At the CONTEC Conference

I had the pleasure of participating at the CONTEC Conference last week, taking place in conjunction with the Frankfurt Book fair. /It was really good to be there and I would like to thank Kat Meyer for the invitation to participate. I had lots of conversations, informal or semi-informal meetings with various people; I do not want to list names because I would incur the danger of forgetting, and thereby offending, someone… Suffice it to say that it was really good for networking!

I spent most of my afternoon at two open sessions, both around EPUB 3, namely a session on IDPF and on Readium.org, respectively. Although, through W3C, we of course have a  contact with IDPF, this session was extremely useful to gain a bit more insight into what is happening there these days. I knew about some of the work going on (e.g., the fact that EPUB 3.01 goes to ISO), but others were new to me. For example, I did not know until that day that a work is planned to adapt the Open Annotation Model (developed in the corresponding W3C Community Group) to EPUB. This work makes a lot of sense, portable annotations is a hugely important area for electronic books, and I am quite excited to see this work happening; I will try to keep up-to-date on this. The other extensions to EPUB (e.g., on indexes, usage of dictionaries) also look interesting and important. Finally, it was also interesting to see that IDPF is continuing its efforts in outreach (e.g., that it will take over the Support Grid of BISG and develop it further); I think outreach is yet another area where a future cooperation between IDPF and W3C may happen.

While I of course knew about many things about IDPF, the presentation on Readium.org was different: I only had very vague ideas, previously, about what was going on there. The goal is to develop an open source implementation to be at the core of EPUB3 readers. This “Readium SDK” will sit on top of Open Web Platform based rendering engines like Gecko or Webkit, and should take care of all the core EPUB3 specific features (e.g., table of contents, management of indexes, packaging, etc.). The code is expected to be available at the end of the year, and we can expect first full-blown readers mid 2014. This can become hugely important: it means EPUB3 compliant readers can really come to the fore and, due to the architecture, those readers can evolve in parallel with browser developments.

There was also a separate presentation on the thorny issue of content protection through the separate sub-project called LCP (Lightweight Content Protection). The way I understood it, as a kind of an elevator pitch: consider what is currently available for PDF in terms of password protection and right expressions, and adapt it to EPUB3. It is not a really strong content protection, as far as I know, but it seems that at least the Readium.org participants (which includes a number of publishers) consider it as good enough. I do not know whether this is a solution to the current DRM issues and discussions on books, and I guess it is still controversial, but it was interesting to see that at least new ideas are being sought and are being implemented as alternative solutions. (To avoid any misunderstandings: the Readium SDK is not dependent on LCP; it is up to the final users of the code whether they want to include that module or not.)

Last but not least:-), Markus Gylling and I also had a session on the relationships between IDPF and W3C, entitled “Digital publishing and the open web: The W3C’S digital publishing interest group”. (The slides of the session are also available on-line). We explained the reasons for setting up the W3C Interest Group; that the publishing industry should play a more active role in the development of the Open Web Platform; what has already been achieved; and also how the cooperation between IDPF and W3C is essential in this respect. Although it was not a huge room, it was certainly full with around 50-60 people (out of around 250 attendees overall at CONTEC). It was great to see that many of the participants, who may not have heard of us before, became really interested by the issues around the Open Web Platform; hopefully, this will be the basis for more contact and cooperation in the future!

It was a good day!