Comments on Publication Standards Part 2: A Standard Future

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    Working with EPUBS last year was quite an eye opener for me. I got to be a part of the EPUB3 working group for a short time, but I cannot claim to have been of any use there at all. The conversations were far, far too technical for me to comprehend.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

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  2. Nick -

    Great overview of the challenges ahead for ebooks.  I’ve always wondered why ebooks are not just straight HTML in the first place.  Publication standards project looks like a great thing, will definitely subscribe to your newsletter and try to contribute ideas…

    I may have one piece of the puzzle already.  You call for:

    bq. Page layout software that exports semantically correct, standards-compliant HTML and CSS code.

    I’ve built something quite like that, I call it Edit Room, and it’s a focused tool for semantic standards-based, responsive web design. It would not take too much to make it useful for ebook authoring as well.  It’s available at “”:

    I’m just getting started bringing this to market, and any and all critique and feedback from anyone is welcome…

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  3. Amidst all the brouhaha around ebooks, ePub et al, there’s an underdog project by Roger Black called “Treesaver”: which looks really interesting.

    Sure, it’s not specifically targeted to writers—hell, it’s not even about ebooks—but I wonder how far a solution built on a barebone HTML framework can go in comparison with all the closed standards that you mentioned.

    There’s an ebook-targeted framework as well that Craid Mod “introduced a while ago on A List Apart”: but it hasn’t evolved that much for months, unfortunately.

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  4. oh geez.

    i didn’t know there was a “part 2”...

    after “part 1”, i asked you to please
    just go away, and not “help” e-books.

    now i see that you’ve already mounted
    an effort.  but really, just go away.

    you do _not_ know what to do to “help”
    —you’ve merely regurgitated the stuff
    that didn’t make the web any better—
    so your effort will just confuse people
    and fragment the work of the _real_ fix.

    i’m still serious.  shoo!


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  5. Does anyone remember “Annotated Alice” by the Voyager Company? The Sony Bookman…?
    We need standards to be free and openess to grow.

    If every bookreader met a standard like ePub3 fairly and squarely I’d be out in the sun today, my work would be done ;).  I’ve been here before, a time when “electronic books” went out like a damp squibb…I don’t believe it will happen like that this time. there will be winners, and they will share their toys and play fair.

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  6. @“Nick”:#5 Yes! I do hope ePub 3 (from what I understand) being a blend of open web standards is a good sign that one day we will be able to create truly cross-platform ebooks without the hassle of dealing with incompatibilities.

    I’ve signed up to become a member of the Publication Standards Project and can’t wait to see how I’d be able to help.

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  7. hi
    i think it is great post of the challenges ahead for ebooks

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  8. I am a fan of XML and semantics tagging, but new to ePub.

    I do not get why someone would care whether the final formatted result is a <span> or a <h1>.

    It’s not like you can use the semantics for search/classification anymore. You are looking the the final formatted result. And if you were hoping to implement search/classification, the classes would potentially of more use than an h1 or an h2.

    What am I missing here?

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  9. There is a world of commercial publishing that ePub, KF8, PDF, etc. have been created to allow for ebooks. However, because of HTML being so successful for browsers on computer screens, the aspect of the device has created huge confusion over how to deal with publishing. Steve Jobs created the Next computer with full WYSIWYG screens and printing using PostScript. By equating the two distinct media, CRT and 8.5"x11” paper, was the recognition of power of verisimilitude. Obviously, new viewing devices and new methods to physically interact with data and documents have made the importance of serving content in a multitude of ways.

    For example, looking at legislative documents, the issue of authenticity and verisimilitude are much more significant and trump the issues that are driving the ebook issues mentioned in the Publications Standards article. And for these reasons, there is no good answer on formats for legal documents. One aspect is that line and page numbering are artifacts of publishing on paper with typography. And so for legal documents, academic and other crucial document creating communities, the discussion is a lot noise that often misses their issues.

    I would say that a single XML file can not meet the needs of publishing. Nor can a simple PDF or any other single file approach. Essentially, there are layers that are often out of sync with each other. Line numbers that correspond with a printed document are hard determine outside of processing the document for publishing. And XML cannot handle the resulting data without breaking nesting. And PDF cannot handle much without including an XML version.

    In reality, a document is best described with overlapping onion skins.
    *Simple text, illustrations, and typography.
    *Publishing artifacts on paper, B&W ereaders, color screens at different sizes, audio/accessible versions.
    *Interactive features, dimensional breaks/non-serial narrative breaks.
    *Versioning within a document.
    *Implicit and explicit metadata about the document.
    *Legal aspects, licensing, authenticity, watermarking, branding, and the interactive aspects (limiting views, copying, time restrictions, online ...)
    *Business model issues, including purchasing information, ISBN, UPC, etc.
    *And, oh yes, content, which may be more than simple text (for law there may be cites, a metadata level for hierarchical/jurisdictional/version/authorship/etc) often creating a layer of XML that is XSLTed into ePub or HTML or PDF with or without representation in the presentation layer’s code.

    Daniel Bennett
    CTO, eCitizen Foundation

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  10. Really deep analysis about digital publishing. I think it really is excellent post of the issues onward for digital formats.

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  11. Sorry, commenting is closed on this article.