W3C Workshop on Digital Publication Layout and Presentation (from Manga to Magazines)

September 18-19, 2018; Tokyo, Japan

EDRLab: Position Paper

About EDRLab and its BDCoMa WG

The European Digital Reading Lab (EDRLab) is a development lab whose aim is to deploy a set of open and interoperable digital publishing technologies in Europe, around an open, flexible and accessible standard applicable to all kinds of digital publications. EDRLab is member of the W3C and a major contributor to the future Web Publications (WP) / EPUB 4 standards.

In June 2017, EDRLab gathered several actors linked to the comics industry to discuss their needs respective to the digital publishing of visually-rich stories. Spanning the whole spectrum from publishers to developers of authoring tools, reading systems and digital platforms, including authors and public libraries, all stakeholders agreed on the following observations and issues, which led to the creation of the BD Comics Manga Working Group (BDCoMa WG) and the definition of specific goals.

In practice, the BDCoMa WG aims to pursue the constant, long-term effort started in 2013 by former IDPF members in the framework of regular conferences (Frankfurt, IDPF BEA, EPUB Summit…) and the first IDPF Workshop on Sequential Art held in 2014.

Observations: a booming but fragmented market

Although the ebook market grows at different rates - and has therefore reached different levels of maturity - in different parts of the world, regional ebook markets are formally similar and essentially rely on “homothetic” publications produced in the EPUB 2 or EPUB 3 format, i.e. digital reproductions of the paper book equivalents without any form of enrichment. By contrast, the visual narrative market grows extremely fast but remains split into multiple local markets.

It should be noted that some large-scale digital productions - produced in non-EPUB formats - have already gained major recognition, as evidenced by both international awards (International Angouleme Festival, Eisner Awards, Apple Design Awards...) and sale figures, with numbers going up to several million copies.

Issues: a lack of standardization


Based on the above, EDRLab formed the BDCoMa WG to propose a standard, universal language for expressing digital graphic stories with 4 very clear objectives:

Guiding Principles

To do so, the BDCoMa WG made 2 core technical choices:


This explains why the BDCoMa WG will refer to the format for which it established a number of specifications as an “EPUB 4 for comics”. Technically, it consists in an EPUB package containing a JSON file describing the story, a few HTML files and a number of separate resource files (images, video, audio, text, etc.).

Besides the short-term needs for the digital expression of visual narratives, the BDCoMa WG believes that those specifications will also be useful to other forms of rich publications: audiobooks, picture books, cookbooks, poems, magazines, educational materials, etc. The format could even be the basis for open source slideshow presentations.

W3C Tokyo Summit Presentation

We therefore propose: