Last week the Chinese government had announced that it would “develop indigenous innovation capability to create market leaders and renowned brands.” Based on the announcement, it seems that publishers and digital books distributers in China may have to play by China’s rules, and it could potentially mean a more fragmented e-books market with a new standard. Throughout the rest of the world, however, the e-books market has been gravitating towards Amazon’s format, Sony’s format, PDF formatted e-books, and the EPUB standard which has been adopted by numerous libraries, Barnes & Noble with its nook, and Apple with the iBookstore among others. However, this news isn’t too surprising considering that China has opted for home-grown technologies in the past in lieu of more widely adopted standards–the country has implemented proprietary standards for wireless to help build out its carriers and equipment makers, for example.
According to Gary Shapiro, who is the head of the Consumer Electronics Association–the party responsible for hosting the Consumer Electronics Show, better known as CES, each year in Las Vegas, NV, China’s move to a proprietary standard is causing a bit of controversy in regards to intellectual property.
We run and own the International Consumer Electronics Show, the largest consumer technology tradeshow in the world, held each January in Las Vegas. We welcome the Chinese attendees and exhibitors as they are both buying and selling at the event. But as an association representing some 2,000 technology companies (including a number of U.S. subsidiaries of overseas companies), we cannot countenance any country denying entry of or stealing innovations from companies in other countries. Nor should any country use its copyright or censorship laws to deny the admission of useful technology.
Shapiro seems most concerned that China may be taking advantage of inherent technologies created by dominant e-book players, such as Sony and Amazon, modifying it slightly, and calling the new revisions its own, “but it is another to be the world’s second largest economy and simply to take innovations others such as Amazon, Apple and Sony have created and lift them as if they are China’s own innovations.”
We’ll have to wait and see how China shapes the e-books market. In a country rampant with digital piracy from music to movies, hopefully whatever standard China adopts and creates will help protect publishers and content holders. Since the country hasn’t yet announced its standards for digital books, it’s unknown if Shapiro’s concerns will come true.