Those wunderkinds who gave us broken covers, no fractions, and no photo captions in “industry standard” electronic books — the International Digital Publishing Forum (aka IDPF) — has just issued a slew of proposals trying to play catchup with basic things the spec should have supported out of the box.
This is the paper [web page link] being passed around.
Looking at that list, after each item I did a Dilbertesque head desk.
What the hell have those people been doing all this time that it’s only now — after the appearance of the iPad — that such a proposal has been issued?!
And do you notice it’s a list of things? Yeah, that’ll be fun to do — a whole bunch of things all at once. And via committees! Is that a recipe for success or what? Nope!
And how soon will they have even a working agreement, in order to simply move forward? I quote:
The Working Group is chartered through May 2011. The Working Group will target an initial working draft (not feature complete) published in September, 2010 that can be a basis for experimental implementations, and aim for a public draft in December 2010 followed in January 2011 with a draft standard for trial use. Final standard recommendation submitted to the Board by May 15, 2011.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
May 2011!! Over a year from now! Are they insane?! What timeflow do they live in, where such leisurely ignore-the-world action can be taken?
This is Apple’s opportunity to free us from these ePub perpetrators.
Just days after the iPad has been released, I have people asking me how they can make their current books into ePub files with an eye to getting them in the iBookstore (my answer, right now, is Smashwords).
Does the IDPF really think these people will sit on their thumbs, waiting for a decent — not complete, merely decent! — spec from them before proceeding?
Let me open the eyes of everyone out there who has invested time and money in ePub: The world does not need ePub.
The world needs a way of creating digital books that is easy; that can do things like fractions, photo captions, video insertions, and can display across a broad variety of devices.
It does not matter what that file format is.
Apple helped overthrow the existing pre-press system with the Macintosh and desktop publishing.
This is no different from back then.
Printing people didn’t care what the hell the file format was, as long as it outputted something their machinery could use to go to press.
And Apple has the chance to do that.
iWork’s Pages should be the basis for a digital book creation tool. At the heart of it isn’t any proprietary technology: it’s XML. But unlike ePub, it can do video insertions and other wonderful things.
Apple needn’t grow Pages to be a digital book creation tool. It could spin it off into another program specifically for that. Pages (even Pages, alas!, Lite on the iPad) could be used for writing and seamlessly transfer its content to let’s call it PublishPages.
PublishPages would not only create a standalone digital book file, but could also render a digital book that could be streamed online. In one swoop, Apple could create a universal digital book standard which could be read by anyone within a web browser.
Apple could also add such digital book reading to iTunes, encompassing all desktop Mac and Windows users. (All those people hepped up for Chrome OS, you can stream books via the Chrome browser. So can Linux users.)
The IDPF thinks everyone is going to sit around doing nothing for more than a year.
And even then, can we expect anything actually useful from them?
Look at their lack of attention to detail on their website alone. This screensnap was taken today, April 6th:
The advantage here is Apple’s. Steve Jobs: take it!