Digital fictions

ePUBsecrets, a blog "created by David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion and hosted by Matthew Diener," recently covered the content of an Aptara webinar, "eBook & App Device Compatibility: Separating Fact from Fiction”. The presenters included Joshua Tallent (eBook Architects) and Jean Kaplansky (Aptara).

After summarizing the content of the webinar, Diener offered seven ideas that he felt emanated from what Tallent and Kaplansky had said. His observations (text verbatim; links are added):

  1. The only retailers that matter are Amazon, Apple, B&N and Kobo
  2. We are currently caught in a limbo state between EPUB 2.0.1 and EPUB 3
  3. The major retailers are moving further apart, not coming together over EPUB 3
  4. The major retailers do not have the same support across their own devices and apps
  5. Outside of iBooks Author, fixed layout for non-fiction is probably not a good idea
  6. This does not scale and removes the cost benefits of EPUB (and)
  7. Publishers and IDPF need to pressure retailers to support and accept the full EPUB 3 spec now or it will never be implemented

Diener provides a paragraph of detail for each; it's worth checking out his post for the full story.

In reading the post and the comments that followed, it struck me (again) that discussions about digital book standards remain focused on what is supplied to retail platforms, not what is delivered to readers. Diener touches on this directly in his third point, one that sees Kaplansky quoted saying we will never see “one EPUB file to rule them all.”

The thing is, a physical book comes pre-loaded with features that make it open, accessible and interoperable. Segmented by the walled gardens that characterize most retailer platforms, digital books do not.

As long as we're focused on what we provide retailers, we'll miss what readers want, and we'll continue to cede control to those platforms. Someday (soon, I hope), these platforms will either adopt or be disrupted by another solution, perhaps data lockers that stream HTML5 to whatever device I choose.

I think Diener, Concepcion, Tallent and Kaplansky understand this. I wish publishers did.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.