The publishing industry has been watching from the sidelines for the better half of a year, waiting to see what will happen to the IDPF’s proposed merger with the W3C. For those not schooled in acronyms of the inner workings of digital publishing, here’s a quick breakdown:
The International Digital Publishing Forum called for a member vote about a proposed merger with the WorldWide Web Consortium back at last year’s BookExpo/IDPF event. That proposal was immediately met with opposition from a number of publishing entities, most notably Steve Potash of OverDrive. The IDPF countered that the vote was not akin to the merger, but more of an interest survey.
Later, the IDPF announced that the vote was in favor of a merger, and therefore, they would move forward with the plan. Again, OverDrive strenuously voiced its concerns, namely that the flagship of digital publishing–the ePub standard–would no longer be in the hands of the publishing industry but would instead fall under a company that handles lots of web-related standards.
Now, Digital Book World has joined the ranks of opponents to this merger, and it details a laundry list of reasons in this post. Topping that list? The fact that this was never a merger in the traditional sense, but rather it dissolves the IDPF and hands ePub over to a separate entity that really isn’t all that concerned about books. It’s like a corporate buyout of a smaller company, only there’s no buying involved.
There is one admittedly far-fetched potential consequence of this merger: there’s been a lot of concern expressed that the W3C isn’t a publishing-centric entity, and therefore–pardon the turn of phrase–could royally screw up ePub for publishers of every size and retailers who rely on it to sell books. Do we envision a day when the new stepdad demands a fee for converting your book, much like quality PDF creation involves specific software? Who knows. But who doesn’t sell ePubs or require a fee to convert to their file format? Oh, that’s right…Amazon. The less access and control the publishing industry has over ePub, the stronger those pesky MOBI people become. Anyone interested in making sure there’s choice in the digital publishing space might want to take a second look at this proposal.