BISG is very committed to EPUB. Last year our Board of Directors formally endorsed EPUB 3 as the de facto standard for delivering digital content. The Policy Statement we issued says, in part:“The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) endorses EPUB 3 as the accepted and preferred standard for representing, packaging, and encoding structured and semantically enhanced Web content — including XHTML, CSS, SVG, images, and other resources — for distribution in a single-file format.”We also work very closely with IDPF. Before we dive into the Grid, let’s first come back to 30,000 feet and talk about why EPUB 3 matters.
It’s true that there has been an explosion in e-books in the U.S. over the last couple of years. This chart shows how e-books eclipsed all other formats in 2011 for adult fiction and how it continues to rise.
But Adult Fiction is narrative text, consumed in a linear fashion. EPUB 2 served its needs and allowed it to grow. This has not been true for Adult Nonfiction…
…or for Children’s books. Think about a nonfiction book rendered in EPUB 2 and compare it to the physical book, and think about how consumers read non linear nonfiction. They tend to jump from chapter to chapter, consult tables of contents and indexes frequently, and to examine charts, graphs, photos, and formulas. As the format grew, it demanded new functionality. The industry needs EPUB 3.
So this is the Grid. It looks complex at first, but it’s actually a very simple and easily digestible document. I’m going to spend the next several minutes walking you through the Grid in detail. But before I do that, let me say a few general words about the Grid.
BISG's EPUB 3 Support Grid was designed to be a handy reference to what enhancements and features of EPUB 3 render correctly on which devices, apps, and reading systems. It was created by industry experts representing leading publishers, service providers, and technology vendors through the auspices of BISG's Content Structure Committee. As you look down the left-hand side, you’ll see that each row represents a different functional element from the EPUB 3 standard. Our Grid does not cover all elements within EPUB 3. That document would have been too large and difficult to use in this format. Our Content Structure Committee identified these items as the most important to the U.S. book industry. As you look across the top, you’ll see that each column represents a different reading system or platform. Some, as we’ll see a bit later, are families of reading devices, platforms, and apps, such as Kobo.
But why do a grid at all?Adoption of the standard has been both slow and inconsistent. Publishers need to know how their downstream partners are rendering the EPUB 3 files they’re creating. Without this information, content is being structured and developed in a vacuum. When we launched the grid, a year ago, there was no source of this information. This was document filled a need.
It’s very important to note that the EPUB 3 Support Grid is not a static document. It’s been updated four times since it was first launched a year ago, and more than 100 people have added their names to the list of those receiving updates. It’s also important to note that some of the information in the grid comes directly from the reading systems evaluated, and some comes from third party review.
Our most recent release was March 7 and included these updates.
ANGELA and GRAHAM – For the next several slides, I simply refer to the grid itself. I chose one or two elements per slide and highlighted which systems were implementing them. For this slide I noted that only Coursesmart and Inkling are parsing links to external sources of metadata to provide the most up to date information to users. Even Readium failed this check.
With the exception of Amazon, most reading systems are offering support for Fixed Layout in at least some way. Support for MathML is inconsistent. Not suprisingly the education platforms like Coursesmart and Vitalsource are leading the way here.
With the exception of CFI, support for linking is fairly consistent. The grid actually separates each of the publisher provided styling and layout elements as individual features. Support is inconsistent at best.
Support for Global Languages is important for expansion into emerging markets. Unfortunately implementation is once again inconsistent. Companies with an international profile like Google and Kobo are leading the way here, as is Readium.
Only Google and VitalSource (for the IOS and Mac platforms) support basic TTS. Anything requiring the use or pronounciation rules is not supported. With a few notable exceptions – Readium, some of the VitalSource platforms, support for scripting and interactivity isn’t yet there.
We will review this section in detail later in the presentation.
While there is support for other document types, it is generally not compliant with the standard.Coursesmart and VitalSource are leading the way with Accessibility.
ANGELA and GRAHAM – You might say a word about the markets reached by each reading system. These are the reading systems currently tracked by the grid. Data for those in green was supplied by the reading system directly. Those in yellow were evaluated by third parties.
While you do see the inclusion of the Sony Reader Japan, this is a U.S.-centric review.
Overdrive distributed e-content to libraries. Bluefire develops white label apps.
Let’s focus in on one part of the Grid to get a sense of how this is used. I’ve chosen “Multimedia,” as this is something of great interest to publishers. As you look at this, an “X” means it’s supported, an “O” means it’s supported but is not compliant with the standard. A “?” means we don’t know. “No” means it’s not supported. “N/A” means the features is not applicable to the device. You can already see from this first slide that implementation across this functionality is sketchy. While most vendors have implemented embedded audio and video, it’s a mixed bag of who has done more.
Not surprisingly, those platforms with a strong presence in the higher ed market have taken this farther. You see here that CourseSmart is supporting a significant portion of the multimedia portion of the standard.
Speakers notes t/k.
Again, here were see that platforms oriented to the trade – Nook and Sony – are not supporting the feature set.
But VitalSource, which is for the education market, does support it. (If I was going to give out a gold star for compliance, it might go to VitalSource.)
The grid is likely to be a stepping stone endeavor. At some point, reading systems will fully support EPUB 3 or they won’t. Or, EPUB will develop again – EPUB 4 anyone? Or perhaps the container model will morph into a Web-based open standard, rendering individual reading systems less important. Beyond all that, IDPF is developing tools to test EPUB 3. Those tools will likely form an important adjunct to this grid.