Why do we need ePub3?

The short answer is no one needs ePub3 except:

It makes it easier to produce one format package and send to multiple e-retailers

But that doesn't happen because every reading system from every e-retailer has so many variations you have to dumb-down to the features of the most simple reading system out there.

Generally that is OK if you are publishing trade novels and simple non-fiction. For all other content it's a mine-field.

ePub3 is a repeat of ePub2 with the quirks and limitations which crippled ePublishing production for four years.

It is a container for DRM or Watermarking

This is probably the best reason. They all know that DRM and Watermark schemes are easy to crack, but they are better than nothing. If you don't believe in DRM leave your house doors unlocked and makes sure you tell everyone the house is open. DRM/Watermarking are designed to keep honest people honest, not crooks. It is not an argument that DRM can be cracked therefore should not be used. O'Reilly and Doctorow use big words from small containers.

Low value and no value content doesn't need DRM. Content that is intended for reading by anyone (like a blog post) needs the opposite of DRM

However all DRM systems are seen as negative closed loops. It is important to allow honest people to agree together that it is not good to leave the front door unlocked. DRM demonstrates there are not a lot of honest people in the world.

It lets us use HTML5 ....... Not!

Sort-of! If you are making one ePub3 package for all channels it will be a crippled experience. In fact you will be using very little XHTML5, very little HTML5 and a very little bit of CSS3.

Theoretically you will be forced to use the very badly defined HTML5 < section > or < article > elements.

The specification should have allowed HTML5, but doesn't. It's an unlearned lesson from the Internet experience with XHTML, which resulted in HTML5.

However...while the well formedness and validity characteristics of XHTML5 are essential in production to allow automated tools to operate easily, reliably and at low cost. The final package doesn't need such encumbrances.

Web rendering engines are totally optimized for HTML/HTML5. XML is a poor cousin, and in some cases doesn't do so well. When you put in a lot of rules, rules are easy to break, or forget, or not understand

E-book reading systems are passé (except to the ancient paper loving world people who will talk about clarity, eye tiredness, use in sunlight, etc., etc., etcl,). Totally cool. Buy a reader but understand for a million reasons tablets are in.

Is E-Pub3 DOA?

As a technical specification ePub3 is DOA. Just try building production systems, packaging systems and reading systems for it that deliver to all ePub reading systems. Try walking on the moon .

Our approach is to start by creating a highly sophisticated XHTML/CSS product using Cross Platform Publisher :FoundationXHTML and then dumbing it down in processing for various delivery channel limitations. That is a lot of dumbing down. But it means valuable publisher content is ready for all the insanities the reading system market can throw at it.

The Production and Processing Traps

The XPP doesn't ever consider the production costs, methods or technology of implementing the features in the specification. This should be a TOP priority. However the real shock is the specification was written with no reader exemplars or examples existing. Fact. The ePub3 specification was a sort of school essay exercise.

Of course it was able to bounce off the ePub2 specification and clean up some of that specification quirks. That was the upside. The opposite was the introduction of torture-racks of inanities.

The strange outcome is that it is considerably easier to create an ePub3 reading system than an ePub3 / digital content production system of worth. That should seriously raise alarm bells.

The market works

Fortunately the market decides which features are important because even creating the full specification is too impossibly expensive in production. If no-one can make an ePub3 with epub:type they sure in hell are not going to implement CFI sensibly. Publishing has to address impossibly high production values. EPub3 does nothing to address this. Rather it shoots production values in the knees.

Consider something as potentially useful as epub:type properties. It will never be fully implemented in reading systems because the behaviours in reading systems have not been agreed or even recommended. At best it's half a specification.

The XPP test books are by and large lamentable, undocumented and largely unusable. Some of them even have core packaging errors.

This and other reasons is why some of the more extravagant ePub3 features are doomed to stay in their dark closets where they should remain. Some reading systems may support them, production will not. Be very careful of any reading system that states it supports the full specification. That means it is doing strange things, but is probably a straight-up lie because a standard reading system cannot be created from the specification.

All Books/Digital Content Are Not Equal

If Axis12 is thinking about fiction and general trade publishing we obviously don't need ePub3. EPub2 will do the job as people move from paper to digital interfaces of some kind (or back again) and upgrading to ePub3 is just a irritation.

If Axis12 is thinking about a reinterpretation of the print publishing industry we don't need ePub3. PDF does that fine.

If Axis12 is thinking about how do we enhance what we do today, we don't need ePub3. The Amazon and Apple "fixed layout" mediocrity (apologies to the fan clubs) provide enough tools and options to confuse paper thinkers into thinking they are being original with content as they mimic paper on screens with a few widgets. Watch out for the secret Adobe back from the brink adaptive CSS strategies hoping to capture the heart and souls of little production people.

The battle moving forward is not ePub3 vs. ePub2, or paper. The battle is ePub3 vs. real HTML5 and the human creative drive. ePub3's corporate lock on the past will simply become irrelevant.

The fact that there may be a W3C workgroup convened to control ePub3 is a ray of hope. They have worked out how to implement complex specifications and nothing is ratified until two vendors have implemented matching systems. This makes vendors cooperate together. It has evolved to make real standards possible.

There is a noise-management problem for publishers to sustaining and change existing business models vs. the so-called self-publishers. It is a real issue and potential threat in many areas. It is difficult to say if best sellers (in the scope of millions of books) will move into self-publishing. It certainly wont with the Amazon and Smashwords consumer-optimist models of sucking bucks off thousands, while a few "success stories" filter through.

The real self publishing agenda is about the commoditizing of publishing where everything costs the same irrespective of its value or worth. That is what works for Amazon and apparently no-one sees it.

The generalization of cost over value with quality published content is currently a noise machine of incredible proportions. Hopefully publishers are strong enough to fight back in this war.

The self-publishing business models are not designed to make money from best sellers while sustaining hopefuls. They are about sucking a few bucks from each hopeful while representing the few successes as aspirational stories. Amazon et. al. are built on the exploitation of mediocrity. This is of course only a cynical observation. Good luck if you make it in the self-publishing commodity mashup-machine

In Conclusion

EPub 2 and the commercial reading systems available were/are incredibly bad. Much of the ePub3 specification is better but we have yet to see what happens with the reading systems from commercial e-retailer vendors.

The call is ePub3 will be many times worse than ePub2 except for the simplest of content.

EPub3 is a small lurch forward but is still only a stepping stone in the evolution of high value digital content delivery. If you need to put your content through an e-retailer such as Apple's iBooks, Amazons Mobi or Kindle, Kobo or Barnes and Noble it is a required current strategy.

Don't trust your content to the ePub3 format only. Make sure it has been produced in a system like Cross Digital Publisher so you can quickly adapt to any real business requirements in the future, and that future is going to happen faster than anyone thinks.

Axis12 is very fortunate that our primary focus is on ePub3 for education, training and controlled channel delivery. We do plenty of fiction and standard non-fiction production and distribution, but the fun is with the content that you know changes the lives of the consumer.

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About Us

Axis12 specialise in building, hosting and supporting high traffic, content heavy web applications for both the public and private sector that help them achieve their Digital First aspirations. We recently implemented Cross Platform Publisher for the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, which has transformed the way online reporting and publishing is carried out.