Yesterday I attended the first of a four-part webcast series hosted by Book Industry Study Group, called Understanding EPUB 3.
Bill Kasdorf, vice president of Apex Solutions, and Bill McCoy, Executive Director of International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) were the two main panelists.
Although much of EPUB 3 is an evolution of EPUB 2, there are a lot of cool features to consider. While publishers do not necessarily need to convert all their ebooks to EPUB 3 (one of the requirements is that ereading devices be able to read both EPUB 3 and EPUB 2), if their are books that would benefit from the features of EPUB 3, audio and video for example, then it may be worth it.
EPUB 3 officially became a standard in late October 2011. Currently no devices fully support EPUB 3, but Apple’s iPad does have read aloud functionality (Apple worked with developers on EPUB 3 and was able to have the same read aloud specs before a draft of EPUB 3 was even released).
Although HTML5 is integral to EPUB 3, HTML5 will not be a recommended spec until 2014. Therefore, only some aspects of HTML5 and CSS3 are part of EPUB 3. However, because there are no plans as of now to develop an EPUB 4, EPUB 3 will have modules developed to add future functionalities. Basically, EPUB 3 will evolve to keep up with HTML5. Some modules that will be developed include fixed layout metadata and page templates that allow advanced adaptive layout (the ability to have only one EPUB file with multiple CSS stylesheets that can easily change the layout of the ebook based on the size of the screen and the position–horizontal and vertical).
Right now, HTML5 makes it easier to embed audio and video content, which means we can probably expect more enhanced ebooks in the near future. EPUB 3 can also stream live media. And, there are text-to-speech and scripting capabilities, plus the ability to read aloud with media overlays. Media overlays is the only completely new feature; all the other features were evolved from EPUB 2. Metadata can also be more granular.
The goal of EPUB 3 is to “bring open web and digital publishing together in an open, freely used platform interoperable with multiple platforms and reading systems,” Bill McCoy said.
Many companies, including Apple, Google, Sony, and Barnes & Noble (NOT Amazon), were heavily involved in the process of developing the EPUB 3 specs. And everyone is invited to take part in developing new modules.
So that’s the gist of the first webcast. To learn more, here are some helpful sites: