Bill McCoy is Wrong – Epub3 Isn’t Ready
There’s a new article up on the PW website tonight, but I’m not sure it’s worth reading. Bill McCoy, the Executive Director of the IDPF, penned a post in which he tries to debunk 7 myths of digital publishing.
Unfortunately for Bill he managed to prove that one of his so-called myths isn’t a myth; it’s a reality.
In writing about Epub3 McCoy tries to argue that the Epub3 ebook format is ready, but the points he raises completely demolish his argument. Check it out:
Myth #4: EPub 3 Isn’t Ready
EPub 3 was rolled out as a standards specification in late 2011, promising support for rich interactive content and tighter integration of e-book standards with the full Web platform. Eighteen months later, while many reading systems support ePub 3, several prominent reading systems still support only the older ePub 2 standard. And even the vendors that do already support ePub 3 don’t support 100% of its features. How can publishers use a standard if it’s not uniformly supported across the industry?
There are two parts to resolving this dilemma. First, publishers can deploy ePub 3 content today that has enhancements that work on ePub 3 reading systems, but the content is also fully usable on ePub 2 reading systems or ePub 3 reading systems that lack some features. Every O’Reilly Media title published in 2013 is ePub 3, and in a Web post, the O’Reilly team explains how to structure content that is future-proofed as well as backwards-compatible. Secondly, realizing the need to “raise the bar” of full ePub 3 support ASAP, more than two dozen vendors and publishers have banded together to collaborate on an open-source ePub 3 implementation, forming last March the new Readium Foundation.
First, a minority of the ebook platforms that support Epub also support Epub3. It is misleading to use the word "many" to describe a minority.
And seriously, if you have to concede that it’s not fully deployed and that even the best support is incomplete, then you have basically proven that Epub3 is not ready. It’s not a myth; it’s a fact. And no amount of marketing hype will change that fact.
Update: It seems that even the IDPF has come to the conclusion that Epub3 isn’t ready. That’s why they announced in July 2013 that they’re going with an Epub3 Lite ebook format.
Just to be clear, I see Epub3 being held up not by the technical details of the format but by the lack of support among reading platforms. Apple supports most of Epub3, and Sony and Samsung support bits and pieces. So far as I know that’s it.
And that’s why I say Epub3 is not ready.
IMO, Epub3 won’t be ready for another 6 months to a year. Widespread adoption is waiting on the Readium SDK. This is going to be used as the core for reading apps and ereaders, and it is not expected to be ready until the end of 2013. Integrating the Readium SDK into apps and ereaders will take even longer (6 months to a year).
I know because I asked one of the developers only a couple weeks ago. I was double checking my facts for the post about why there are reasons not to adopt Epub3 just yet, and I was also told some other details that might interest you.
The reason Epub3 is waiting on Readium SDK is that the development costs are unbelievable (or so I was told). There’s a good reason why so many companies have joined the Readium Foundation:
I’d guess if you include dev, QE, design, product mgt, etc to create an EPUB3 renderer that is any good, and integrate it in to existing apps on all major platforms, you are looking at 10 yrs or something of man hours.
Yes, 10 years of labor.
Just to put that into perspective, let me remind you that we live in an age where a single developer can start a new service or company as a night job, where even successful startups can run with only a handful of employees.
With that in mind developing Epub3 from a technical spec into a usable ecosystem (app plus ebookstore plus distributor plus ereader) must be a huge undertaking.
Frankly, I am surprised that there has been any adoption of Epub3 at all. Can you imagine how much Apple must have spent on developing the iBooks format, their own variant of Epub3? And then they followed up with Epub3 support. Of course Apple only had to support iBooks and Epub3 on IOS, and that made it a lot easier for them. But the expense involved still boggles my mind.
Folks, y’all are welcome to drink McCoy’s Kool-Aid, but I refuse. I plan to continue to ignore the marketing hype and look at the reality of the situation.
Epub3 is not ready yet. To say otherwise is to simply deny the facts in front of you.
P.S. Is it just me or is there something wrong when the only person speaking the truth is the outsider? That strikes me as a fundamental and frightening flaw in the system – any system.
image by RoxTues