Sharp has announced that its Next-generation XMDF (ever-eXtending Mobile Document Format) standard will be a digital platform for e-book distribution with compatible reader devices to be launched as well, possibly within the year. While the XMDF format has been in use for years already, primarily within Japan, this new 'Next generation' prefix does make the format notable as a competitor in the ebook space. Previously just for text and still images, the refreshed XMDF standard now supports video and audio display as well.

In the face of multi-media devices like Apple's iPad and an anticipated wave of Android tablets, it's not surprising that Sharp would incorporate both video and audio into the format in an effort to keep up. Consumers will expect a higher quality of media on their portable devices, and while monochrome Kindle-style displays are great, they certainly aren't suited to this task. Nevertheless, XMPF will continue to feature on mobile phones and other devices like PC and televisions.

The format will feature copy protection, and a few publishers have already gotten behind the platform. Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan's major newspapers, has already indicated intentions to distribute via XMDF.

Sharp's e-reader prototypes sport 5.5-inch and 10.8-inch color LCD touchscreens, and while they look respectable don't seem to bring anything new to the game. At least not yet. However, more devices mean more competition, and that's great for buyers. Click on over to Akihabara News for a screener of Sharp's promo video to get an idea of what the company's readers might look like.

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