IDPF Working Group Improving on EPUB Format for E-books
Extra: Are book publishers ready to deliver the functionalities that the new EPUB file format will allow for?
Conboy: I think we may actually be pretty well-timed in that there's been tremendous adoption of EPUB, albeit fairly simple EPUB, over the last couple of years. Most publishers and conversion houses now are only doing EPUB as it goes out to the sales and distribution channels. One thing we're certainly aware of is there's varying levels of veracity with which the various reading systems have implemented the standard. I hope one thing that will happen this year is that all these reading systems —be it Amazon or eReader or Sony, whomever—will all come to a pretty solid implementation of EPUB 2.0. While that effort is going on, the development group of EPUB is working on the 2.1. So if we have a base by the beginning of next year where everyone has got the current standard implemented pretty well, we can take the next step forward.
Right now, there's certainly variability of how well the standard is implemented. But from being involved in the IDPF, we have many more members coming in now, and I think there's real appreciation for getting to a wide adoption of good implementations of the current standard. So if you do a pretty-looking trade press book, it should look pretty on all platforms. I think that's going to happen this year; then we'll take the next step forward with some new features the following year.
Extra: Do you see foresee this new file format affecting the cost for publishers to create e-books? And how will this affect end-users?
Conboy: That gets to the whole thing that drove us, starting in 2005, to advance the standard and create what's now EPUB. Before that effort, there was an earlier version of the standard that was implemented very differently by lots of different platforms. So publishers bringing out a trade press book in 2003 would create a lit file for Microsoft, a Palm file for Palm Digital Media, an eReader file, etc. There was probably five or six conversions that would have to be done for every book that you brought out. And each of those conversions could be a couple hundred dollars. To bring a book out, it would be five times more than seems reasonable.