At the Digital Book World in New York, one of the biggest sessions had to do with the cost and benefits of adopting EPUB3 and HTML5 into publishing pipelines.
Peter Balis, Director Digital Business Development, of JohnWiley said that “EPUB3 from a marketing standpoint, has all the new enhancements that allow us to have greater increased functionality. MathML is especially important for us, as we do a lot of technical publications. It allows us to reflow stuff instead of having to use it as images.” There is a severe lack of consistency among e-reading platforms to render EPUB3 the way it should be and creates a big problem in publishers pipelines. “We have to create a giant grid to look at platforms to see what they can render. The team has to create EPUB 2 fall-backs for those platforms that can’t render 3 elements. MahtML has been pushed to the side because of this problem. I’m not confident that this is going to be the year where this will be solved.” He cited that currently Apple does the best job with iBooks to render most EPUB3 elements and that they should start marketing that they can do this and a lot of other platforms can’t. Their editors are now thinking about what they want a book to do and if the company can do it this makes for competition in the acquisition process. He wrapped up his speech by saying “We, as publishing houses, are being asked by authors and agents to add a ton of stuff and to be competitive we need to have the ability to do it. From where I sit, there is a fundamental distinction between apps and books. The difference being that 3 is a standard and all are operating to it, but with HTML 5 there is no standard and it can do stuff that 3 cannot do. There are things that HTML can do in an app that just can’t be done in an EPUB file. They may get closer together in time, but are separate for now.”
Samantha Cohen, Director of Digital Content Development, Simon & Schuster weighed herself on the issue. She said “EPUB3 allows trade publishers to take advantage of styling improvements, embedded fonts, css, landscape and portrait views, fixed layout, SVG, interactivity, and scripting.” She cited that global language support is especially important because of the expansion many major online retailers are adopting. During 2012, Brazil, Latin America, Japan and other markets were expanded into for the first time
Samantha said that “The timing of EPUB3’s adoption has taken longer than we thought. Unfortunately, device manufacturers are taking even longer to do this. This makes publishing difficult, because some e-readers can’t read EPUB 3 and all readers can read 2.” Kobo and Barnes and Noble both announced that by the end of the year, all of their eBooks and e-Readers will have full support for EPUB3, but the future is far from certain.
She said that in the current hardware market “It’s been sort of like scanning a color photo into a black and white device. EPUB3 is not completely necessary for future of eBooks, but could make our digital editions so much more elegant.”
John Prabhu, Vice President, Solutions Architect, SPi Global also was on the stage and said “We are working with a trade publisher to do over 100,000 pages total of hundreds of books into EPUB3. It allows far more content. Accessibility features are very important and customers are very interested in it. Only certain functions of 3 are being supported by retailers or Adobe, and we are seeing people who are writing their own applications to use 3 functionality. You can use an app on top of an EPUB 3 file, which will help indie developers to accelerate growth.”
Bill McCoy, Executive Director, IDPF, Moderator: In the area of formats, we are in a state of transition from EPUB 2 to 3, developing in the context of e-readers and tablets. A lot of work still to do, but a lot of possibilities ahead of us. We are still in the dawn of this technology. One impediment to the transition from 2 to 3 is that it requires a “brain transplant” for the readers. Looks as if B&N will hop on board, but we have no idea when.