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Since technically we all work in publishing, it makes sense to turn our collective attention to the technical and logistic challenges of ebooks. They are a new frontier, but it looks a lot like the old web frontier, with HTML, CSS, and XML underpinning the main ebook standard, ePub. There are key distinctions between ebook publishing’s current problems and what the web standards movement faced. The web was founded without an intent to disrupt any particular industry; it had no precedent, no analogy. E-reading antagonizes a large, powerful industry that’s scared of what this new way of reading brings—and they’re either actively fighting open standards or simply ignoring them. Currently, there are scant few resources to learn how to build ePub documents—the latest version of the ePub standard isn’t fully implemented on any modern e-reader. And the most popular e-reading platforms still encumber their work in DRM, which hurts sales and hinders long-term archiving. Everybody suffers from our current system. Publishers won’t make as much money because of piracy, consumers find it frustrating to read on the terms they want, and writers lose money and exposure. It discourages quality long-form writing, hurts technological progress, and locks our knowledge away from future generations. It’s clear that we need something better—but to move forward, we must remind ourselves of where we came from.
It’s important to know how publishing generally works. The web has affected publishing in many ways, but the publishing industry remains a massive beast, employing hundreds of thousands of people at every step of the process. Writers want to make a good product, they want to reach as many readers as possible, and they want to be paid for their time and effort. Publishers traditionally help edit writers’ work and use distribution to connect writers and readers. Readers consume the writing, of course. They want to find good writing, they want to read on their own terms—either physical books, on their smartphone, or using an e-reader—and they want affordability and easy access. We owe it to ourselves to understand the current landscape.
Reading’s renaissance is shifting our expectations. Cameron Koczon said that content is freeing itself from context, empowering readers to act on their own terms. We add articles to Instapaper and Readability; we buy books in paper or Kindle form, we switch to “print view” so we don’t have to read articles on thirty separate pages.
Reading often involves conversation. Blurb. Writers used to have to go through the publishing industry to reach an audience. often linking to each other with scant attribution. design. encouraging them to write for the publication. editorial control. HarperCollins. Services like Newspaper Club allow us to publish broadsheets. Macmillan. fear of piracy. they link a summary to their advertising-filled webpages. Random House. and writers get paid less.) Thanks to tools like Kickstarter. fraught ebook pricing negotiations. makes periodical publishers skittish about their primary revenue stream: advertising. Printers put the books together. This affects the kind of writing being published—and it affects publishers. Layout and design creates book covers and selects type. Shopify. and ink suppliers that creates raw materials for those books. and a chain of printers. Authors publish long-form essays as Kindle Singles. and many other publications avoid print distribution entirely. Wax Magazine. Print-on-demand services give easy access to printed matter.000 to publish his book. After accounting for inflation. All of these tools indirectly threaten the traditional publishing industry. or distribution reach. Penguin Group. We quote and reblog what we want to share. Supporting so much overhead. Instead. Square. The internet has disrupted the publishing industry’s institutions. Publishers The publishing industry is massive. putting their projects up on Kickstarter to fund production and shipping. Writers have little control over layout. they need more income than they can make right now. Kern and Burn. We tweet about the writing we like. and intellectual property ownership. And through all that is a chain of paper. it’s never been easier to get self-published work into the hands of readers profitably. the other two decline. . and Matter have all had successful projects. publishers. writers pitch their manuscripts to various publishers and receive a cash advance in exchange for distribution rights. and no article will provide a complete summary. We highlight interesting passages and share them with our friends. acting as the public face of the publishing industry. and Simon & Schuster) are protecting their assets amidst declining author rates.3% on average since 1991. including Frank’s and Kern and Burn’s. Booksellers get the writing in front of readers. Publishers manage finances and logistics on behalf of the author. Fetch. and readers exist in a feedback loop—and when the standards of one group suffer. Designer Frank Chimero raised over $100. too. binderies. writing is being given away: countless paid magazines put their articles’ full text online. Because so many outlets aren’t charging. who are squeamish about posting full RSS feeds. marketing. (Disclosure: I’ve launched two successful publishing projects over Kickstarter. Distribution ensures the title appears in bookstores of all sizes. and the freedom to read on one’s own terms. and the increase of self-publishing. The “big six” publishers (Hachette. too. Marketing markets the book for the author by placement and advertising. More than ever before. binding cloth. and I’ve backed many other publishing projects. Everybody can publish a blog for free. Writers. glue. The web changed this. and warehouses that assembles and ships them around the world. Many authors have gone the end-to-end route. so the writer can write the book without interference. Cadence & Slang and Distance. readers may become less willing to pay for writing if they can get similar work somewhere else. Fulfillment houses store customer data and manage subscription magazine distribution. The explosion in reading. with no publishing industry in sight. Editorial works closely with authors to ensure that the writing is as good as possible. Executives manage the process. Writers Historically. Lulu. but for our purposes it entails several primary roles: Talent acquisition reaches out to prospective writers. the hourly and per-article rates in Writer’s Market have dropped 81. and many others.
and many others act as paying members of the IDPF. and what can we do going forward? Ebooks: the technical history Michael Hart created the first “ebook” in 1971. with additional security to protect commercial typefaces and private documents. An independent company developed Mobipocket in 2000. This clash of perspectives results in the technical landscape we’ve inherited. published in October 2011. (Adobe has since implemented ePub export in InDesign. Other open standards. though. Amazon. they’re relying less on traditional publishers—and they can make much more money than they ever could have through traditional publishers. a publishing standard now largely used in mathematical and scientific texts. and is built on HTML5 and CSS3—but no e-readers support it right now. Many utilities allow conversion between Mobi and ePub. free repository for long-form text. . TeX. and distributed them. The current ePub standard is 3. but it does not comply with the ePub standard. HTML and CSS have worked with browsers to enhance layout. the largest ebook distributor. for the Kindle. largely in plain text. shortly after which Apple rewrote the EULA terms. which mandates another workflow—and two copies to separately maintain. As technology became more sophisticated. was created in 1978. although its markup is not semantic and requires substantial cleanup to be standards-compliant. iBooks Author doesn’t allow any file type to be imported. And controversy flared up around the iBooks Author EULA. In the past two decades. Barnes & Noble. Amazon. a public. Project Gutenberg has since digitized thousands of novels in the public domain. and PDF. only exports books as PDF or plain text. and the iBookstore wraps all purchases. Hart founded Project Gutenberg. with the same technologies at play. after he received access to a mainframe at the University of Illinois and transcribed the Declaration of Independence word for word. Adobe. Shortly after. an XML-based schema primarily meant for technical writing. iBooks Author’s exported format is similar to ePub 3. was authored in 1991. Amazon bought them in 2005. Because writers have the tools and the readership.) Mobi’s capabilities are largely on par with ePub’s widely-implemented 2. a onceclosed standard developed by Adobe in 1993. Recently.0. But does everybody get what they really want? How do we benefit from what we have. Everybody has their own interests in mind. The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) governs its implementation. Initially conceived in September 2007.0. has afforded freedoms on par with print design. but there is one key difference: everything sold through the Kindle store must be encrypted and wrapped in DRM. Bowker (which controls the ISBN system in the United States). they must make sure they’re making something great. the open ebook standard ePub uses a combination of HTML. cross-platform e-reader support. The ePub format cherry-picks HTML and CSS features. CSS.1 standard. and XML wrapped up as a Zip file. Apple. Apple released a program called iBooks Author. Publishers are increasingly afraid of losing money. but they lack broad. called Mobipocket (or Mobi for short). DocBook. allowing people to publish their own work and sell it on the iBookstore. The traditional publishing industry is starting to look more and more like the record industry did in the nineties. Publishing a book through Amazon’s Kindle store requires authors to convert the book with Kindle’s authoring tools. currently uses their own proprietary format. to millions of readers. where authors’ rights were called into question.As DIY-esque hustle is infusing publishing and writers become publishers. so did ebooks and the issues surrounding them. iBooks-authored or not. Semantic markup? Nope. in DRM. like HPub and Zhook show a lot of promise and tend to be easier to implement than ePub. Writers are building their own industry.
The agency model The publishing industry sells physical books using the wholesale model. and the online documentation for digital publishing is pretty scant.Currently. Apple takes a 30% cut of the retail price of books sold through the iBookstore. though.) Although ebooks don’t need to be manufactured or bought in bulk. In this model. Amazon refuses to adopt . Readers suffer because rampant platform lock-in prevents long-term ownership: for example. no community has been formed to try and fix things yet. a 30% agency commission leaves more potential profit for publishers. (That’s why books cost so little through Amazon. then the existing ebook model is broken. The IDPF is the ePub equivalent of the W3C. so readers can fit the book to their reading context.) act as liaison between publisher and consumer. targeting a specific format rather than designing for several. and so much through independent stores: Amazon has the luxury of selling even long tail books without the cost of storing them in a warehouse waiting for a buyer. there’s a suggested retail price. But targeting a specific platform runs against the grain of current trends in web development. bundle several versions together. if you buy a book for a Kindle. There is no simple way to create a semantically correct ebook. and they pass those savings on to their customers. and while it has many paying members. but the store’s final price can be whatever they like. Mobipocket. Barnes & Noble. publishers were using the wholesale model to sell ebooks. which leads to considerable fragmentation among platforms. and Calibre is extremely hands-off and unforgiving in the way that it packages an ePub file. and since they are cutting out most of the supply chain. dedicated developers are often too costly for their projects. There is no Stack Overflow equivalent for addressing ePub issues. The ebook landscape is broken While we’ve progressed by establishing technical norms for creating ebooks. Writers suffer because DRM encourages piracy. Publishers handle manufacturing. We have a long way to go before e-readers and publishers embrace standards and semantic markup. uses HTML and CSS. etc. where we try to make one design fit many contexts. If it’s simpler and more convenient to just buy the paper book. more of the consumer dollar comes back to them. web developers could help here. and they take a cut of the final retail price. For example. called the agency model. This fragmentation hurts publishers because most don’t understand markup. because they’re wrapped in DRM. “agents” (Apple. it won’t run in iBooks. but the standard differs significantly from ePub. making it possible for Amazon to offer ebooks at very low retail prices. Digital publishing has brought about a new way of selling books. InDesign and Calibre support ePub export. but InDesign exports all styles as <span> tags. Publishers address publishing format fragmentation in different ways: some release an exclusive PDF or ePub or Kindle edition. Apple’s iBooks Author format exports a glorified fork of ePub with multimedia functionality. Jutoh is an outfit that takes InDesign files and creates semantic ePub documents for clients—but this band-aids the larger problem of not having the right tools. but the internet changes how books are being distributed and sold. like O’Reilly. the electronic publishing process needs improvement in important ways. Amazon’s Kindle format. Others. Wider ePub adoption is hobbled because good tools aren’t available to publishers and independent writers. Publishers also get to set the final pricing. no page layout software can export semantically accurate markup. It’s extremely difficult to copy the Kindle files that you’ve bought if you wish to back them up. though (as of this writing) many don’t create ebooks. and this is important. none of them are required to follow the ePub standard in their own work. too We’ve covered a little about how the publishing industry works and the ebook technical landscape. Publishing a semantic document in ePub is only possible if you’re willing to write the code yourself. Since publishers have typically offered 50% discounts to wholesalers. In this case. Distribution is a challenge. and supply large sellers and intermediary wholesalers who then distribute to smaller independent bookstores.
