Tamas Simon’s challenge to .epub
September 28, 2007 | 6:39 am
No one’s a bigger defender of the idea of e-book standards than the TeleBlog is.
I’m not entirely happy with the IDPF’s present .epub standards, which don’t assure reliable interbook linking, for example. Even so, at least they’re a start and enjoy the endorsement of some major companies in technology and publishing. But just because .epub’s enemies can be wrong—it’s just a plain lie to say the specs support PDF simply because Adobe Digital Editions does—should we automatically accept what the format’s defenders say?
Going beyond the anti-.epub lies
What if the current .epub isn’t sufficiently useful without proprietary extensions from Adobe? Suppose that it in fact isn’t ready for prime time despite all the vetting it’s gotten from people in technology and publishing and despite the obvious lies of some .epub critics. Ahead is far more thoughtful critique of .epub from Tamas Simon, a proudly geekish TeleBlog contributor shown in the photo above. You needn’t be an XML and tagging expert to understand what he’s driving at.
“I thought of an .epub challenge to answer Jon Noring’s question about why I am criticizing the IDPF standard saying that without Adobe’s proprietary extensions built into Digital Editions—and only Digital Editions—the standard is really… how should I say?… weak. Try to do the following page layout in epub format:
“Header: One row of text which should contain the title of the current chapter
“Body: the main text area. Some words have small subscript numbers behind them indicating that there is a related footnote
“It contains the footnotes for the text being displayed in the body area.
“Of course we want to be able to re-flow the document…
“My goal is to point out that the IDPF standard is not ready for anything useful. It needs a lot of work and a more open evolutionary process.”
OK, Jon, and other .epub defenders, what’s your side?
In the other direction, I’d welcome more examples from Tamas and others about .epub’s flaws and shortcomings. I’m also curious how .epub with Adobe extensions would handle the situation described above.
Other friendly suggestions
Meanwhile, I’d suggest that the IDPF not just get heavy input from Tamas, but also seek out the involvement of other honest skeptics in the formal standards-setting process, even if they’re not working for corporate or institutional members of the organization. And please set up vettable validation tools for .epub readers and creation programs so we can make sure that .epub-related software fully meets publishing requirements without the involvement of proprietary technology from Adobe or anyone else. Let’s make sure that all the necessary features are present.
If an .epub logo is to come about, and I dearly hope it does, let’s make certain that publishers and readers can trust it.
Related: Project Gutenberg is considering the use of the OpenDocument Text, among other formats, and you can bet that along the way, some PG people are questioning .epub’s independence of Adobe. The company played a major role in the drafting of the .epub’s current specs. And this is all the more reason for the defenders of the current .epub to respond to skeptics like Tamas Simon.