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image imageBig publishers are too damn cheap toward development of the ePub format for e-books.

The International Digital Publishing Forum is short of the resources it needs to keep up long term with Amazon’s Kindle team—or perhaps with Apple, if Steve Jobs and friends are about to hatch something.

Decent shared annotations, anyone? Or reliable interbook linking?

What’s more, the official ePub logo is months late, almost surely for want of resources. I’d advise the IDPF against its Scrooge-level miserliness. The more ePub lags in funding, the less leverage publishers enjoy against Amazon and perhaps Apple.

Blame Markus Dohle types if Kindle wins

image If Amazon’s oh-so-locked-up Kindle does prevail, I’ll know whom to blame for not supplying the IDPF with the cash it needs to do the job. Random House. Simon and Schuster. Macmillan. Hachette.  Wiley. And Adobe and others.

imageBut I’ll pick on Random in particular because of of the size of its parent, Bartelsmann, and because a guy with a production background is CEO. Come on, Markus Dohle. $250K a year for the IPDF isn’t gong to bankrupt you guys regardless of the book business’s depression. This is a drop of a drop of Random’s revenue and a fraction of your salary.

image Just why, Markus, is the IDPF limping along with just one staffer, the dedicated but overworked Michael Smith, who, by the way, has nothing to do with this post? Shouldn’t the IDPF get a technical coordinator? It’s a standards group, too, not just a trade organization. But to go by the glacial pace of ePub development, you’d never know it.

The IDPF loves to think of itself as an organization of volunteers. But if it takes more paid people to do the job right, including consultants, so be it. Otherwise Amazon and Apple will have a built-in advantage. A little sense of urgency, please.

ePub Bandwagon rolling ahead for now—despite miserly publishers

image Meanwhile, in spite of the uber-backwardness of Bertelsmann and others in publishing industry, more or less mired in the 19th century, the ePub bandwagon has kept rolling forward. More and more hardware vendors would rather not rely so heavily on the Amazon-owned Mobipocket format, for which Amazon won’t even permit a reader for the iPhone.

Striking back, the new Opus e-readers from Bookeen use ePub as a flagship format (the related Adobe software can handle PDF, too). Official ePub support for the BeBook is around the bend. And Sony is continuing its ePub support in the about-to-be-released PRS-300 and PRS-600 (see press release and Washington Post article, which, by the way, contains Rob Pegoraro’s usual wisdom on DRM and a quote from us on e-book pricing).

Of course, like the IDPF, Sony could do much better. When will it wake up and sell ePub-format bestsellers in its eBookStore, not just the proprietary BBeB? But I think that will come in time. A PC World article just the other day was calling for a standard e-book format even if it didn’t name names. Another example of the need for the IDPF to start branding its baby with the logo—-PRONTO!

On the ePub creation front…

sigil Meanwhile things are progressing on the ePub creation front.

The Atlantis word-processor recently added ePub creation, even for people who aren’t HTML geniuses, and now a new ePub editor has come out in Alpha: Sigil.

imageSigal is “free and open software under GPLv3” for Windows, Linux and the Mac; and  it offers such goodies as WYSIWYG and import TXT, HTML and existing ePub files. See post and forum on the MobileRead site. Meanwhile click on the image to the right for a more detailed view of an ePub book created with Sigil.

For latecomers: TeleRead helped bring ePub about. Jon Noring and I created a group to push the OpenReader standard, which in turn spurred the IDPF to do ePub to avoid being preempted. For years the IDPF had put standards on the back burner. The last thing we need is a repetition of the past apathy.

 
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