eBooks: Great Expectations Workshop, second day

After a successful start on Monday, the workshop on eBooks and W3C continued and concluded yesterday. The goal of the Workshop, as I explained yesterday, was to explore how the digital publishing community could work with W3C for a better harmonization of the core technologies for eBooks, and ensure that the technology developments at W3C fulfill the needs of this significant application area.

The first day concentrated on the issues around OWP, and this topic was also taken up at the start of the second day, with a wrap-up of the first day. The other sessions of the day addressed other technical areas. The session on accessibility emphasized the huge importance of the development of electronic books for those who have, e.g. various forms of reading disabilities. The accessibility guidelines developed at the W3C are of a vital importance for electronic books, but there are also new challenges. For example, many of the current DRM approaches make it difficult, if not impossible, for specialized readers and other assistive technologies to properly handle books; the deployment issues around MathML, or speech-related CSS modules, are also hurting accessibility needs. There was a separate session on DRM, although the workshop, being fundamentally technical in nature, did not address its business aspects. But some new technologies, like fingerprinting or “buy-once-sync-everywhere” approaches, presented at the workshop, may provide better alternatives in the future. All the DRM approaches rely on the encryption and signature specifications developed at the W3C, and any new developments in this area must be in line with the requirements of the publishing community. Finally, the technical sessions concluded with a session on metadata which showed that there is still a significant amount of work to be done in this area. Although the ePub standard itself is silent on which vocabularies should be used in conjunction with electronic books, the large number of partially overlapping vocabularies defined by various organizations may require some harmonization and vocabulary mapping to make them palatable for users. It is not clear at this moment where and how this could be done, but it is certainly another area of great interest for W3C.

The workshop concluded with a wrap-up session; first wrap-up of the day, followed by a wrap-up of the workshop as a whole. Some action items were given, and these will be followed up by interested parties in the publishing community (individual publishers, users, and of course IDPF) and W3C. These actions include a phone conference with CSS experts to resolve the most pressing needs in terms of CSS (which has been identified as the top priority set of issues) and setting up one (or several?) groups (Community, Business, or Interest Groups) at W3C concentrating on, and documenting the requirements of the publishing industry on the various technologies developed at W3C. Hopefully, these actions will also lead, eventually, to a stronger representation of the digital publishing community in various W3C Working and Interest Groups to further harmonize the technologies.

It was a good workshop which, hopefully, will initiate further work. W3C is also looking at other areas of digital publishing, going beyond electronic books. Another workshop is planned later this year on the back-end side of publishing, i.e., what happens from the time an author writes down ideas until those ideas are published in the form of a book, printed or electronic. More about that workshop later!

The raw minutes of the meeting are available on-line (both for the first day and the second); the agenda page of the workshop has all the links to the presentations and the slides for those interested in further details.

About Ivan Herman

Ivan Herman is the leader of the Digital Publishing Activity at W3C. For more details, see http://www.w3.org/People/Ivan/