Following hot on the heels
of the Microsoft-powered
NY Times Reader
, Adobe has released Adobe Digital Editions
– a Rich Internet Application (RIA) for digital publishing and reading. The
product enables users to acquire, read, and manage content such as eBooks and other
digital publications. This market is ramping up quickly in late 2006, as the Sony Reader is also in beta form currently.

Last week I spoke to Bill McCoy, General Manager of the ePublishing Business Unit at
Adobe, to talk about the new product.

Adobe Digital Editions is designed to be a lightweight, standards supporting digital
reader – and is focused on the consumer market. Bill said electronic reading “is reaching
a tipping point” in the market right now.

As with the NY Times Reader, the Adobe product reflows content and makes readibility
of e-content easier. The product is also cross-platform – working on PCs, mobiles, PDAs
and dedicated ebook devices. Also the Digital Editions beta includes integration with
Adobe Acrobat 8 and Reader 8, which can install and launch Digital Editions from within
their user interface.

Adobe Digital Editions is built on the Flash platform – a key difference to the Times Reader, which is
built on Microsoft’s WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) technology. So Adobe’s solution will work on Windows, Mac OS/X
and Linux (although currently the beta is only available on Windows). Perhaps the biggest
difference though is the range of content the Adobe product supports – PDF (obviously),
XHTML, and Flask SWF for rich content. Bill stressed that these are open standards for
content, unlike the Microsoft product which uses a proprietary content format.

There will also be opportunities for publishers to make money from their electronic
publications, via contextual advertising in Adobe Digital Editions.

In terms of DRM, it does have it – a new one
called Adobe Digital Editions Protection Service, based on Adobe LiveCycle Policy Server.
It also works with Adobe Content Server eBook DRM. The DRM sounds a bit daunting, but
those familiar with the ebook market (and indeed music too) will know that DRM is an almost
inescapable part of the user experience.

There will be associated authoring tool support from Adobe, coming out in the first half of 2007. Other
future plans include social networking (shared annotation and reading lists),
browser-based operation (e.g. widgets that bring the Digital Editions reading experience to the browser), “push” delivery of content subscriptions and webcasts, mobile
and device versions, and new ways to combine traditional text-based and interactive

Adobe Digital Editions beta is available for free download from the Adobe Labs Web

Here are some further screenshots of the product: