Sony and Google bring 500,000 free ebooks to Sony’s Reader, all in ePub format

Users of Sony’s ebook readers now have access to more than half a million books from Google’s vast online collection of books. The books can be downloaded free from within Sony’s eBook Store – provided you’re in the US or Canada.

While Google has made several announcements in recent months as its Books project gathers pace, this one is especially interesting in that the entire half-million catalogue has been delivered in the emerging industry standard ePub format, giving this format a big boost. The key thing about ePub is that it’s a reflowable document standard, allowing a book to reflow to fit the different screen sizes of reading devices.

At the same time, the move represents an important step for Sony which was an early supporter of this open standard and is lining itself up as the industry’s open alternative to the closed world of the Amazon Kindle.

A post from Adobe’s Bill McCoy noted that this is also an early fruit of the recently announced Adobe Reader Mobile technology. This implementation of Adobe’s Reader is designed to allow mobile platforms to render reflowable PDF and ePub documents on mobile devices, and to provide support for Adobe’s DRM (digital rights management) software for encrypting ebooks in PDF or ePub formats. The Sony Reader is an early implementation, using it to render ePub-formatted books. Others announcing support for Adobe’s Mobile Reader include Stanza developer Lexcycle.

While we’re on the subject of Adobe ebook announcements, they’ve also just implemented ePub export support in Buzzword, their internet-based word processor which is Adobe’s entry into the cloud computing space led by Google Docs. Given how many tools are coming out now to produce ePub, and the ubiquity of readers for the ePub format, I can see it gaining traction for many personal and corporate document publishing uses as well as its original place in professional ebook publishing.

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