instead wanting to sell ebooks at a fixed maximum price. Instead. ebooks can go “out of print” with DRM. But when it comes to e-readers. Amazon is the only winner. This generates a relatively continuous revenue stream for publishers. but they can only view a limited number of pages. They no longer consider using competing ereaders—which forces readers and authors to accept whatever pricing Amazon negotiates with publishers. and now that (as of this writing) three of the big six have settled out of court. many new records come with free download codes for the digital equivalent. In the long run. For instance.” While Amazon is the largest physical bookseller. and they refuse to operate according to an agency model. it hurts writers because they cannot share their passions through the largest outlets. once a book has been worn out. lest they leave money on the table in the long run. but their relationship with ebooks has been fraught. Although precise numbers are unavailable. (IPG is the United States’s second-largest independent publisher.the agency model. they buy another copy to replace it. On the other hand. the Kindle dominates. unless the library uses Amazon’s library system—which carries its own limitations. Card-carrying library members can preview some books remotely. too. On occasion. they wholesale their ebooks. Usually. and it will almost certainly cement Amazon’s long-term dominance. We’re better off without them. The trends in other industries will affect consumer expectations in publishing—and in small ways. it already has.) And the Educational Development Corporation pulled its own titles in mid-April. many of which don’t communicate effectively with one another—so if a publisher chooses one platform over another. Subsequently. saying “Amazon is squeezing everyone out of business. they still have competition in that sector. it seems highly likely that it will come with the government’s legal backing. consumers don’t want to pay as much for an ebook as they do for the print version. Renting ebooks to libraries Libraries are the largest consumer of books in the country. For instance. cumbersome systems exist that require a specific e-reader. which will likely give Amazon the upper hand in setting ebook prices in the long run.000 titles when Amazon refused to renew their contract. the Independent Publishing Group pulled 5. This hurts publishers because they make less money. Amazon will pull all of the titles of major publishers who refuse to back down in such negotiations. it’s usually cheaper to buy an album’s digital edition on the iTunes Store than it is to buy the same album on vinyl—and in the latter case. come to a head with Amazon. Because books physically degrade at different rates. usually after ten years’ use. Libraries use different systems for ebook lending. you can’t download library-lent ebooks to a Kindle. at times. publishers are sensitive to the ebook distribution terms. during the writing of this article. especially when applied to popular mass-market books that are cheap to produce. it hurts readers because it could have chilling effects on the quality of writing in the long run. usually at significant markup. and there’s little incentive to maintain DRM authentication servers once the market moves on to a new standard. Libraries usually buy a printed book for a set number of checkouts. Amazon’s DRM on the closed Kindle platform keeps customers locked in. No solution addresses the issues around interlibrary loan. Amazon’s overall market share is set to explode from 15% to 50% of all books sold period when you factor in the Kindle. Amazon is winning Publishers’ favorable agency model negotiations with Apple have. They’re a predator. and many proprietary. Amazon fixes Kindle ebook prices to compete with Apple and welcome more consumers. . and the US Department of Justice suing all of the “big six” and Apple for price fixing (iBookstore prices differ widely from Amazon’s). Libraries can “lend” ebooks a fixed number of times before they have to buy them again. Pricing implications have already played out in other formats. many libraries will have to do without their titles in electronic form. and ebooks don’t. DRM policies are different on consumer ebooks. with a movement geared to opening copyrighted works to the public.
Obliging owners to pay again to use digital books means that those will also go out of circulation.” here.  What are the ramifications of this? There will be fewer large businesses to negotiate with. Right now. Apple. More than ever. Most books are encumbered by DRM. Tools haven’t yet been developed to properly. Long-form journalism and analysis is experiencing a minor renaissance. and Barnes & Noble. and blogs afford us a staggering array of high-quality writing. purchases physical books. You can read part 1. and readers. I’ll discuss the ramifications of these practices for various publishers and propose a way forward. Anybody can write a book .There are some innovators here. and lends them out on a one-to-one basis. who comprise around 41% of the digital market. so we can continue sharing information openly. we need a rallying cause to effect meaningful change. and waning incentive for small publishers to organize and bargain. and less perceptibly. reading—especially novels and long-form nonfiction—is increasingly centralized among a few large providers. In the second part of this article. Thousands of public domain works are available for free. they’re just doing so more slowly. the United States’s biggest players are Amazon. portable e-readers. We talk to authors over Facebook and Twitter. It’s never been a better time to be a reader. We have a long way to go for libraries to use ebooks meaningfully—which is likely imperative to their survival. and the publishing landscape is beginning its own transformation in response. Borders remains the elephant in that room. they simply can’t keep old books around anymore. Some libraries are starting to cull their own physical archives now.  And lest this turn into a “death of mom and pop stores” argument. writers. It’s never been a better time to be a writer. for example. “The Fragmented Present. We hold hundreds of books in lightweight. a piracy-encouraging practice long since abandoned by the music industry. Some of the big players are dying. because writers and publishers have little recourse but to accept the terms of the large booksellers. Anybody can publish their thoughts. We’re partly defined by the things we read. and we’re finding new ways to discuss the things we read. Centralization of distribution channels As various bookstores fold. The road ahead The internet is disrupting many content-focused industries. so it’s good to have an embarrassment of enriching. insightful writing on our hands. but they are few. in a way that benefits publishers. semantically export long-form writing. The Internet Archive’s Open Library. just like our physical books do. This is the second part in a two-part essay about digital publishing. digitizes them. than the little guys.
We need a Web Standards Project for electronic publishing. nascent. Codex. bloated. and enriching. A Book Apart connects with like-minded readers. but in 1982. and it’s hostile to authors who want to distribute their work through independent channels. the Web Standards Project was founded to encourage browser makers and web developers to embrace open standards. 8faces is a semi-annual typography magazine. e-reader manufacturers. You can print postage with Endicia. You can set up a website and sell copies of your work through Fetch. and sending the ePub to iBooks—every time I want to view a change. Finally. Libraries are almost ignored wholesale with every new development around DRM and pricing. fulfilling conversations can blossom around the connections we develop out of the things we make. Shopify. opening the Dropbox app on my iPad. We need a similar advocacy organization for publishers. but it costs the same to produce. And for almost a decade. Writing now generates less income for people. (Think <span class="header"> instead of <h1>. no native reader for Mac OS X that’s up to both iBooks’ design standards and ePub’s native spec. We have page layout software.) There is so much work yet to be done to make publishing easier. The publishing landscape of 2012 looks similar to the music landscape of 1998. You can go through a print-on-demand service like Lulu. But even after getting the copies made. (When creating ePub. Kern & . as of this writing. we—those who help craft the web—have embraced such a model. Five Simple Steps covers all manner of design techniques. and it exports ePub files almost entirely as a set of <span> tags. requiring a separate application. We have one-click ePub to Kindle conversion. and Digital Delivery. you didn’t have the luxury of a website or email account. there was no way for self-publishers like Tufte to effectively market their work. The Manual is a beautifully crafted independent journal of the “whys” around design. And there is still. Our ebook reading and creation tools are primitive. but it saves natively in a proprietary format. it’s fragmented across platforms. Self-publishing and its discontents Before the web. You can sell in person with Square. semantic HTML. I run a quarterly journal for long essays called Distance. anybody can publish their own work. and driven by fear. You could take out an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine. Anybody can write a book and publish it on demand. in the face of considerable evidence that DRM hurts both readers and sales. it treats customers as criminals. reliably supporting web standards: this is no different than the Kindle entirely ignoring the recommendations of the International Digital Publishing Forum. one browser maker held back technical progress in web development by not fully. And more publications come by the day. Bracket. and I set up the whole thing to function over the internet. cross-platform application that screams for improvement. or you could call bookstores and see if they might be interested. Does this madness look familiar? Even if writers know HTML. At the beginning of the aughts. despite Amazon being a paying member. my workflow involves uploading a new ePub to Dropbox. and readers. Authors can reach out to readers. You can connect with readers via Kickstarter to handle upfront printing costs.It’s never been a better time to be a writer. Edward Tufte took out a second mortgage on his house to self-publish The Visual Display of Quantitative Information in 1982. In large part. These days. but it’s buried in a clumsy. Publishers take DRM on faith. because no printer could meet his quality standards. In 1997. crossed with the web designs of 1996: it’s encumbered by DRM and proprietary formats. self-publishers bankrolled their own operations. partly because of this very site. Anybody can publish their thoughts. major record labels weren’t behaving any differently than publishers are now. rather than proper. but Mac OS X’s default zip archiver doesn’t handle ePub’s mimetype correctly. they face many more hurdles. born of necessity. You can establish subscriptions with Memberly. But we have considerable work ahead.) ePub may be saved as a zip file. Farming out ePub development— overwhelmingly the current accepted solution—isn’t the answer.
