That’s just one of the questions that ebooklovers, small publishers, app developers and librarians ideally can ask IDPF officials at an open meeting and Webinar on the planned W3C merger. The time is 12:30-2 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time, January 18, and the place of the physical meeting is New York City (at Digital Book World even thought you won’t need a DBW pass to get in).
“In person attendance is encouraged,” the IDPF says, “but remote participation will be available.” So Web visitors can ask questions? If they can’t, this feature should be added. On my mind right now:
- Will there be easy conversion in both directions between the IDPF’s current ePub standard and the newer Web-integrated formats, and for how long will the conversation efforts continue, as standards evolve?
- How will stand-alone books fare? Must everything ultimately be Web-dependent? If nothing else, consider the privacy implications, not to mention the ability to own books for real.
- Also, how about small publishers and self-publishers? The existing IDPF has not given them a free, full-powered WYSIWYG app to create ePub files from Word-style applications. Post-merger, will this be on the agenda? Via the Readium spin-off, the IDPF created a promising reference app for e-reading, but I’d have preferred something more ambitious.
- How will libraries fare? So many are now tethered to OverDrive, which has built its business around the existing ePub standard. Will the new changes be disruptive to libraries? Steve Potash, head of OverDrive and one of the main people behind ePub, opposes the merger. Keep in mind, of course, his vested interest in the status quo.
I myself will support the merger if the interests of ebooklovers, libraries, small publishers and developers of apps like Moon+ Reader Pro are adequately protected. IDPF Executive Director Bill McCoy would do well to reassure us with specifics.
Among my other concerns is traditional, encryption-based DRM. Certain publishers love it. I don’t want it to jeopardize the Web as we know it. The W3C musn’t kowtow to DRM zealots.
What’s more, I hope that the IDPF-W3C combo will care more about watermarking technologies and less about DRM for commercial content when precautions are felt necessary. In fact, Bill himself was a big advocate of watermarking, aka “social DRM” (these days I prefer the term “watermaking,” since we’re talking about tracking of bootlegged copies—different from actual DRM).
Some pro-IDPF/W3C merger points:
- I like the idea of ebooks becoming more a part of the fabric of the Web as long as standalone, non-networked books can also flourish. I’d like to be able to read future ePub books from my browser without any need for an extension. Meanwhile I’m glad to see that Microsoft’s Edge browser already can read ePub without one.
- Also, given the stinginess of many publishers toward the IDPF, the new merger could breathe new life into ebook standards. I just want them to be done right without needless complexities for ebooklovers, librarians and app developers like Moon+ Reader Pro.
- ePub standards reflect W3C standards, and perhaps the merger will result in faster, more efficient standards-creation.
- W3C has cared about accessibility, just like the IDFC, and ideally there can be further improvements with more resources available. What’s more, the combined organization shouldn’t just put out standards. It should aggressively lean on ePub developers to create readers with such options as all-text boldface and even the ability of users to install their own fonts.
- Likewise encouraging is the possibility of the book world becoming a little less Amazon-centric. The clout of W3C could help in this regard. Already you can submit books to Amazon in ePub, but Amazon really needs to make it a final format, not just one available for production purposes. Perhaps the merger can at least slightly increase the chances of this happening.
Related: W3C and IDPF ratify plan to merge—but is it wise?, by TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows.