The Ebook Unicorn: Standards in Ebook Development

Today’s guest post is from Laura Brady, principal of Brady Type, a full-service book design studio specializing in ebook development, print book production, and general publishing problem solving. She’ll be moderating what promises to be a very lively panel at ebookcraft this March: The Ebook Unicorn. Over to you, Laura!

Credit: caba kosmotesto /The Noun ProjectWhy the unicorn metaphor? The epub3 spec has been rigorously developed and hammered out by the IDPF, and two years on we are still (not-so-patiently) waiting for full compliance from vendors. One of the biggest players in the ebook market, Amazon, doesn’t play nicely with others and doesn’t follow the IDPF’s epub spec. As one ebook developer said recently, the idea of “ebook standards” reminds him of throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded.

Ebook developers follow the specs closely but must spend a great deal of time, effort, and energy planning for graceful degradation in what Brad Neuberg calls the “sea of balkanized reading platforms.” This device fragmentation is an endless source of frustration in #eprdctn and appears to have caused more than a couple of drinking problems.

In a field with very little conformance, where does that leave development work? We can document bugs, give input to the vendors where and when we can, and commiserate about how tricky it is to produce the elusive one ebook to rule them all; that is, the one file that works well everywhere. I suspect most developers have a set of best practices for the kinds of content that they work on.

We will try to crack the nut of standards in ebook development at ebookcraft, in conversation with three giants of the industry: Jean Kaplansky, Joshua Tallent, and Baldur Bjarnason