though. it’s just that our output isn’t digital. In numerous conversations that I had while researching this article.” Lack of typeface support and robust layout tools are major pain points. and often publishers simply export their proof PDF and call it the digital edition. now that it doesn’t need to stand out on a bookstore shelf. (I can’t speak for others. if they adapt to the new landscape. meaningful. books are typography. These days. What are the problems and trade-offs? Ebook cover design would probably change.Burn. And while editorial increases in importance. So what have we learned? Standards and disruption In 1997. CSS.” We can provide deep. the IDPF—essentially the W3C equivalent for books—has developed and released the ePub speci- . But as web workers. Mailing lists will be more frequent. and we’re uniquely equipped to discuss publishing issues from an outsider’s perspective. many self-publishers said that it simply isn’t worth publishing their work in ePub—and the only people who were excited about ePub hadn’t tried to publish in ePub yet. Often. but I find a tremendous amount of pride in making physical goods. publishers start by producing a PDF in a tool like InDesign. marketing would change substantially. the notion of connecting with readers over the internet is genre-agnostic. Self-publishers hustle. they usually farm the task out. competition between Netscape and Internet Explorer drove a handful of trailblazing web workers to found the Web Standards Project. for instance. and its features are implemented piecemeal. Print and display ads will be less frequent. Anybody can do this—and writers are becoming empowered to take publishing into their own hands. because they use a common base. When people do make ePub files. As editor Allen Tan told me. we debate the fragmentation of the landscape. Publishers that understand the trade-offs and shifts in their work will be able to nimbly respond to the internet before the internet does their work for them. and there simply isn’t an effective way to translate PDF layout and typography into HTML for ePub. meaning it’s hard to ensure a consistent typographic standard from device to device. the prevailing standard in books. Where are the standards? When it comes to ebooks. provide better customer service. ePub. constructive change in both ePub and the publishing industry if we apply what we’ve learned in our struggles with HTML and CSS. which called for browsers to adopt the open standards of HTML and CSS. The web is typography. frequently differentiating quality writing from stuff that’s written alone. we’re used to responding to such concerns better than other industries. saved as a Zip file. calling for cross-platform solutions and expressing worry when browser makers independently develop their own capabilities. and require more self-promotion.) Many self-published projects receive less marketing and advertising. How must publishers evolve? There is still a role for publishers. saying it’s too painful to create in-house. and they indicate a deeper problem. Meanwhile. And while I’ve focused mostly on design-related projects. An ebook author probably doesn’t need to do a book tour. we’ve abandoned the standards we claim to embrace. and XML. These are hacks. It doesn’t have the same reach as other formats. there will only be more publications like this. As web designers learn the details of print production. is HTML. but they foster a greater intimacy with audiences. Allen Tan added: “the advantage of having ePub as a standard is that any improvements with ePub can be pulled back into the web. after so many days of crafting intangible things for the web. “our workflow is pretty digital.
Even though DRM has been proven.” What did we learn fourteen years ago. And proprietary tweaks to ePub. Refusal to simplify pricing models. The only alternative is to abolish the internet. and healthy competition—and it could arguably be interpreted as an act of censorship. the IDPF needs its own advocacy watchdog. more humane library lending policies. one for each potential e-reader—not unlike when websites were “best viewed in Netscape 4. FairPlay gave way to unencumbered MP3s. and in the face of flagging sales and rampant piracy. which was out of step with the realities of the browser market. but if your reader does not fully support ePub 3. and it works against the customer by assuming they’re a thief. has been proven to increase sales in many situations. the industry moves toward open standards. which has the following long-term goals: Fully featured. Likewise with web standards. We’re used to the web disrupting many industries. With movies. The IDPF has moved out of sync with the realities of the e-reading market—not unlike when the W3C released XHTML. on the other hand. As power consolidates in the hands of a few booksellers. and it’s time to embrace the turbulence around publishing. but it violates the spirit of open access. there’s no way to semantically develop a book in page layout software. native support of the most modern ePub standard in all ebook reader software. we will continue to advocate for you to do so. Creators will only gain control of their industry if they stand up for themselves. Software developers. DRM-cracked DVDs flourished. and with the support of many great people. I’ve launched the Publication Standards Project. almost all e-books sold today are encumbered by it. and why are we letting this happen again? Because the largest publishers make us. Simpler. DivX died. too. and we’d rather not see that happen. are not unlike the approach that WebKit takes to its own proprietary -webkit styles. Improving the existing ePub standard.0. time and time again. If you build a better mousetrap.0. and refusal to interoperate among e-readers and lending systems. It is not perfect. Support of the most modern ePub standard in creation tools. like Apple’s iBooks Author spec. means that libraries will simply opt out of ebook adop- . The Publication Standards Project That’s why. and now publishing standards: we can only kill off Amazon’s DRM if we become fierce advocates for open standards and vote with our wallets until things are made right. it will do very well by you. An end to gatekeeper standards. Same as above: your book-making software should write semantically correct markup. for better and worse. and no e-reader on the market fully supports the latest published spec. standards-compliant HTML and CSS code. Rejecting a book because it contains a third-party link may fulfill the letter of Apple’s law. to be hostile to both consumer and publisher. On the iTunes Store. sharing. But tools to create ePub efficiently haven’t kept up.0 at 800x600 resolution. I've concluded that this market is wide open right now. You can support your own proprietary format in tandem. As the W3C had WaSP in the late nineties and early aughts. But media distribution usually runs this course: DRM is enforced out of fear. Removing DRM. the largest e-reader company doesn’t follow the ePub spec at all. We desperately need libraries to support under-served communities without pervasive broadband.fication. “banned” books. even if it also exports to other publishing formats. such an approach can be refined and reformed if we approach it with the same perspective. ePub 3. In the long run this might result in a fork of the specification—essentially a WHATWG equivalent—but for now we’ll begin working with the IDPF. along with this issue of A List Apart. Abolishing DRM in all published writing. Page layout software that exports semantically correct. they have a decreasing motivation to accept radical viewpoints or contentious. take heed: after speaking with many publishers and independent writers. DRM has provably aided piracy. and it needs to be improved. Publishers have taken to painstakingly developing digital bundles with many different formats.
the landscape is dismal. publishing software developers. and writers don’t want publishers to have full editorial control. Another part is lobbying: we need to collectively advocate for e-reader manufacturers. Everyone who reads this article is capable of action. But we solved these sorts of problems once. We set up a site at http://pubstandards. Outreach. Get in touch with us and tell us about your vision for this. and resolve to work to improve the way that we communicate with one another. share it with others. Our prospects look dim these days. we may end up with the walled gardens that we deserve. and the best thing you can do to help is to volunteer. Your ideas. and constructively discuss it. we’re ridiculously passionate about these issues. and we’d love you to join the conversation. and publisher. but this is an opportunity for all of us to assert control over the way these standards are adopted. booksellers. and there’s no way to tell exactly how things will play out. This isn’t going to happen by going to the companies and reforming them from the inside. Publishers don’t understand the new mindset that readers are in. Very few people have a clear sense of all the competing publishing formats and why such fragmentation is a bad thing. At least in the short term. At the Publication Standards Project. Otherwise. Many people don’t know everything about the issues.tion entirely—something they can’t afford to do if they’re going to stay relevant in the future. Part of the Publication Standards Project is a call to action: sign on to our goals as a reader. on every side of the table. and nobody else will stand up in your place. We’d like you to sign up for our mailing list so we can begin to take action with your help. We will adapt to new developments in the publishing landscape. We know we haven’t thought of everything. we’ll accomplish it in these ways: Education. and it’s time for us to act like it. it starts with every single one of us. it cannot happen in a vacuum. and publishers to adopt better practices in the way they work. Right now. It’s going to happen by building a new movement that can reform the older model. writers don’t understand why readers won’t pay anymore. The internet was built on the foundation of free and open access to information. And we still don’t have the right tools to build the best writing that we can. Concluding thoughts We discussed ePub’s promise in 2010.org. We can do it again. If we’re going to follow standards and openness in the things we publish. and it cannot come from a handful of people. and how they parallel our prior technological progress in other areas. Our Twitter name is @pubstn. You can help. readers don’t understand why publishers won’t join the 21st century. writer. . but we’ve only regressed since then.
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