What will EPUB3 mean for digital publishing?
On the 15th February 2011 the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) announced the availability of the first Public Draft of EPUB3. This article is a high level overview of EPUB3, its key focus areas and what they mean for digital publishing.
Who are the IDPF and what is EPUB
The IDPF is global standards organization focused on electronic publishing and content consumption. EPUB is the IDPF’s key standard. EPUB is free and open eBook standard designed for reflowable content, meaning that the text display can reflow (or be optimized) for the particular reading device being used. An IDFP EPUB Working Group is responsible for the development of the EPUB specification and these activities are conducted in an ‘open source’ manner, meaning that all information is publicly available for review and comment.
Why the need for EPUB3
The rapid development of technology & other standards and consumer expectations are all driving the need for an EPUB update which is focused on the future of digital publishing. Some of the key driving factors are: New devices with enhanced functionality (i.e. tablet devices), new web standards like HTML5 and CSS3, making digital books accessible to all languages & character sets, need for improved multimedia & advanced layout support for digital books and improved support for disability access.
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EPUB3 has been in development since April 2010. During the 2nd and 3rd quarter of 2010 requirements were gathered and 1st and 2nd internal working drafts were released in late 2010. The first Public Draft released on the 15th Feb 2011 is for comment and trial use. The final EPUB3 recommendation is due to be submitted to the IDFP board for approval in mid 2011.
EPUB3 Key focus areas
EPUB3 is a significant revision to the current standard. Based on HTML5, EPUB3 provides support for emerging requirements such as audio & video, vertical writing and other global language capabilities, improved accessibility, MathML, scripting & interactivity, and styling & layout enhancements
There have also been improvements on how the EPUB3 specification is structured including an EPUB3 changes document with the intention of making the specification and changes easy to understand.
Improved multimedia support
Multimedia such as audio and video is already supported by major eBook retailers (Amazon, Apple, B&N) using HTML5 tagging however there is a lack of standards on the audio and video formats, EPUB3 aims to address this. This will allow publishers to create a single version of an eBook containing multimedia as opposed to multiple versions to accommodate the current varied requirements. EPUB3 will also support streaming audio & video, this will improve compatibility as the correct audio or video format can be streamed depending on the reading device in use.
EPUB3 will have the ability to save and search non-Roman scripts such as Japanese, Chinese and Arabic, these will be handled as font characters rather than JPEG images as with current EPUB spec. EPUB3 will improve on bi-directional text support and standards, and have support for vertical text layout. All of these changes will make a wider range of literature available from EPUB files.
Improved accessibility & metadata
The DAISY accessibility standards will be better integrated into EPUB3 improving the usefulness of reading devices to the visually impaired. EPUB3 will also feature enhanced metadata support and the possibility of embedded ONIX which will help publishers when supplying metadata information. EPUB3 will also look at more granular metadata and methods to encode and support articles the fundamental unit of magazines and newspapers.
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Styling, layout & MathML
eBooks will be able to handle far more advanced layouts as EPUB3 will include support for alternate style sheets based on screen size, multicolumn layout where possible and enhanced image layout options. EPUB3 will include support for MathML (Mathematic markup language, an extension of XML) making it a far more viable format for textbook and academic publishing.
There are some very exciting proposed standards for EPUB3 which will allow publishers to take advantage of the capabilities of emerging devices and showcase their content. To learn more about EPUB3 and see the full specification of the first Public Draft visit: //idpf.org/epub/30