W3C Publishing Summit 2017

Guest blog by Evan Owens

The first-ever W3C Publishing Summit took place in San Francisco, November 9 to 10, to discuss how web technologies are shaping publishing today, tomorrow, and beyond. Publishing and the web interact in innumerable ways. The Open Web Platform and its technologies have become essential to how content is created, developed, enhanced, discovered, disseminated, and consumed online and offline.

Background on IDPF and W3C

During February 2017, the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) merged into the W3C. IDPF members are now joining W3C with new committees formed, including the W3C Publishing Working Group, EPUB Community Group, and others.

Keynote: The Future of Content by Abhay Parasnis – CTO, Adobe

The internet is wide open to all world communications. “Content publication” has expanded to a very broad level via the Internet. Businesses are trying to reach out in personalized fashion. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are important for content location & delivery and personalization. W3C does important standards development, but as technology is moving fast how should we coordinate successfully?

A major goal of the W3C is to define a new Portal Web Publication (PWP) content format that will merge HTML and EPUB and replace PDF. EPUB 4.0 is likely to become a subset of that new PWP standard.

Following are some of my observations from the various presentations and discussions from the conference. Feel free to add your thoughts and takeaways in the comments section!

Content Platforms and Publishers

  • Majority of eBook content is still in EPUB2
  • EPUB3 is big  in Japan and China but not common in English-language publications yet
  • Most failed EPUB content is from USA publishers
  • Publishers tend to overuse fixed layout, especially academic or instructional content
  • Future will be CSS, interactivity, and accessibility

Digital Publishing in Asia, Europe,and Latin America

  • UK the biggest eBook market with 575K new eBooks per year
  • Amazon is leading EU bookseller (90% of UK sales)
  • Japan produces approximately 500K eBooks
  • Japan has been using EPUB 3.0 since 2011; 100% of old files were migrated to the new format
  • The market is growing in Korea and China
  • In Latin America ebooks are primarily EPUB 2.0; 3.0 hasn’t been adopted yet
  • 55% of publishers in Latin America have not yet started digital content production

Accessibility in Publishing and W3C

  • Accessibility in digital publishing is a key issue that was included in EPUB
  • W3C implementation goals include supporting EPUB3 accessibility and collaborating with the W3C WCAG
  • DAISY has built a checking tool called “ACE”; it is now in beta and available for testing
  • Cenveo Publisher Services provides accessibility services and testing

Educational Publishing

  • Personalized learning challenges include the learning platform and the metrics
  • There is now a major move from books to digital e-learning platforms
  • Learning is now subject to data-driven insights: analytics add value by these tools

Creating EPUB Content that Looks and Works Great Everywhere

  • Microsoft added an EPUB reader into Windows 10 MS Edge web browser
  • Almost 90% of ebooks are EPUB2 and recent content in 2017 is only 62% EPUB3
  • Issues for EPUB content creation and rendition include
    • Many different screen sizes and orientations (e.g. phone, table, computer)
    • Reader requirements: mobility, classroom usage, accessibility
    • Pagination works differently in different reading systems
    • Tables and anything with fixed width is risky
    • Captions not staying with images due to page breaks
    • Background images break when flowing across pages
    • CSS layout for colored text failures
    • Supporting audio reader software by language metadata
    • Fixed layout never 100% perfect
    • Don’t use SVG for text layout
    • Test content in several epub reader devices, etc.

Publication Metadata

  • Consumer metadata versus academic metadata remains a key challenge
  • Standards are only slowly adopted; e.g. ONIX 3 published 2009 but by 2017 only about 50% adopted
  • Autotagging versus human tagging; machines more consistent
  • 105 metadata standards

Cenveo Publisher Services is a proud member of the W3C Publishing Working Group. The issues discussed at the W3C Publishing Summit are ones we address everyday with academic, scholarly, and education publishers. We look forward to working with you in 2018 on innovative publishing solutions that improve editorial quality and streamline production while continuously addressing costs. Let us know how we can help.

 

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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Accessibility for Trade Book Publishers

The venerable world of trade books has had accessibility options since the early 19th Century invention of Braille. However, only in the digital age has it been possible to make all books accessible to the visually impaired.

Guest blog by John Parsons

In the 1820s, Charles Barbier and Louis Braille adapted a Napoleonic military code to meet the reading needs of the blind. Today’s familiar system of raised dot characters substitutes touch for vision, and is used widely for signage and of course books and other written material. By the 20th Century, Braille was supplemented with large print books and records. For popular books these tools became synonymous with trade book publishers’ efforts to connect with visually impaired readers.

However, these tools—particularly Braille—has significant drawbacks. Before the advent of digital workflows, producing a Braille or even a large print book involved a separate design and manufacturing process, not to mention subsequent supply chain and distribution issues. But that has changed with the digital publishing revolution.

All Books Are “Born Digital”

With notable exceptions, trade books published since the 1980s started out as digital files on a personal computer. Word processors captured not only the author’s keystrokes but, increasingly, their formatting choices. (In the typewriter era, unless you count backspacing and typing the underline key, italics and boldface were the province of the typographer.)

On the PC, creating a larger size headline or subhead, or a distinct caption, evolved from a manual step in WordStar or MacWrite to a global stylesheet formatting command. When these word processing files made their way to a desktop publishing program, all the 12-point body copy for a regular book could become 18-point type for a large print version—at a single command.

Other benefits of digital-first content included a relatively easy conversion from Roman text characters to Braille, although that did not solve the actual book manufacturing process.

What really made the digital revolution a boon to accessibility was the rise of HTML—and its publishing offspring, eBooks. Web or EPUB text content can be re-sized or fed into screen readers for the visually impaired, but that’s only the start. It can also contain standardized metadata that a publishing workflow can use to create more accessible versions of the book.

Workflow Challenges

Trade books tend to be straightforward when it comes to accessibility challenges, but there are caveats that publishers and their service providers must address. The simplest of course is a book that is almost entirely text, with no illustrations, sidebars, or other visual elements. In those cases, the stylesheet formatting done by the author and/or publisher can be used to create accessibility-related tags for elements like headlines and subheads, as well as manage the correct reading order for Section 508 compliance.

Where things start to get tricky is when a book includes illustrations, or even special typographic elements like footnotes. To be accessible, the former must include descriptive alt text, which is usually best provided by an author, illustrator, or subject matter expert. Increasingly, just as writers became accustomed to adding their own typographic formatting, they may also include formatted captions containing this valuable, alt text-friendly information.

For other visual elements, service providers must fill in the accessibility gaps that authors cannot easily provide. This may include a certain amount of redesign, such as placement of footnotes at the end, to ensure continuity of reading, and defining the logical flow of content and reading order for page elements like sidebars. Service providers also add semantic structuring, alt text image descriptions not included by the author, and simplification of complex elements like tables.

It’s All About Format

Book publishers are already well ahead of the curve when it comes to accessibility. As mentioned in a previous blog, the page-centric PDF format is problematic. Fortunately, except for print workflows, trade publishers do not use it for their end product. In most cases, books are also produced in EPUB format, which is a derivative of HTML. These formats are accessible by default, although they need to be enhanced to meet the requirements of WCAG 2.0 standards. The gap is small, however, and can be easily bridged by focusing on design, content structuring, and web hosting.

Book reading for the visually impaired is no longer restricted to the popular titles, and compensatory technology of past centuries. With the advent of digital publishing, and the workflows that support and enhance it, accessibility for all books is an achievable goal.

 


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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

The Future of EPUB: Facts Regarding the IDPF and W3C Merger

future-of-epub_cenveo-publisher-services

The IDPF and W3C are working to combine the two organizations. Working together, they will strive to foster the global adoption of an open, accessible, interoperable digital publishing ecosystem that enables innovation.  The primary motivation to combine IDPF with W3C is to ensure that EPUB’s future will be well-integrated with, and in the mainstream of, the overall Open Web Platform.

The primary goal is to ensure that EPUB remains free for all to use by evolving future EPUB major version development to W3C's royalty-free patent policy.

The executive director of the IDPF, Bill McCoy, recently published a thoughtful and informative blog on Digital Book World that details why this merger is important to the book industry:

Why the IDPF-W3C Merger Will Be Great for EPUB and the Book Industry [read here]

A committee called "Save the IDPF. Save EPUB." has formed and the group is publicly stating its dissent against the merger. Bill also responded elegantly to the organization's concern on the IDPF website:

IDPF Combining With W3C: the Facts [read here]

Both of these pieces are required reading for anyone in the publishing industry and especially for book publishers. Cenveo Publisher Services is a member and supporter of the IDPF and believes that the EPUB community will be enhanced by the merger with the W3C.

What are your thoughts on the merger and the future of EPUB?

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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Pew Research Center Publishes Latest Findings for American Book Reading 2016

Reading” by Katy Tressedder

The latest report from Pew Research Center is available for download. The most interesting observation is not that print is still the preferred format but rather how our relationship with reading ebooks has changed. Following are just a few highlights from the report.

Background

Book Reading 2016 gathers data and findings from a survey conducted March 7 to April 4, 2016, among a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Fully 381 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 1,139 were interviewed on a cellphone, including 636 who had no landline telephone. The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Print Rules

For the most part, the percentage of Americans who have read a book in the past 12 months has not changed since 2012---73%. When we go to read a book, the majority of us reach for the printed product (65%). That's more than double the number who have read an ebook (28%) and more than four times more than those who have listened to an audio book (14%).

 

But Don't Rule Out eBooks

The survey certainly illustrates that print is the preferred format but that's not to say ebooks should be viewed as a sub par format. There has been an important shift publishers should understand about American's relationship with ebooks over the past 5 years. Multipurpose devices (smart phones, tablet computers) rather than dedicated e-reading devices, are used more often to access digital content:

 

The share of e-book readers on tablets has more than tripled since 2011 and the number of readers on phones has more than doubled over that time, while the share reading on e-book reading devices has not changed. And smartphones are playing an especially prominent role in the e-reading habits of certain demographic groups, such as non-whites and those who have not attended college.
— Pew Research Center, Book Reading 2016

Between 2011 and 2016 some interesting ways in which we read have occurred:

  • Reading on tablets: increased nearly fourfold (from 4% to 15%)
  • Reading on smartphones: more than doubled (from 5% to 13%)
  • Reading on desktop or laptop computers: a modest increase (from 7% to 11%)

College Grads Want it Both Ways

Certain demographics are likely to read more and read both formats---print and digital. College graduates, compared with those who never attended college, are more likely to read print books and more likely to consume ebooks.

 

College graduates are roughly four times as likely to read e-books ­ and about twice as likely to read print books and audio books – compared with those who have not graduated high school
— Pew Research Center, Book Reading 2016

Download the Report

The full report is available here. More metrics, findings, and graphs are available that will be interesting to all publishers.


*ABOUT PEW RESEARCH CENTER

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72