The European and International Booksellers Federation has commissioned a study on interoperability of digital formats of ebooks, now also available online (On the Interoperability of eBook Formats; Prof. Christoph Bläsi | Prof. Franz Rothlauf, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz – Germany).
Interoperability means doing with the ebook what you do with regular books: reading them how and where you want.
The EPUB 3 format delivers increased interoperability. The problem is not the technology of the formats, but (a) proprietary formats, which generate closed “ecosystems”, (b) the DRM that protect those ecosystems.
Even with DRM, interoperability is possible. Even here, therefore, the problem is one of wanting it, not one being able to obtain it.
The study looks at the two systems that dominate the market: those of Amazon and Apple.. They, for now, call the shots and dictate how and where we can read regularly purchased ebooks (what we are buying from them, however, is not that clear).
A passage from the preface by Neelie Kroes (Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of the Digital Agenda) can be taken on trust:
“Interoperability is a major requirement to build a truly digital society. This applies to ebooks too. When you buy a printed book it’s yours to take where you like. It should be the same with an ebook. You can now open a document on different computers, so why not an ebook on different platforms and in different apps? One should be able to read one’s ebook anywhere, any time on any device”.