16 June 2017
Evaluating the importance and impact of the new EPUB 3.1 specification.
We now have an EPUB 3.1 specification off the blocks. That means we have three jobs to do:
A new ePub specification was released on the 5th January 2017. Brilliantly named EPUB 3.1, it is pretty much an unused features/ideas clean-up from past specifications... which is a good thing!
The most important change is the unleashing of CSS and SVG from their previous constraints in an ePub package. With EPUB 3.1 the content tagging and styling now fully aligns with the W3C standards. This is incredibly important for education content around the world.
There appears to be very little (no) EPUB 3.1 market-place dialogue. Perhaps there are exciting private conversations happening in private between thousands of eBook devotees. But from what I have been able to discover:
Just... nothing. Is it time to get talking and doing ...or not?
AZARDI was the first EPUB3 reader on the market (15 May 2011); and the first EPUB3 Fixed Layout reader (31 Dec 2012) on the market.
At the same time IGP:Digital Publisher was updated and ready to generate all variants of ePub including: ePub2, ePub3+2, ePub3 and ePub3 FXL.
Looks like we have to be first again. Although that isn't such a high bar this time. We are tentatively raising our heads and hoping not to get chopped down!
AZARDI is EPUB 3.1 ready right now.
Another "big confusion" is that IDPF released the ePub 3.1 specifications on the 5th January 2017. Then on the 30th January the IDPF combined with the W3C. The IDPF site says its web pages are now archives; while on the W3C site the EPUB 3.1 specification documents are now W3C Submission Requests. This means they are not official W3C specifications.
It would appear to be a "NOT" specification right now. But I don't really know for sure. We are bravely plodding on.
If you haven't been following the EPUB 3.1 story here is the changes document - EPUB 3.1 Changes from EPUB 3.0.1. We will look at the implications and effects of the changes in more detail in a later article. But a first glance at the EPUB 3.1 changes from ePub 3.0.1 are:
For core linear fiction and non-fiction EPUB 3.1 doesn't change a thing. No new and exciting fiction storytelling methods are expected to emerge from this awesome specification update.
Right now you can change the Version number of your ePub3 and/or ePub3.0.1 books to 3.1 and you are instantly soaring in the new EPUB 3.1 sky. There are a few other nice little touch-ups you can do but that is the big one.
That means opening the OPF file and changing the first line.
<package prefix="dc: http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" version="<strong>3.1</strong>" xml:lang="en" unique-identifier="isbn">
And then zipping it back together again. If you are a true-specification-believer you will instantly know you have made an EPUB 3.1. No EPUB-Check required.
AZARDI is EPUB 3.1 ready right now. You can open your fresh new EPUB 3.1 book in AZARDI desktop without any issues. Get your AZARDI Reader here.
The EPUB 3.1 documentation has been extensively reorganized.
It wonderfully half-states things with a link to another document where the half-statement is clarified 50%. The BIG deal here is it makes it very difficult to correlate this specification with the previous specifications to understand the implementable details of the changes.
One of the the strengths of the first ePub3 speciification was the quality, completeness and clarity of statements and the tagging examples in the specification. It certainly helped us get to market faster with AZARDI and IGP:Digital Publisher.
EPub up until now has been a lot of hard work for Education content, especially with content presentation control being killed with no absolute or fixed positioning.
EPUB 3.1 signals that ePub has moved forward from only being a strictly linear-fiction reading or fixed layout presentation system to now supporting more dynamic content engagement experiences. It only took a decade!
Way back then we were highly critical of some weird decisions the IDPF made with ePub3 packaging and we received a lot of flak from some IDPF fellas, even being called an IDPF Troll. (You are not allowed to criticize committee work unless you pay the membership fee.) But that is the amusing past. Like the IDPF and digital book world in general EPUB 3.1 is being treated in a very relaxed manner.
I have to say it again. The most significant change is all W3C CSS and SVG are included no-holds bar. This is going to be fantastic for education publishers as they will be able to make content come alive as it should in 2017.
EPUB 3.1 is just another Format on Demand from the IGP:Digital Publisher perspective. The team is working on the packaging engine for that right now and it will be ready for the next upgrade.
The new EPUB 3.1 package will go into the left column with all the other EPUB package variants.
IGP:Digital Publisher will always create the well-formed XHTML EPUB 3.1 package.
IGP are practioners creating digital content production, delivery and reading solutions for hundreds of publishers around the world in dozens of languages. We have a particular focus on interactive education content.
We have had to take the earlier specifications and "features" created by the 1990's focused "IDPF team"; with no implementation, no testing, no market engagement; and turn it into something practical for production, distribution and user content engagement. Do we move ahead or not?
We maintain 100's of thousands of books and documents for hundreds of publishers around the world. Every book is tagged with IGP:FoundationXHTML and stored in IGP:Digital Publisher.
Every book and document can be instantly processed to EPUB 3.1 if and when required. Our new IGP:Formats On Demand bulk processing tools (to be announced shortly) will allow a publisher with his content store in the system to instantly output hundreds and thousands of EPUB 3.1 books (and any other formats) for delivery into the market as required.
Digitize Once. Use Forever
Posted by Richard Pipe