eBooks: Great Expectations for Web Standards
W3C Workshop Position Paper

Frederick Hirsch, Nokia, W3C Device APIs WG Chair
Jari Alvinen, Nokia, Director Web & Internet Technologies

W3C Workshop on Electronic Books and the Open Web Platform
11-12 February 2013, New York, NY, USA

It is the best of times and it is the worst of times: we see the emergence of the Open Web Platform rapidly progressing and we see the potential innovation and usefulness of eBooks, yet we still need to see broad adoption of eBooks on a common, open and interoperable platform.

The Open Web Platform is a technology evolution that is well under way and has the support of numerous vendors including Nokia. The Open Web Platform offers authors the opportunity to reach a broader audience and consumers the means avoid lock-in by being able to use a variety of devices. It encourages competition at higher levels of the stack with content and applications, as well as with quality of Open Web Platform implementations.

One of the primary benefits of proprietary platforms in use today is the trust and convenience offered by application stores associated with those platforms. Such curated store systems are viewed as beneficial since they appear to offer authors better revenue opportunities and end users a safer, more usable, and friendly experience. A challenge for the Open Web Platform is to match these benefits of the proprietary application store model.

With eBook adoption we are witnessing a major change in consumer behaviour and preferences as well as a change in content producer business models. This is happening as eBooks offer a number of clear benefits:

There is also a downside to eBooks - they lack physical presence, emotional being, and still do not offer the same tactile ease of use and sense of place within a book as a physical book.

Similar to the proprietary application store model, the proprietary eBook store model offers customers trust, and convenience. The negative side is that proprietary book formats (or proprietary extensions to open formats) limit the reach for authors and make it hard for consumers to enjoy their content on the device they wish. Such portability is important as different devices may offer different benefits, and users may wish to change devices over time. Proprietary eBook stores generally address this by creating viewers for different devices.

We are at the beginning of the wide adoption eBooks and can expect to see innovation allowing them to create experiences beyond mimicking paper books. eBooks can offer interactive content, audio, video and annotations associated with text. Some of this has been tried before with earlier technology - think of the CD-ROM era and interactive fiction such as Infocom (Zork) - but with a common, interoperable and Open Web Platform this can be taken to a whole new level and be succcessful.

We would like to see the level of enthusiasm and innovation in the Open Web Platform be carried over to the eBook evolution. The Open Web Platform enables consumer use of content across a range of user chosen devices - from mobile phones to tablets to computers. This choice is also possible with eBooks, especially if built on the Open Web Platform.

It is exciting to see the new technologies and business opportunities associated with both the Open Web Platform and eBooks. We would like to explore how the Open Web Platform can enable eBook innovation and openness and also to examine the Open Web Platform capabilities in the context of an application such as eBooks. We look forward to participating in this workshop to explore these issues.