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EPUB-ibus Unum: EPUB's Ability to Unite Publishing

 The traditional print publishing world collided with digital so fast that offices are now an amalgamation of pen-to-paper editors and digital savants. In this rapidly evolving industry, it is easy for traditional print enthusiasts to get lost in a sea of coding terminology, especially if you’ve spent your career in hard-bound books. We know that not everyone is a coder, and with tech evolving as fast as it is, not everyone has to be.

As we celebrate this past month’s release of MyEcontentFactory 7.0, we hear our customers thrilled about the simplified import and export options for EPUB 3. But as a former acquisitions editor, myself, I’ve seen a lot of editorial faces smile and nod at the term EPUB (followed by, what I can assume were, frantic Google searches). We here at Gutenberg believe in breaking down digital barriers. For us, this means not only creating the software to propel your company forward, it also means educating users on what technology can do. So let’s look at EPUB 3 and explain simply its benefits and what it means for publishers.


3’s a Crowd [Pleaser] 

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) is your best source for an EPUB definition.

" EPUB is the distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents based on Web Standards... EPUB allows publishers to produce and send a single digital publication file through distribution and offers consumers interoperability between software/hardware for unencrypted reflowable digital books and other publications".


EPUB 3 is a standard across the industry, endorsed by The Book Industry Study Group, and the basis of all the e-reading formats we use today including Apple’s iBooks, Google Books, and Amazon Kindle (though modified and proprietary).

EPUB 3 is, in essence, a ZIP file, a container for everything needed to create a published product including HTML, CSS, metadata, and images. The “3” adds so much more to the file, including interactivity, video, and audio. It also gives options for both reflowable content or fixed layout. “Reflowable” means that your content will fit the screen you read it on, to adjust to the orientation you choose. “Fixed” is like a typical PDF, which asks the users to zoom in and adjust their reading experience manually. Both have their pros and cons.

EPUB has a rich history, stemming from what was called the Open Ebook Publication Structure (OEBPS) back in 1999. It evolved several times before becoming known as EPUB in 2007. EPUB 3 was later released in 2011, bringing with it a slew of new features that incorporate HTML5 assets. The most recent update occurred this past January with version 3.1.


Putting the Pub in Publishing 

January’s release of EPUB 3.1 isn’t the only big news. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) (known as the foundational developers of HTML, CSS, and XML) and the IDPF have officially joined forces as of February 1, 2017. The merger comes with an agreement to commit to the open, royalty-free nature of the EPUB format, unifying publishers rather than limiting them.

Bill McCoy, the Executive Director of the IDPF, published an article on digitalbookworld.com regarding the benefits of the merger for the publishing industry. These include more integrated resources to help improve security, accessibility, and privacy standards. But this can’t be done without publishers. He states, “if the book publishing industry joins into the mainstream of development in the Open Web Platform, with the format that it instigated, EPUB, taking a front and center role in the future of the Web for publishing, book publishing is likely to grow and thrive through this engagement and leadership.”

The publishing world reacted to this news with thunderous applause. In a press release, W3C quotes Patrick Johnston, the Director of Platform Architecture at Wiley:

“Wiley is thrilled to see the two organizations coming together. We can now return to focusing more on publishing as a means to share and communicate knowledge, and less on scrambling to adapt to the plethora of new devices and modalities.”


Others also made their congratulatory messages public including Rick Johnson, VP of Product Strategy at VitalSource:

“We are excited for this next step in the delivery of open web solutions. The combination of W3C and IDPF aligns the goals, needs and requirements of users around the globe.”


EPUB is the standard, though there are several other formats that are required for your purposes. MyEcontentFactory has numerous import and export options: SCORM, Tin-Can, In-Design, XML, HTML, and more. Give it a spin for yourself with a free trial. Become a contributor to the global standard!

Start Your Free Trial 

By Scott Greenan
Is there a digital publishing term that leaves you scratching your head? Let us know and we will base a blog post around it!


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