AAP Announces New Epub3 Lite Implementation Project in Hopes of Jumpstarting Stalled Epub3 Adoption

aapThe American Association of Publishers has just announced a major initiative. They're launching a new project that intends to find a way for more publishers to adopt Epub3, the new ebook format that the IDPF finalized in October 2011:

The EPUB 3 Implementation Project is being developed in a partnership with retailers, digital content distributors, device makers, reading systems providers, assistive technology experts and standards organizations, with the support and engagement of leading advocates for people with disabilities.

The initiative’s goal is to accelerate the across-the-board adoption of the EPUB 3 format in the consumer market by identifying and implementing what stakeholders consider to be the core set of baseline features critical to the format’s acceptance. Among these features are greater interactivity for users, multimedia-enhanced content and expanded accessibility for people who are blind or have other print disabilities.

That sounds great and all, but there's an interesting corollary to this announcement that is less obvious but much more interesting. This kind of project would not be needed if Epub3 had already been widely implemented.

So it seems that I was completely correct when I wrote back in May that Epub3 was not ready. It has not yet been widely adopted by publishers, it's not yet widely available in the marketplace (other than in walled gardens like Inkling, iBooks, and Coursesmart), and it's still not easy to make.

I am not surprised.

But that's not the only story here. Go read the quoted section again, note that it says this project will:

accelerate the across-the-board adoption of the EPUB 3 format in the consumer market by identifying and implementing what stakeholders consider to be the core set of baseline features critical to the format’s acceptance

Basically that is an admission that the current Epub3 spec is so unbelievably complicated that it's simply impossible to get it widely implemented. Instead the AAP/IDPF are going to create an Epub3  Lite format (or Epub2.9 if you prefer) and use that as the new standard.

I have been saying since February that Epub3 is DOA, and I've had people telling me for months now that the Epub3 was unworkable because of its complexity.

And now the AAP/IDPF has more or less admitted that this is true.

It's a shame that the IDPF couldn't have figured that out back in October 2011; maybe they could have avoided 21 months of stalled adoption.

 

About Nate Hoffelder (11394 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

27 Comments on AAP Announces New Epub3 Lite Implementation Project in Hopes of Jumpstarting Stalled Epub3 Adoption

  1. We only use pieces of ePub3 in our development… mostly stuff we can do with CSS3 and FXL. Beyond that? There’s not much demand from authors/publishers (at least not in our experience, anyhoo) nor have we found a truly compelling reason to do more than play in the sandbox with it.

    E0 seems promising and it has an enthusiastic, smart and talented group trying to move the ball forward, but it’s still an infant at this point.

  2. The fact that they are now looking to *start* an effort to craft an epub2.5, which is going to take a good year-plus to show up on the street, tells us that not only is epub3 not ready for this year, it won’t be ready for next year.

    That spells DOA, no?

    • Not necessarily.

      They could go for the obvious shortcut and strip Epub3 down to what webkit can support out of the box. That would let everyone get something out the door pretty quickly.

      • Well, sure.
        But that wouldn’t be the magical-annointed-standard from october 2011, would it?
        That would be, I dunno… KF8?
        epub 2.x?

        BTW, I looked it up: Amazon delivered KF8 to the Kindle Touch in 6 months and the Kindle 3 in 10 months.
        epub3(lite) will at best arrive 30 months after KF8.

        And I seriously doubt *they* can deliver anything in six months.
        No way does their committee approach match Amazon’s proprietary team, shortcuts or no shortcuts.

        • If you think that’s bad, one suggestion i got for a path forward was to “start producing EPUB 3 files that also work fine with EPUB 2 reading systems”.

          That means that almost the entirety of the spec would be discarded, leaving HTML5 and the metadata.

          • That’s called “best practices.” There are too many ePub 2 readers and not enough ePub 3 readers in the wild to make alienating the former a profitable position. Even if ePub 3 adoption suddenly took a giant leap it’d be necessary to support both for a long period of time, for the same reason that any competent eBook producer should still be making books that work in Mobi7 even though there are about 3 Kindles left that still use it exclusively.

            Note that this does not necessarily mean throwing out everything but “HTML5 and the metadata,” it just makes it a lot less practical from a production standpoint.

            As to the problem with ePub 3, it isn’t that the format is difficult, expensive, or “too complicated” to produce. It’s that the things that significantly differentiate it from ePub 2 are difficult, expensive, or just too niche to apply to most books. These are surely the reasons device/app producers and retail channels have largely avoided the expensive of upgrading to ePub 3, which in turn further diminishes any incentive for content producers to use the format, even when it would be beneficial for their titles.

          • I can understand the need to support older device. In fact I raised that issue in 2011. I also pointed out that the older devices would hinder adoption because they represent millions of reasons for ebookstores and publishers _not_ to upgrade.

            The fact that the final Epub3 spec threw them under the bus (support is optional) continues to amaze me.

            And thanks for nitpicking the cost of Epub3 production. You are correct and I should have been more careful.

  3. LOL Hoffelder, you are a man of limited perspective with hysterical tendencies and prone to blinding self-congratulation.

    I remember Byte Magazine 1985 – Postscript and all the naysayers. But that was the start of the digital communications revolution. While it took years it took no prisoners.

    It doesn’t matter what the final format is, what it’s called or even if there are multiple flavors.
    Ultimately and in the not too distant future Kindle and PDF will meet their demise and we will be in the era of multimedia script empowered container documents.
    And Mr Hoffelder, you will be seen as backwards as the Pope was towards Galileo.

    • “a man of limited perspective with hysterical tendencies and prone to blinding self-congratulation”

      I’m really tired of your trolling and ad hominem attacks and I am tempted to ban you. But I won’t because your trolling is so obvious that I need only stand back and let you defeat yourself.

      P.S. If you ever want to contribute something useful, you are welcome to guest post.

    • PDF will never die. In fact, I favor PDF more than EPUB. It’s a format created by one of the giants (Adobe) and I’m sure attention is being given to keep PDF format very alive. I’d rather read PDF on a tablet because of the big screen.

      If you say Amazon will soon die, then why has it acquired lots of online retailers? I was a member of Shelfari (social networking site for book lovers) and Goodreads (online book retailer) and Amazon acquired both. A link to this article shows how big and sturdy Amazon is.

      If you have a point to give, back it up with support materials. Your “trolling” around doesn’t help you get your message across.

      As for this article, I believe the AAP is “helping” IDPF to “accelerate” the implementation of EPUB3, it didn’t say EPUB3 is not ready.
      When Nate said “It has not yet been widely adopted by publishers, it’s not yet widely available in the marketplace (other than in walled gardens like Inkling, iBooks, and Coursesmart), and it’s still not easy to make.” Why has it that the walled gardens then been able to implement EPUB3? This is proof that a group of publishers can do it if they put their minds into it.

      The whole article of the AAP was in “speeding” the adoption of EPUB3. In some way, this is to help publishers who are afraid to jump the EPUB3 bandwagon because probably they think that many ereaders don’t support EPUB3 yet.

      Anyway, Nate, where did you get the EPUB3 Lite Format Project that’s mentioned in the title of this article? It wasn’t mentioned in the AAP article you’ve linked to.

      • I am free to make a prediction.
        PDF will die because it’s the digital equivalent of the photocopy machine which is dead, and so are the fax, CD, whatever. Except you can use a PDF IRS form to fill in your taxes, print it and send by snail mail LOL. PDF is not (really) interactive and it is the definition of unresponsive. It has no future.

        • I think you should check out topics about “Interactive PDFs”. Interactive PDFs can be created using InDesign…

          • LOL the world is going to use indesign to create proprietary books with limited interactivity (like doing my taxes).
            You must be an Adobe stockholder!

            If you read my first comment, I started working with Adobe in 1986.
            You are not talking to a typical grunt fool here.

            You and Nate offer up pathetic arguments.
            And LOL he accuses me of trolling instead of answering my points.
            Nothing like taking the easy way out.

            It’s very simple, there are certainly epub3 growing pains, but this won’t stop the inevitable move towards a scriptable multimedia capable document container. And in that world there will be little use for kindle or pdf.

      • “PDF will never die. In fact, I favor PDF more than EPUB. It’s a format created by one of the giants (Adobe) and I’m sure attention is being given to keep PDF format very alive. I’d rather read PDF on a tablet because of the big screen.”

        Agreed. Between the open source APis, freely available reading and creation tools, and the fact that Adobe makes money off of the proprietary aspects of PDFs, PDFs have a much broader base of support than Epub.

        “Anyway, Nate, where did you get the EPUB3 Lite Format Project that’s mentioned in the title of this article? It wasn’t mentioned in the AAP article you’ve linked to.”

        That’s my interpretation based on the description.

        • Mr. “Oh My God”, I’m not against you when it comes to EPUB3. In fact, I support it very well that I’ve been arguing with Nate about it in one of his post. It’s just that we could be wrong about some things if we don’t give any supporting materials. And “trolling” only shows you want to hide because you can’t prove your point.

        • “That’s my interpretation based on the description.”

          Please Nate, the facts only. If it doesn’t say EPUB3 Lite, then there’s no such thing…

          • It describes Epub3 Lite but does not name it, so I repaired that shortcoming.

          • Until we know whether the deprecation of bloat is permanent, we need a way to differentiate the original spec from the new spec coming in september.
            I suppose we *could* call it epub2-plus or epub3-minus.
            Adding “lite” is a common convetnion in the tech word.

  4. That’s not fair. There is plenty of meat in my comments. And I am not afraid of making my own bold predictions. I just disagree with you on this topic – on the way you are framing the narrative. It’s like the difference between weather and climate.

  5. One of the things that’s interesting about the AAP’s press release is that it never mentions the IDPF by name, which suggests that whatever the AAP is doing, it’s doing by itself. The AAP invites “standards organizations” to participate, but it certainly appears that they’ve given up on getting the IDPF to implement a standardized subset of EPUB3 that can get wide industry support.

    • Heh. Very interesting.
      There may be a fight coming over the epub name itself.
      Maybe that’s why they don’t call it epub3 lite.

    • That is certainly possible but Bill McCoy did defend the workshop. Something tells me that the IDPF is heavily involved.

      • They’d better.
        At a minimum, the epub brand is at risk.
        Nothing stops the AAP from calling their spec something else and creating, in effeect, yet another epub fork. So the IDPF had better be responsive to the need to de-bloat epub3.

        • That’s nonsense. Like saying electric plugs are a bad name because too many have been electrocuted by them.

          • ???
            IDPF owns the trademark for epub.
            If the AAP effort ends up at odds with IDPF over the de-bloating they would *have* to rename their new spec.

            For now, the AAP seems to be trying to nudge the IDPF into cleaning up epub3 more than trying to circumvent it but if they are not responsive to the AAP “stakeholders”, well… There is big money at issue.

          • I don’t think they own the trademark. Or at least they’ve never used it to enforce the Epub 2.0 standard.

            Edit: Nope. I’m wrong.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*