Improving Ebook Data Quality: A Frank Assessment & The Path Forward
In order to validate my observations, I turned to friend and colleague, Joshua Tallent, chief ebook architect at eBook Architects. Joshua is one of my gurus for all things EPUB. Joshua echoed what I am seeing in terms of shaky EPUB data quality. "Publishers are either unaware of the issues of data quality in their EPUB files or unable to make changes needed to improve it. Publishers who outsource their work to vendors are at the mercy of the vendor’s practices and tools. Publishers who create their ebooks in-house run into other problems if they are relying on one-button conversion tools (as found in InDesign) without first defining well-formed manuscripts. These tools tend to be garbage in, garbage out, so the quality of the EPUB files coming out the other side is usually not very good.”
Publishers must start to raise the level of data quality of their EPUB titles. If not, they will find it difficult to hold to price points in the market place as customers become more savvy and their expectations rise. Further, the quality of EPUB data will increasingly be a competitive differentiator, not only for customer sales but also for author acquisition. Authors will sign with publishers that can create the best EPUB experience for their title.
The EPUB quality status quo appears untenable. Rectifying the situation starts at the individual level. “Anyone involved in the creation or distribution of ebook files needs to learn more about the formats and best practices,” says Joshua. “That is true regardless of whether they are a developer, a manager, or the person doing QA. The more you know about what EPUB can do the better your ebook files will become. That means digging in and learning. It means reading the specs, taking classes about ebook development, and testing how these things work.”