software Amazon has made for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone. Barnes & Noble uses a proprietary format (called “.pdb”), which can only be read with software the bookseller has made for PCs, iPhones and BlackBerrys.

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