35+ Tips for Quality and Streamlined E-Book Production
As for arriving at a standard e-book format, "EPUB 3 is the best shot that we have so far," he says. "But the big companies that are out there—Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others—compete through their format, so it will be difficult to get people from that side to agree on one format. … Every time I think we've got some way to trim the number of formats, somebody introduces another that we've got to pay attention to."
And there's the rub. As good as EPUB 3 may turn out to be (it is in the late stages of development under the auspices of the International Digital Publishing Forum), currently no reading devices work with this format—though those that run EPUB (which include Kobo, Nook and Sony) are likely to upgrade to accommodate it. EPUB 3 promises expanded applicability for global language support and is designed to work with interactive, media-rich titles like textbooks, scientific, technical and medical (STM) books and magazines, but, as things currently stand, won't work on the Mobipocket-based Kindle.
Whatever the final platform standard may turn out to be, it will be wise for publishers of all stripes to eventually adopt an XML-based workflow (as Cengage has), according to Bill Trippe, vice president and lead analyst with consultancy and research firm Outsell.
"Certain markets, such as STM and legal, have a head start, but XML adoption is important across the board, with the possible exceptions of primarily pictorial formats such as children's books and graphical novels," he says. "We are seeing increased adoption among trade and educational publishers."
The reason, he says, is the need for flexible content systems that can adapt to future changes. "Publishers will face a growing requirement to publish to many channels and formats, with print, EPUB, and various flavors of HTML, including HTML5, perhaps just being starters," Trippe says. "Publishers who digitized 'straight to EPUB' now face a challenge of how they will get to EPUB 3 (and beyond …). They would be … better off considering their overall needs for digital products and designing an XML strategy based on that. Publishers who have a robust XML master version of their content can readily generate EPUB 3 and other formats as they need."