EPUB 3: A Foundation For the Future
Most publishers understand the tactical advantages of adopting industry standards for digital publishing: the cost cutting that can result from interoperability, the greater scalability, the lower friction in the supply chain. But Bill McCoy, executive director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), thinks that publishers have to also consider the strategic advantages of an open, horizontal standard, which he says is equally, if not more, critical.
"Standards are a weapon for neutralizing proprietary platforms that would seek to basically create lock-in, that would suck the profits away from the supply chain, including taking the profits from authors and publishers. We don't want to hand over control of books to any vendors, whether their company name starts with 'A' or some other letter in the alphabet. I think publishers need to think strategically about that. In a way, I think we're lucky that despite Amazon having dominance of the distribution channel for ebooks in the U.S. they haven't managed to have dominance on a format level and a standards level -- but there's still risk there."
McCoy sees a bright future for digital publishing if we live in an open-web-based world. The result is a richer environment for publishers to develop content at lower cost.
McCoy has plenty of experience in the area of horizontal digital technology. Before his current post at the IDPF, McCoy was general manager of digital publishing at Adobe Systems. While at Adobe, McCoy was involved in the development of what have become some of the most well-known standards in publishing, including PostScript, OpenType, and PDF. "Those all have been very successful horizontal standards," says McCoy. "In other words there's not a separate PDF for magazines and a separate PDF for ads and a separate PDF journals and a separate PDF for books. There's one PDF format that meets the needs of a wide range of publication types."