Earlier this week the IDPF and the W3C announced the formal completion of their merger. Subsuming the second-most important ebook standards organization(*) into the W3C will have no immediate impact on ebooks, ebook tech standards, or the ebook market, but it has inspired a surprisingly uninformed editorial over at Cnet.
Stephen Shankland thinks the merger could lead ebooks gaining tech which should sound familiar:
Generations of college students have lugged expensive textbooks around campus. But a few years from now, students could shuck that burden as web technology radically changes what exactly a book is.
Imagine a chemistry book with a pop-up periodic table of the elements for instant reference, a sucrose molecule that rotates under your fingertip to show its 3D structure, a video demonstration of titration procedures, a chat box to message the professor and a built-in quiz that directs you to any subjects you didn't understand. Oh, and it'll be updated continuously so it won't go out of date as soon as element 118 gets named oganesson.
Sound far-fetched? This e-book future is possible thanks to the World Wide Web Consortium's absorption of the International Digital Publishing Forum, keepers of the Epub standard for e-books. On Wednesday, the W3C and IDPF announced their merger plans are complete.
The merger means that e-books are going to get a lot smarter thanks to a deeper embrace of web technology. While it's simple for web browsers to show video and offer a quiz, it's well beyond what you'll see in e-books that you read on your Amazon Kindle. Expect that to change in coming years as e-books play a bigger role on your laptop or tablet.
Yeah, that is not anything new; Shankland is describing features ebooks have had for a couple decades. He lays out ideas found in several failed textbook starts, but do you know the worst part?
He's talking about features which already exist in iBooks.
Yes, Shankland thinks that the IDPF-W3C merger is going to be great for ebooks because it will bring us tech Apple debuted back in January 2012.
Don't get me wrong, I hope this merger will lead to a better ebook standard; with luck ebooks could work across platforms as well as websites work across web browsers (**).
But interactive ebooks? pop-ups? embedded videos?
We have all that, and ebook developers can use it when they want. The reason they don't is that frequently the market doesn't want it.
And if the best result to come out of this merger is more tech the market doesn't want, if there's another round of failed startups recycling old ideas with new VC funding, then is it worth having the merger in the first place?
O O O
P.S. Judging by market impact, the most important ebook standard is set by Amazon.
P.P.S. As any web developer can tell you, that was a joke.
image by tmorkemo