The Digital Publishing Interest Group has published a new Working Draft of “Requirements for Latin Text Layout and Pagination”. This document describes requirements for pagination and layout of books in latin languages, based on the tradition of print book design and composition. It is hoped that these principles can inform the pagination of digital content as well, and serve as a reference for the CSS Working Group and other interested parties.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group today published updates of two Notes that accompany WCAG 2.0: Understanding WCAG 2.0 and Techniques for WCAG 2.0. (This is not an update to WCAG 2.0, which is a stable document.) For information on these updates, please see the Understanding WCAG and WCAG Techniques Updated September 2014 e-mail.
The HTML Working Group has published a Proposed Recommendation of HTML5. This specification defines the 5th major revision of the core language of the World Wide Web: the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). In this version, new features are introduced to help Web application authors, new elements are introduced based on research into prevailing authoring practices, and special attention has been given to defining clear conformance criteria for user agents in an effort to improve interoperability. Comments are welcome through 14 October.
The call for papers for the “Books in Browsers: Advancing Open Web Standards and Digital Publishing” event has been published. The event will take place in San Francisco, on the 23-25 October, at the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts.
Books in Browsers is a small summit for the new generation of internet publishing companies, focusing on developers and designers who are building and launching tools for online storytelling, expression, and art. From the announcement above:
Over the last four years, Books in Browsers has advanced from a discussion of how startups might optimize existing publisher workflows to an exploration of the concept of “craft” in digital-native authoring and reading environments. This focus is bumping up squarely against the current limitations of web browsers to author, display, and link page elements together in ways that liberate the next generation of digital publishing.
Simultaneously, there is a burst of interest in how evolving web standards can advance publishing, and reciprocally how the frontiers of design, user interaction, and narrative can inform the objectives for web standards, common open source tools, and widely deployed services. One of the most obvious signposts of this engagement is the emergence of the W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group (DigPub IG).
The Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Working Group has published two Working Drafts today:
- CSS Grid Layout Module Level 1. This CSS module defines a two-dimensional grid-based layout system, optimized for user interface design. In the grid layout model, the children of a grid container can be positioned into arbitrary slots in a flexible or fixed predefined layout grid.
- CSS Generated Content for Paged Media Module. Books and other paged media often use special techniques to display information. Content may be moved to or generated for special areas of the page, such as running heads or footnotes. Generated content within pages, such as tab leaders or cross-references, helps readers navigate within and between pages.
The W3C SVG Working Group has published a Working Draft of SVG Integration. This specification details requirements on how SVG documents must be processed when used in various contexts, such as CSS background images, HTML ‘iframe’ elements, and so on. These requirements include which features are restricted or disabled, such as scripting and animation. A number of referencing modes are defined, which other specifications that allow the embedding or referencing of SVG documents can normatively reference.
The Math Working Group has published two updated W3C Recommendations:
- XML Entity Definitions for Characters (2nd Edition). This document defines several sets of names, so that to each name is assigned a Unicode character or sequence of characters. Each of these sets is expressed as a file of XML entity declarations.
- Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) Version 3.0 2nd Edition. This specification defines the Mathematical Markup Language, or MathML. See the separate appendix in the document for the list of changes.
The Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Working Group has published a Last Call Working Draft of CSS Flexible Box Layout Module Level 1. The specification describes a CSS box model optimized for user interface design. In the flex layout model, the children of a flex container can be laid out in any direction, and can “flex” their sizes, either growing to fill unused space or shrinking to avoid overflowing the parent. Both horizontal and vertical alignment of the children can be easily manipulated. Nesting of these boxes (horizontal inside vertical, or vertical inside horizontal) can be used to build layouts in two dimensions. Comments are welcome through 22 April 2014.
For a few months now I’ve served as co-chair of “DPUB”, the W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group, (with Markus Gylling, who somehow has time to be a wonderful CTO of two different standards organizations). DPUB acts as a channel for those of us in digital publishing to influence the development of web standards like HTML5 and CSS3. The group has already produced two public documents describing use cases for text layout and for annotations, which we’re quite proud of. But we’d like to do more, and we need your help.
Widows and orphans, oh my
In Requirements for Latin Text Layout and Pagination, Dave Cramer of Hachette has compiled an exhaustive list of requirements for laying out text using best practices developed over centuries of print publishing, including guidelines for pagination, table layout, and other formatting. By design, these requirements focus on problems which are not natively solvable today in CSS. Those of you who have tried to lay out drop caps or figure/caption pairs know that the current techniques are fragile, easily breaking down in the face of alternate viewport sizes or user controls. Dave’s work is well worth reading for anyone interested in CSS-based layout.
Annotation Use Cases by Robert Sanderson of Los Alamos National Laboratory documents issues that those of us who have implemented annotations in our reading systems must deal with: annotation metadata, position and text selection, and annotation styling. Rob includes advanced cases as well, such as annotation of documents under revision and the elusive cross-format annotation (which I consider to be one of the hard problems in digital publishing).
Why this matters
It’s hard to believe this in 2014, but when EPUB was first born, it was provocative to suggest that ebooks would be a part of the web. Early ereaders were implemented with proprietary software stacks that presumed interoperability at the level of file interchange only. We’re still paying the price for some of these decisions, from DRM, to strict XML-centric markup, to a collective deficit in documented best practices, free software, and open dialog.
This is changing fast, thanks to projects like Readium, but we now have a new problem: the web isn’t entirely ready for us. Today, nearly all ereading systems are built either directly on the web (like Safari) or using low-level browser libraries (like most reader apps on mobile devices). There are unique requirements in publishing that need to be supported directly in web technologies; the alternative is continued fragmentation and lack of interoperable innovation.
What needs to be done
I’m a reading system developer, so I’ve grappled with problems like pagination (ugh), progressive enhancement, accessibility, and interactivity. Publishers and authors care about semantics and metadata. Ebook developers struggle with markup and styling. While we’re all getting by with the tools we have available today, there’s tremendous variability from platform to platform in how many of these issues are addressed. Too many organizations are starting from nothing when they endeavor to answer questions like:
- How do we provide metadata at the level of a chapter or section?
- How do we best convey the rich semantics of a book in a way that search engines will understand?
- How can we preserve the beauty and order of professional typography in web-based books?
- How can we create rich interactive publications that work across a range of platforms?
Help us help you!
We need participation from publishers, reading system developers, ebook developers and other thinkers in digital publishing. This is important, high-profile work, and there are some hard problems to solve. Please drop me a note in the comments, an email, or on Twitter for more information on joining the interest group and/or becoming a W3C member.
The Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Working Group has published a Working Draft of CSS Lists and Counters Module Level 3. This draft contains the features of CSS level 3 relating to list styling. It includes and extends the functionality of CSS level 2 [CSS21]. The main extensions compared to level 2 are a pseudo-element representing the list marker, and a method for authors to define their own list-styles.
The group also updated in place the 29 September 2011 Recommendation of CSS Namespaces Module Level 3. The changes include the addition of three grammar rules which aren’t used in the spec itself, to avoid having to add them to new specs that do need them; addition of an extra explanation to an example (“because…”); change to the term “rule sets” to “style rules.” Both are correct, but the latter is easier to understand.