The world of digital publishing has just taken a very important step

If you’re familiar with e-books, then you most probably are aware of the ePub standard. It has wide support, which continues to grow. Many digital book reading apps like iBooks on Mac and iOS as well as Google Books support it.

Some notable exceptions are there, but the overall trend in the industry is that if you buy a book digitally, then one of the formats in which the book will be delivered to you to download would be an ePub file. This is especially true in the technical books market, with players like O’Reilly, Packt, Manning Publications, Smashing Books and more providing ePub digital books.

The ePub standard was made by the consortium called the International Digital Publishing Forum, or IDPF. On February 1, 2017 the IDPF officially announced that it is merging with the W3C.

This makes sense for a lot of reasons. An ePub file is basically just a zip file containing a small website (HTML, CSS, assets like images, fonts, and some metadata). Partly because of this, an ePub book is more accessible than many of the other digital publishing formats right out of the gate. Since many of the underlying technologies behind ePub (like HTML, CSS etc) as well accessibility work like the WCAG guidelines are already worked upon in the W3C, it makes sense for ePub to find it’s home here too.

This should hopefully encourage more cross-pollination of experts from various fields to suggest technical improvements to upcoming standards related to ePub. I think the digital publishing industry can greatly benefit from more participation from web experts and vice versa. Dave Cramer and Tzviya Siegman have written eloquently on it, and I would encourage everyone to give a read to what they have said. Furthermore, it is important in today’s environment to have an organisation the size of the W3C to get behind open standards. If not, then we risk of the proliferation of closed proprietary formats by big players slowly winning.

The IDPF has done a great job of getting even small players in the digital publishing space to be engaged. This should continue. Upcoming work includes focussing on online and offline digital publications. The W3C has set up the EPUB (3.1) Community Group which anyone can join for free to give their feedback, suggestions and ideas. For those of you in Europe in early march, the EPUB Summit is happening in 9-10 March 2017 in Brussels. There is also a Publishing Business Group being formed which is open to people who were IDPF members in good standing. For more information on it, check out https://www.w3.org/publishing/.